Thursday, June 13, 2013

Addiction's 'Dark Side' Rises as Important Treatment Target

Do addicts take drugs to make them feel good or less bad? That’s a current debate taking place within the addiction research community. The old view was that addiction provided pleasure to the user, but more recent attention has focused on negative motivational brain circuitry, which causes addicts to take drugs to alleviate the misery of withdrawal. This “dark side” of addiction is characterized by overactivity of various receptors in the central amygdala of the brain, including dynorphin/kappa-opioid receptors.

Now scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., report that a kappa-opioid receptor antagonist infused into the central amygdala of cocaine-addicted rats lessened hyperactive and anxiety-like behavior usuaslly seen in withdrawal, wrote Marisa Roberto, Ph.D., and colleagues online June 10 in Biological Psychiatry.

Blocking kappa-opioid and other pathways to the “dark side” of addiction might prove “a viable therapeutic strategy for cocaine addiction” while keeping positive motivational pathways open to the ordinary pleasures of life, they said.

To read more about research at Scripps on the “dark side” of addiction, see Psychiatric News here.

(Image: Sebastian Kauliztki/


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