WASHINGTON The brain's innate interest in the new and different may help trump the power of addictive drugs, according to research published by the American Psychological Association. In controlled experiments, novelty drew cocaine-treated rats away from the place they got cocaine.
Novelty could help break the vicious cycle of treatment and relapse, especially for the many addicts with novelty-craving, risk-taking personalities, the authors said. Drug-linked settings hold particular sway over recovering addicts, which may account in part for high rates of relapse.
In the multi-stage study, Carmela Reichel, PhD, and Rick Bevins, PhD, of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, trained rats to prefer one side of a large Plexiglas apparatus by injecting them with one of three different doses of cocaine before placing them in that side. For the next eight days, the researchers alternated placing rats in one side or the other, injecting cocaine before placing them on one side, or injecting saline solution before placing them on the other.
This simple procedure left the rats, when drug free and given a choice, significantly more likely to visit the side where they had felt the rewarding effects of cocaine, according to the report in the February issue of Behavioral Neuroscience.
In the next stage, for another eight days, the researchers tried to break the tie between drug and place by introducing novelty. Now, when rats were placed into the saline-paired compartment, half found something new there -- a white sock, a little piece of PVC pipe, a plastic scouring pad or balled-up newspaper. The remaining rats were given the same bare compartment as before.
Next, the rats were injected with saline solution instead of cocaine and placed -- on alternate days in either the side paired with cocaine or with novelty. That would be like recovering addicts going back to the place they took drugs, a major cause of relapse. Al
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American Psychological Association