Winter 2014
 Prevention of Stress Induced Drug Addiction Relapse

In a new study published in the journal “ Neuron” scientists identified key steps in the chain of events that causes stress-related drug addiction relapse .They identified an exact area in the brain where the events take place in rat models and showed that by blocking a step ,they could prevent stress-induced relapse to drug seeking behavior .This brain specific region is called VTA ( Ventral Tegmental Area), which helps to reinforce behaviors related to fulfilling basic needs. The researchers attempted to use a chemical which blocks a specific opiate receptors called “Kappa”. They showed that those rats previously addicted to Cocaine will not relapse to Cocaine use under a variety of stresses if their Kappa receptors are blocked.


It is possible that chemical would be tried in the future in humans as an anti-relapse medication.

Exactly how stress acts in the brain to trigger relapse is a very complicated sequence that is still not fully understood .The brain cells called Neurons communicate with each other by releasing a variety of chemicals called Neuro-transmitters . Some important examples of these neuro-transmitters include Dopamine and GABA . In VTA neurons releasing GABA and Dopamine interact in a very complex manner via the Kappa receptors . Full understanding of these interactions is the key to the development of future medication to help prevent relapse to drug abuse under stress. In fact stress is a common trigger of relapse to drug abuse and the relapse is what makes the drug addiction a chronic & relapsing disease extremely difficult to eradicate. Any help in this process of relapse prevention will have a very significant impact on the prognosis and long term recovery of any drug addiction.


Nicholas M. Graziane, Abigail M. Polter,Lisa A. Briand ,R.Christopher Pierce, Julie A. Kauer .

Kappa Opioid Receptors Regulate Stress –Induced Cocaine Seeking and Synaptic Placticity.

Neuron,2013 DOI:10.1016/j.neuron.2012.12.034

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