Chemists seek antiaddiction drugs to battle hijacked brain

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Science  13 Apr 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6385, pp. 139-140
DOI: 10.1126/science.360.6385.139

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Chemical countermeasures could one day offer a new line of defense against opioid addiction. Opioid drugs killed more than 42,000 people in the United States in 2016. Doctors and first responders already use medications to combat the effects of opioids, including the high and the breathing suppression due to overdose. But new candidate antiaddiction drugs target the neural circuitry of addiction itself. One set does this by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter GABA that quiets neurons, including some of those the brain's reward system. In animal studies this sharply reduces cravings and halts addicted animals' tendency to self-administer cocaine and other habit-forming drugs. Other compounds target the reward system more directly, blocking the transmission of dopamine, another neurotransmitter that's at the heart of brain's normal motivation-promoting circuitry that's hijacked by addiction.