Health Watch - Substance Abuse: Cocaine and the Brain

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This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about substance abuse as a public health issue. In order to treat people who are addicted to drugs, doctors need to understand exactly how addiction works in the body.

Doctors have focused their study of drug addiction on the way drugs affect the pleasure center of the brain. Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have recently found that cocaine affects other chemical systems in the brain. The researchers used brain scans to study cocaine addicts and normal people and observed that blood flow in the parts of the brain that control emotions, behavior, learning and long-term memory was different in the cocaine addicts than in non-addicts.

Dr. Michael Devous, a UT Southwestern radiologist, says treatments that focused on the chemical systems that produce pleasure haven’t been effective, so these other systems may be a target for treatment.

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November 2010


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