According to a new study, addiction to heroin or cocaine is partly due to the consequences of these substances on the brain and in particular because they affect the ability of parts of it to communicate with each other.
The brain of an addict would contain less white matter than that of a person who does not use drugs. However, it is this white substance that connects all parts of the brain together and helps to transmit the information necessary for its proper functioning.
Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the United States, responsible for this new research, had already noted these consequences on rodents made addicts in the laboratory, however this is the first time that a study has been carried out with drug addicts.
American academics have studied the links between the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain essential for the regulation of executive functions and decision-making, and the habenula, a region that plays a vital role in our understanding of the risks and rewards of a stock.
For this study, the researchers carried out scanners in order to examine the difference between the brains of healthy people and those of addicts to cocaine or heroin. Even in people who have recently stopped taking substances, the transmission between the prefrontal cortex and the habenula is altered.
The fact that the brains of cocaine and heroin (stimulant and opioid, respectively) addicts show the same disturbances suggests that this may be the case for addiction in general, says Sarah King, lead author of the study. It could also mean that some people are predisposed to addiction or relapse depending on how their brain works.
She adds that the researchers found that “degeneration is greater in users who have used the drug for the first time at a young age, which points to a potential role of this information circuit in the development of risk factors for early mortality.»
These findings could advance ongoing research in this area by targeting a hitherto unexplored circuit in humans, which could potentially be the focus of personalized treatment or prevention efforts, concludes the study.