© 2024 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

UB researchers finding brain holds key to reversing cocaine addiction

A University at Buffalo Medical School researcher says pioneering work on the human brain offers a clue to how addiction takes control of one segment of the brain and makes recovery difficult. It is a matter of protein, the reward center and genes.
It has long been an article of faith in dealing with cocaine addiction that the drug takes over the brain and is reluctant to give up that control. Pharmacology and Toxicology Associate Professor David Dietz says that is true and his team found a protein in the brain's reward center - the nucleus accumbens - controls the genes that drive the cocaine craving after a period of withdrawal.

"We have found a novel mechanism by which the brain is altered following cocaine and I think that always opens new doors," Dietz says. "I think that each finding is a new door and I think that if you don't look at it that way, then you become kind of blinded to potential."

The researcher says this is a major step on the long road to finding a cocaine treatment and opens an array of possibilities for eventually reversing the addiction process - not just for cocaine, but for other drugs or alcohol.

"Of course, I think everyone wants a pill and I think that ultimately that's the goal - to come up with something that works. But there's still some work to go. Until we unravel the exact mechanisms of what happens in the brain when we give you drugs or you take drugs, a whole different class of drugs, I think that we are destined to fail on coming up with new therapies that are truly effective," he says, "because until we understand what happens, I think that we're just shooting into the dark."

He says a lot of this research is possible because of technology, allowing researchers to take long-held theories and use new scanners to look into an animal or human brain and see where there is activity after some drug or withdrawal.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.