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Rats and cocaine study: Why the offspring of addicts don't crave the drug

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It's exactly the opposite of what you would think.

Rats who were addicted to cocaine have offspring that are less likely to crave the drug than rats with non-addicted parents.

But researchers found this to be true in a recent scientific trial that aimed to explore cocaine resistance and how the rewarding effects of the drug play out in the brain.

Expression of addiction

"We know that genetic factors contribute significantly to the risk of cocaine abuse, but the potential role of epigenetic influences – how the expression of certain genes related to addiction is controlled — is still relatively unknown,” said senior author R. Christopher Pierce, Ph.D.

Pierce notes that the study is the first to show that the chemical changes caused by cocaine use may actually create a resistance to addictive behavior in offspring.

For 60 days, male rats self-administered doses of cocaine, while a control group got doses of saline. The male rats were mated with females that had never ingested cocaine, and then the male parent rats were removed from the situation while the offspring were monitored. Researchers wanted to see if the offspring would self-administer cocaine if it was offered.

The findings

Findings showed that the male offspring of cocaine-addicted rats--but not the female offspring--were slower to self-administer the cocaine than the control rats, and that they had increased levels of a specific protein that has been shown to block the behavioral effects of cocaine--which means they might not experience the same high as the control group rats when using.

While the results of the study don't have clear implications for humans quite yet, the researchers say they "are eager to perform similar studies with more widely used drugs of abuse such as nicotine and alcohol.”

Source: Psych Central