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Is the Antidote for Addiction Closer Than We Think?

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All right, buckle in. Embera NeuroTherapeutics, Inc. thinks they may have found a cure for addiction…but it’s an intense story of the “how.”

Devil’s in the Details

In short, addiction is a response to stressors that happen in the mind. Let’s say, there’s a reward center in the brain, but why do we get rewarded in the first place?

A bit philosophical, sure. But let’s remember; it’s a matter of actual biology – it’s a matter of stressor response.

Embera NeuroTherapeutics, which is a research firm, believes they have found a drug to counteract this “bad response,” which is reliant on the brain’s reward center activity and commonly known as addiction.

Studying the Addicted Brain

In 1993, there were three groups of rats. A lifelong researcher and former John Hopkins University professor, Dr. Nicholas Goeders has dedicated his life to the neural activity of addicted brains.

Goeders studied the following three groups of rats:

  • One group of rats could press and level and receive food, the control group.
  • The second group of rats got a slight shock when they pressed the lever to receive food, the controlled stressor group
  • The third group of rats received only a shock when the second group of rats received a shock, the uncontrolled stressor group. In other words, the third group had no control of getting shocked.

Results of the Study

All groups of rats were then given access to cocaine. The findings showed that the third group (the group with no control of their “shocking circumstance”) was more sensitive to cocaine.

For the next 15 years, Dr. Nicholas Goeders tried to find a cure to this response. In 2006, the Embera NeuroTherapeutics released the drug Chantix, under the findings of this study, which interrupts the receptors in the brain that control this stressor reaction.

We know Chantix as the smoking cessation drug. And the drug has received its fair amount of bad press. Chantix caused (or has been linked to) depression and suicide thoughts and actions in the past. However, Chantix has been proven effective, and the FDA has updated the “warning list” a few times.

In short, Chantix, or a form of the drug, may be soon available – and marketed – as a combative force against drug addiction. To combat drug addiction, the drug is now undergoing safety regulations and being tested in small populations. So far, the findings have given inspiring results.

 

Additional Reading: Addiction in America: Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

 

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