Study sheds light on brain mechanism linking PTSD to opioid abuse - Sovereign Health Group
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04-30-18 Category: Opioid

Study sheds light on brain mechanism linking PTSD to opioid abuse

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a serious mental condition, stems from traumatic experiences involving an extremely dangerous, shocking and fearful incident. It is a common perception that this disease is prevalent among members of the military only, though prior researches have highlighted that victims of a natural disaster or crimes like rape are likely to develop PTSD. And now, a group of researchers from the Western University has highlighted how the tendency to recall traumatic experiences of the past augments the rewarding effects of the drug morphine. The study stressed on the possible neurobiological association between PTSD and opioid dependence.

PTSD patients more vulnerable to opioid addiction

The study published online in The Journal of Neuroscience in April 2018 tried to examine the underlying neural mechanism that might shed light on why nearly 60 percent of patients grappling with PTSD also tend to suffer from addiction problems. The authors found that dopamine receptors in the prefrontal cortex of the brain might have an important role because of their participation in both traumatic memory recall and the likelihood of being addicted.

Focusing on the two dopamine receptors in the pre-frontal cortex, D1 and D4, co-author of the study Dr. Steven Laviolette said, “What we were trying to find is a mechanism to account for why recall of traumatic memories, such as what you see in PTSD, make some more vulnerable to addictive effects of drugs like opioids.”

By making use of a simple rodent model, the researchers realized that stimulation of D4 receptors resulted in a normally non-traumatic memory becoming emotionally salient or traumatic. This, in turn, resulted in a greater preference for the drug morphine. In addition to this, blocking the D1 receptor led to the blocking of the traumatic memory recall, thus, lowering the rewarding impact of morphine. The findings of the study suggested how the abnormal dopamine signals in the prefrontal cortex may form the basis of the ability of traumatic memories to make affected individuals more vulnerable to addictive habits by raising their sensitivity to the rewarding impact of opioid drugs.

Elucidating the findings, Laviolette said, “The main finding is that the D1 and D4 receptors independently control both the impact of traumatic memory recall and how that modulates the increased vulnerability to opioid addiction. So even if they’ve gone through the traumatic experience, if you can block the recall, you can simultaneously block the increased addiction vulnerability.”

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), roughly 7.7 million Americans aged 18 years and above are suffering from the disorder. The manifestations of the disease are debilitating with most patients complaining of nightmares, and suffering flashbacks or preoccupation with intrusive memories.

Seeking treatment for dual diagnosis

The findings of the study suggested that while treating patients complaining of PTSD, it is necessary that medical practitioners also look into the possibility of co-occurring disorders. Not many people are aware of the comorbidity of certain disorders. Specialists at the dual diagnosis treatment centers identify both the conditions – mental disorder and substance abuse – and treat their patients accordingly by prescribing medications, along with therapeutic interventions.

Sovereign Health’s dual diagnosis treatment centers in California adopt a holistic approach for the treatment that not only involves relieving them of mental illnesses like PTSD, but also helping them get rid of their dependence. To know more about our world-class facilities providing dual diagnosis treatment in California, call our 24/7 helpline or chat with our online counselor.

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