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Wayne State University study of heroin users to examine links between stress, drug use
Date:10/25/2011

ties to work on a computer task for money or the drug Dilaudid, an opioid painkiller whose effects are similar to that of heroin. With each choice they make, however, the response cost the "price" of earning money or the drug exponentially increases. Before the work sessions, they will receive placebo, yohimbine alone, hydrocortisone alone, or the combination of yohimbine and hydrocortisone, in random order. During each session participants will be given the chance to work for money, drugs or a mixture of both, or they may choose not to work at all.

Researchers then will record how varying the levels of stressors or withholding them affects drug-seeking behavior. Greenwald predicts that higher stress levels will result in more drug seeking. He said that actually measuring those levels is a chance to develop a deeper appreciation for the mechanisms by which stress increases drug use. For instance, the behavioral economic approach will be used to examine whether stressors increase drug seeking regardless of drug price, or only when drug price is high.

Researchers will track some biological reactions and note participants' self-reported mood changes. Learning and memory functions known to be sensitive to emotion-inducing situations also will be measured.

In an experimental setting, Greenwald said, money has been shown to be a good generalized alternative to drugs, and that combining non-drug incentives with anti-stressor medication could be used to drive down drug demand. He believes his study will have broad importance because it will enable better understanding of how stress might increase drug use of all types, and perhaps at different phases of the addiction cycle.

That understanding could lead to more individually tailored treatments that combine anti-stress medications, other medications and behavior therapies, Greenwald said, adding that combining therapies works better than using them in isolation. Treatment in many ca
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Contact: Julie O'Connor
julie.oconnor@wayne.edu
313-577-8845
Wayne State University - Office of the Vice President for Research
Source:Eurekalert

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