Studies released today suggest promising new treatments for nicotine and heroin addiction, and further our understanding of pathological gambling and heroin abuse in those suffering chronic pain. This new knowledge, released at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health, may one day lead to non-pharmaceutical interventions and therapies to treat addiction.
According to the World Health Organization, 15.3 million people worldwide suffer from drug use disorders. A variety of brain areas and processes play a role in addictive behaviors, complicating treatment and costing millions of dollars and lives each year. Today's studies contribute to an understanding of how compulsive disorders like addiction develop and provide new insight into methods to treat addictive behaviors .
The new findings show that:
Magnetic stimulation of the brain helps some people decrease their smoking, and even quit altogether for up to six months after treatment (Abraham Zangen, abstract 635.03).
Stimulating an area of the brain associated with drug reward, the subthalamic nucleus, reduces rats' motivation to take heroin (Carrie Wade, PhD, abstract 818.03, see attached summary).
Chronic pain leads rats already exposed to drugs to take more and higher doses of heroin, suggesting that people with addiction are more susceptible to overdose when in chronic pain (Lucia Hipolito, PhD, abstract 158.05).
Other recent findings discussed show that: