New treatment may curb cravings in drug addicts: study

Researchers with the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have successfully developed a treatment that may reduce cravings in drug addicts. The treatment, which is simply referred to as a "therapeutic," was tested on lab rats and found to correct a chemical imbalance that makes it harder for addicts to kick their addictions. Serotonin 2C receptors play a primary role.

The research was conducted by UTMB's Jia Zhou and Kathryn Cunningham and their colleagues. According to the study, the neurotransmitter serotonin has a key role in chemical imbalances that impact drug addicts. Given enough time, chronic drug abuse can result in brain changes that emphasize cues encouraging further drug abuse.

Dealing with this chemical imbalance may be a key element in developing effective treatments for drug addiction. However, no medication is available at this time that addresses the imbalance, underscoring the importance of this latest research. Per the study, researchers identified serotonin 2C receptors as an important element in this issue.

These serotonin receptors — the ones found in drug addicts who habitually abuse drugs — stop working correctly. The team developed a treatment that works by improving these weak signals, helping address the imbalance and better enable addicts in abstaining. This is the first study demonstrating a serotonin 2C receptor treatment as a way to address this problem.

Talking about their researcher is Cunningham, who said:

Our findings are especially exciting because in addition to someday helping people to recover from drug addiction, impaired functioning of the serotonin 2C receptor is also thought to contribute to other chronic health issues such as depression, impulsivity disorders, obesity and schizophrenia.

SOURCE: EurekAlert