Brain imaging and innovative behavioral models are helping to identify new medications to combat cocaine addiction.  
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Drug Addiction

To combat this significant public health problem, NEPRC scientists are helping to develop new medications to treat addiction and prevent relapse. This multidisciplinary effort in the Divisions of Behavioral Biology and Neurochemistry incorporates molecular, cellular, and behavioral studies with innovative brain imaging techniques. The result is a clearer understanding of the neurobiological basis of drug addiction and new insights for potential treatment.

For years, scientists have been searching for cellular targets in the brain responsible for the intense craving associated with cocaine addiction. Integrated behavioral and neurochemical studies are helping NEPRC researchers define these targets and evaluate their role in modulating brain chemistry and addictive behavior. Identifying neural targets for cocaine is critical because effective medications to treat addiction will most likely be those that act either directly or indirectly at these sites. Photon emission tomography, or PET, is helping to monitor these targets and gauge the efficacy of new medications.

NEPRC scientists were among the first to document a functional link between cocaine's addictive properties and its ability to enhance dopamine neurotransmission in the central nervous system. Based on these findings, Center researchers are currently exploring the potential of several classes of dopamine-modulating drugs to counteract cocaine addiction. Complementary research is helping to identify new treatments for "speedball" addiction, an insidious form of polydrug abuse in which cocaine is combined with heroin.




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