A relapse is an avoidable negative effect of drug rehabilitation. There is no denying that it always preys on the minds of subjects undergoing treatment; especially during the initial phases of getting rid of the drug habit when withdrawal symptoms are strong and the urge can be overpowering. And yet, the menace hovers even after considerable time has lapsed, and it is possible for even reformed cocaine addicts to experience a relapse.


The issue of a drug addiction relapse is of particular concern with respect to cocaine addiction because there is no known medicine that can be prescribed to help with the de-addiction process. The process depends entirely on psychological treatment.  While there have been many research studies conducted that have propounded a pharmacological point of view for relapses, a new study suggests an interesting thought, and it could offer ideas on how to prevent a reformed addict from experiencing a cocaine relapse. The research focuses on the opioid receptors in the brain, specifically an amino acid that is manufactured inside the brain.  


Cocaine Addiction Treatment

Medicines such as naloxone and buprenorphine make withdrawal symptoms easier to cope with, and thereby allow the subject to benefit more from psychological care. However, these medicines work for opioids such as heroin. Cocaine is not an opioid and therefore cocaine addicts undergoing rehabilitation have to rely wholly on psychological care and their own willpower to overcome addiction. Therefore, there is a real need for research on how to prevent cocaine addicts from relapsing into the habit. Regulating the effects of dopamine, which plays an important role in cocaine addiction, has yielded positive results.


An Investigation of Cocaine Relapse Using a Mouse Model

Researchers used a mouse for their investigations; mice are susceptible to drug addictions and results obtained from studies on these rodents can be used to predict the effect of the drug on humans. Genetically modified mice were used for the purpose of this study, this allowed the scientists to study the effect of two opioid receptors and peptide chains produced by the body during the phenomenon of relapse. A genetic removal of components from mice that were first made addicts and then detoxified enabled researchers to learn more about how the removal affected mice behavior. The researchers learned that deleted peptide chains actually play a significant role in the relapse. Researchers are of the opinion that opioid peptides obtained from prodynorphin, a protein, can be used to prevent a cocaine relapse.   


The Brain and Cocaine Addiction

The opioid system of the brain plays an important role in cocaine addiction; this has puzzled researchers because cocaine is a not an opioid. However, there does seem to be a connection between the two and it can be found in the “rewards” network located in the brain. This network, made up of circuits, plays a crucial role in any kind of drug fixation. The opioid system regulates these circuits. Armed with this information, researchers are hopeful of arming up with treatments for cocaine addiction.


New Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

The success of new treatment depends a lot on how accurately predictive results on animals are with respect to their applicability for humans. This particular study has confirmed just one finding. More research is required to corroborate or refute these findings.
The best possible scenario would have research throwing up positive results, a system for implementing these results in humans, and positive corroboration of the human trials. However, what needs to be understood is that while neurological factors leading to a relapse are a consideration, there are psychological matters too that often goad people into going back to taking drugs. And therefore, even if this research offers a new line of treatment, psychological counseling of drug addicts cannot be discounted and it will continue to play an important role in the de-addiction process. It may be possible to tackle the brain’s role in initiating a relapse, but without addressing the basic psychological factors, it could lead to a person turning to another unhealthy habit.

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