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Potential Target Discovered for Anti-Craving Medications

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Scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Canada have identified a target in the brain for anti-craving medications, specifically for the potential treatment of people addicted to stimulants such as methamphetamine.

Their study is published in the January 25th, 2012 edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.

Using positron emission tomography (PET) scans and a specially developed unique chemical “probe”, the researchers found high levels of binding to the dopamine D3 receptor in some individuals with methamphetamine addiction, compared to non-addicts. They also noted that high levels of D3 were linked to a person’s motivation to take drugs.

16 methamphetamine dependent individuals were involved in the study. Participants abstained from using the drug for 14 days prior to receiving PET scans, and their results were compared to 16 persons with no methamphetamine addiction. On a separate occasion, participants were administered a low dose of amphetamine, and asked to identify the severity of their cravings.

The scientists were able to identify D3 receptors as playing a role in a person’s craving for drugs such as methamphetamine, although further research is required to determine their function in drug related behaviors.

Since therapeutic interventions up to now have focused on the low binding properties of dopamine D2 receptors, the researchers can now aim for treatments that are selective for targeting D2 without increasing levels of D3. Anti-craving medications can also be developed specifically for the D3 dopamine receptor.

Understanding the role of brain receptors has enabled scientists to develop treatment medications such as nicotine replacement therapy for persons attempting to quit smoking. The scientists at CAMH are now continuing their research into the role of the dopamine D3 receptor in other addictions such as the use of cocaine and gambling behavior.

Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health