Individuals suffering from alcohol or drug addiction usually have certain cues that set off their cravings. Up until now, researchers weren’t sure how and why environmental cues led to more irresistible cravings. Recent findings show that these new cues are stronger than those learned during the early days of an individual’s alcohol use. This discovery could be helpful in the development of new treatments to reduce cravings in individuals with addictions.
Estimates show that more than 14 million individuals in America suffer from alcohol use disorder, which includes various unhealthy drinking behaviors. Similar to other drug addictions, an addiction to alcohol is characterized by cycles of abstinence, relapse and withdrawal.
Cravings are usually triggered by environmental stimuli, which are potent drivers for relapse. For their study, the researchers from Scripps Research Institute used mice models that were dependent on alcohol. Their research objective was to understand if the experience of drinking alcohol repeatedly during withdrawal helped strengthen the learned associations that caused cravings.
Professor Friedbert Weiss, who led the study, stated that while the researchers had known that cravings induced by environmental stimuli usually intensified over time in individuals suffering from severe alcohol use disorder, it wasn’t clear at the neurobiological and behavioral level why this occurred.
The study involved rats that weren’t dependent on alcohol being conditioned to associate an orange scent or anise with alcohol. After this, some of these rats underwent withdrawal cycles, during which they were conditioned to link another scent with the consumption of alcohol. This enabled the researchers to separate the learning that occurred during the nondependent state and during withdrawal.
The researchers then tested the lengths that the rats would go to for alcohol while in the presence of a conditioned smell. They discovered that the rats which had learned to link a certain scent to alcohol would seek out the alcohol when exposed to the scent, noting that the cues the animals picked up during their withdrawal were much stronger at evoking a reaction. The researchers observed that these rats were much more persistent in the presence of this smell.
In addition, the researchers found that the new conditioning also weakened cues that the animal had learned before becoming dependent on alcohol. This discovery opens new possibilities on how addiction and cravings for alcohol can be treated in humans.
Other researchers involved in the study include Mark Mayford, Peter Kufahl and Olga Kozanian. Its findings were reported in the “British Journal of Pharmacology.” The study was supported by funding from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
With many companies, including Cybin Inc. (NYSE American: CYBN) (NEO: CYBN), engaged in studying how alcohol use disorder and other forms of addiction can be treated more effectively, a breakthrough may not be far from the horizon.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Cybin Inc. (NEO: CYBN) (NYSE American: CYBN) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/CYBN
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