AUG 15, 2018 6:17 AM PDT

Can Exercise Prevent Cocaine Addiction Relapse?

Addiction to drugs or alcohol is a medical problem that is difficult to treat. While there are medications and therapy to help, addiction changes the brain, structurally and on a cellular level.

There are FDA approved medications to treat addiction to opioids, heroin and crystal meth. There are also drugs that can be used to treat alcoholism and withdrawal symptoms. Cocaine addiction, however, is another matter. To date, there are no medications that can treat addiction to coke. A study published in 2015 that investigated the use of an enzyme called cocaine hydrolase, which breaks down the metabolites in cocaine that cause the high users are chasing. It's a long way off from being available, however.

What if there was a much simpler solution to cocaine dependence? Scientists at the University of Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions have concluded a study that shows aerobic exercise reduced cravings for cocaine in an animal model. Dr. Panayotis (Peter) Thanos, Ph.D., led the work and explained, "Cocaine addiction is often characterized by cycles of recovery and relapse, with stress and negative emotions, often caused by withdrawal itself, among the major causes of relapse. Our results suggest that regular aerobic exercise could be a useful strategy for relapse prevention, as part of a comprehensive treatment program for recovering cocaine abusers."

The study used an animal model, where lab rats were divided into two groups, one where they were kept in cages and the other where they ran on a treadmill, for an hour a day, for five days a week. Both were given free access to unlimited food that was laced with cocaine. Addiction was the result. In the rats who were sedentary continued try and seek out the cocaine-laced food, especially when stressed. In comparison, the group of rats that were used to working out did not show a drug-seeking response when stressed. Thanos and his colleagues had done previous research into addiction and found that exercise resulted in an altered reward pathway in the limbic system of the brain, essentially repairing the damage done by drugs. Cocaine hijacks this pathway, which is what causes addicts to continue to seek the drug.

The recent work built on that study to see if exercise could prevent relapses by reducing stress levels and rewiring the reward pathway. Study co-author Lisa Robison, Ph.D. is a post-doctoral researcher at Albany Medical College. She told Inverse.com, " What's cool for exercise is that it's a two-for-one deal! Exercise has been shown to both improve the functioning of the reward pathway and reduce stress responses. Exercise presents a natural and cost-effective means of combating substance abuse, and has a multitude of other benefits for physical and psychological health."

More research will be needed to see if exercise can make a difference in preventing relapses and controlling stress in patients who are addicted to other drugs. If so, the way patients recover from substance abuse could drastically change to include exercise and other stress-busting activities. Check out the video to learn more about the work.

Sources: University of Buffalo Inverse.com Behavioral Brain Research

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
MAR 09, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
AI Creates Space for Equality in Pain Management
MAR 09, 2021
AI Creates Space for Equality in Pain Management
Pain is experienced more intensely among certain groups of people. Indeed, studies have shown that individuals from mino ...
MAR 11, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
50 New Eye Color Genes Are Identified
MAR 11, 2021
50 New Eye Color Genes Are Identified
The genetics of eye color are far more complex than researchers once thought.
MAR 12, 2021
Cardiology
Newly-IDed Atherosclerosis Protein May Be Treatment Target
MAR 12, 2021
Newly-IDed Atherosclerosis Protein May Be Treatment Target
Arteries, which supply the body with oxygen, are normally flexible. But they can become stiff and thick in a condition c ...
MAR 14, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
How Stress Increases the Risk of Preterm Birth
MAR 14, 2021
How Stress Increases the Risk of Preterm Birth
Preterm birth is when a baby is born before the 37th week of pregnancy. The liver, lungs & brain undergo a crucial devel ...
MAR 21, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Deciphering How Some Environmental Influences Affect Development
MAR 21, 2021
Deciphering How Some Environmental Influences Affect Development
We know that there are certain substances that can harm a developing fetus, like alcohol or lead. Some health conditions ...
MAR 24, 2021
Cancer
What toxic chemicals are lurking in your couch?
MAR 24, 2021
What toxic chemicals are lurking in your couch?
New research published in the journal Environment International suggests a weekend trip to the nearest furniture st ...
Loading Comments...