It has been found that the rewarding effects of addictive drugs mostly depend on shared substrates. And more often than not, it’s the environment in which a drug is consumed that happens to influence the rewarding effects. A recent study, published in the JNeurosci in May 2018, came out with an interesting observation that drug users experience opposing intensities of pleasure from heroin and cocaine based on where the drug has been taken.
This new research could help devise new forms of treatment for addiction and lessen the possibilities of a relapse. The study led by some top universities of United Kingdom and Italy revealed the substance-specific drug rewarding effects of cocaine and heroin, and how it varies with the user’s surrounding.
In the study, the researchers tried to gauge the affective state felt after heroin or cocaine use in various settings based on what the drug users could recollect. Functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI (fMRI) was simultaneously used to screen neural activities in patients during drug imagery process in the drug users.
Use of heroin and cocaine activated signal changes in prefrontal cortex
The results were found to be consistent with the hypothesis of the scientists as most of the participants reported a heroin-induced emotional shift – from commonly pleasing at home to unpleasant or hostile out the home setting (p<0.0001). In case of cocaine, differing effects were observed and the participants reported unpleasant or hostile feelings at home and feelings of pleasure outside the home (p<0.0014).
Furthermore, as a function of drug and setting imagery, the researchers discovered a double dissociation in BOLD signal changes that were found in the left prefrontal cortex and caudate, and both sides of the cerebellum revealing that the use of heroin and cocaine activated the signal changes in prefrontal cortex, the caudate and the cerebellum in the brain. It was significant because it highlighted the implication of fronto-striatal-cerebellar network in conditioning the effects of the drugs.
The researchers were also able to understand the influence of the same setting in reverse directions, the affective and neural response to brain stimulants against opiates in humans, indicating substrate-specific rewarding effects of cocaine and heroin.
The study delivers a new framework for investigating cues in addiction and relapse. This will further help in finding new therapeutic approaches, and will make users aware of location-driven cravings in certain environments.
One of the biggest challenges associated with cocaine and heroin is their ability to make users dependent on them within a short span of time. Studies show millions of Americans falling prey to heroin and cocaine addiction sooner than they would even realize.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heroin overdose death rates amplified by 20.6 percent from 2014 to 2015 and nearly 13,000 people lost their lives in 2015 alone, while in 2016 alone, about 1.9 million people aged 12 or older were current users of cocaine, according to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
Sovereign Health understands the condition of someone putting up a brave fight against drug addiction. Its San Clemente drug rehab center is renowned for providing recovery programs aimed to treat the person in a comprehensive manner. If you or someone you love is combatting addiction to heroin or any other drug, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know more about our heroin treatment centers spread across California.