From Newsweek and Medical Daily BySnorted, smoked, or injected, cocaine quickly enters the bloodstream and the brain to help users achieve their high. Cocaine addicts compulsively continue to take the drug even when they know it can cost them their jobs, possessions, loved ones, and even their lives, but why? A recent study published in Biological Psychiatry suggests a brain molecule is activated to trigger compulsive drug-seeking behavior, which leads to cocaine addiction.
Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, Calif., found how hypocretin—a neurotransmitter located in the central amygdala—influences the brain's reaction to cocaine, nicotine and opioids.
"In this study, we found that the neuropeptidergic hypocretin system is implicated in the compulsive-like cocaine-seeking through activation of the central amygdala, a part of the brain that is involved in stress and anxiety, and also plays a major role in sustaining cocaine addiction," Marisa Roberto, co-author of the study and professor in The Scripps Research Institute's Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders told ALN Magazine.
Roberto and her colleagues sought to better understand the role of hypocretin in the central amygdala to see how the brain is influenced to crave cocaine, or go from occasional drug use to compulsive drug use. The researchers focused on the changes in the central amygdala since it’s linked to the negative emotions experienced during drug withdrawal.
Read more: Cocaine and the Brain What Drives Addiction