Scientists Discover Molecular Process Underlying Addiction

By Staff Writer

Memories are among the strongest triggers of addictive behaviors. Places, activities and certain people can become associated with drug use. When an addict is exposed to these things, they often cause cravings. However, a team of European researchers may have found a molecular switch in the brain that could deactivate this process, which could benefit individuals seeking treatment from rehab facilities.

Investigators from several organizations throughout Europe found that calcium plays a major role in the ability of brain cells to rearrange themselves to form new memories. However, addictive substances like nicotine and cocaine hijack this process and force the brain into making changes that reinforce the drug-seeking behavior.

Researchers said that developing medications that either prevents this process from taking place or reverse its effects could significantly reduce the risk of addiction and help millions of individuals recover from chemical dependency.

Cocaine is one of the most difficult drugs to recover from. Even individuals who complete substance abuse treatment programs occasionally relapse. As a result, medications that eliminate the memories associated with this drug could increase the chances of recovery.