A Wayne State University researcher is using a three-year, $1.55 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health to learn more about the links between stress and drug use by applying behavioral economics.
Mark Greenwald, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences in the School of Medicine and director of the Substance Abuse Research Division, will study a group of heroin users to see how pharmacologically induced stress affects their decisions to seek money or drugs when given the choice. Over the next three years, 30 participants will be selected from more than 100 heroin-addicted volunteers who currently are not being treated; then, they will undergo extensive screening.
"The application of this research is potentially much more far reaching than heroin abuse or even substance abuse," Greenwald said, adding that it also could affect treatment for other addictive disorders or obesity.
While medications exist to treat drug addiction, alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking, he said, they don't directly tackle stress, which is the focus of his study and one of the key precipitators of drug use and relapse.
"In biological terms, stress means pushing the organism beyond its normal homeostatic limits so that it's forced to adapt to a more challenging situation, and that produces both biological and behavioral effects," Greenwald said. "Those are things we're capable of measuring in a controlled, experimental human laboratory setting."
Study participants will be given different oral doses of yohimbine, which has been shown to increase drug-seeking behavior, and different oral doses of hydrocortisone, another stress inducer. During the inpatient study period, participants will be stabilized on buprenorphrine, a medication known to mitigate heroin withdrawal symptoms.
During multiple three-hour sessions, each participant will be presented with 12 opportuni
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Wayne State University - Office of the Vice President for Research