People who struggle with weight gain or obesity know the benefits of wearing clothing with thin, vertical, white lines. The effect is slimming. But for those who are fighting cocaine addiction or the urge to break sustained recovery, the very term white lines can be enough to trigger relapse into cocaine use. Scientists from Penn University have examined how the brain works in the cravings of patients diagnosed with diabetes or obesity and noted similarities in patterns of people addicted to cocaine. Applying specific analogies related to how these patients react to treatment for these conditions, researchers are more than hopeful that the same principles will work for cocaine users looking to kick their habit and provide a valuable solution to help for cocaine relapse as well.
The Science Behind Food and Cocaine Cravings
Turns out there are commonalities in the way the human body and the brain build behaviors in addictions and, according to a research study, the manner to which cravings happen and our rate of response to them.
Clinicians are in search of better ways to treat addictions. To better understand how or why certain medications will provide benefit in minimizing drug or alcohol abuse, learning the intricacies of how neuro-adaptations in the brain set us up for relapse is paramount. Various experiments on lab rats illustrated the process by monitoring levels of a hormone, GLP-1, which is a glucagon-like peptide known to lessen food intake. Researchers wanted to know if this same peptide, when activated, could also respond and block cocaine cravings and desire for the drug and provide help for cocaine relapse.
Subjects of the testing (lab rats) were given cocaine for a three-week period. They had access to the drug simply by pressing a lever that would deliver doses of the drug intravenously. After the 21 days were over, scientists assessed that the average drug use in these rats was 28 infusions of cocaine per day. Wow! The next phase of the testing was focused on how the subjects responded to involuntary abstinence. The cocaine was replaced with saline which initiated the drug withdrawal process quickly.
After some time, some of the rats were exposed to cocaine again while others were shown specific mental cues associated with cocaine – both aspects to measure the rate of relapse from triggers, much like humans experience in the real world after drug use has stopped. Soon, the rats reengaged their need for the cocaine, hitting the lever to administer the drug.
The final stage of the experiment included the addition of an FDA-approved drug known for its merits in treating diabetes and obesity in people, Exendin-4, formulated with the GLP-1 system noted earlier in this article. The results were positive in rats that were given cocaine and those that were exposed to cues for drug use. Both groups experienced lower rates of cocaine desire. Moreover, the amount of Exendin-4 given was then altered enough to lessen the incidence of nausea and vomiting, common side effects of the drug.
Currently, the findings from this study are being applied to a Yale University study with human participants who have an active cocaine addiction.
Our Brain Has a Mind of Its Own
Until this drug or any other medication is readily available to help block the cravings for cocaine, how can people stop themselves from use, especially after a period of abstinence has been established?
There are behavioral safeguards that can be established to support recovery and prevent relapse. It takes a well-thought out plan, personal resources and ongoing belief in the strength of sobriety to overcome the triggers that will show up. And they do show up.
Relapse Is Likely but It’s Only a Blip in the Road to Recovery
People, in general whether possessing an addiction or not, will encounter the unexpected. It’s a natural part of each of our lives and it’s the essence of why healthy coping skills will help get you through anything. Even a drug craving.
If you do encounter a moment of relapse, it’s a moment, not a week, a month or a lifetime. Remember, there’s a reason the 12-steps tenets include “One day at a time.” Own the mistake. And move on from it and get back on the recovery plan.
Success Plan to Overcome Cocaine Triggers
The best offense is a good defense. Here’s some ways to arm yourself the next time you come face-to-face with a life moment that has you wishing you were back in the old days and the old, self-deprecating ways.
Relapse Prevention & Protection:
- Keep busy.
- Stay positive.
- Nurture new, sober friendships.
- Connect with others in recovery.
- Avoid unnecessary stress.
- Commit to stay fit.
- Practice mindfulness.
- Honor personal wellness.
- Reach out if you need help.
Remember, nobody’s perfect. Recovery from cocaine addiction is a process, made easier by surrounding yourself with supportive and loving people who truly want to see you thrive and know you have what it takes to achieve it.
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Authored by Melanie Stern, Content Director for Scottsdale Recovery Center, Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers and Cohn Media, LLC. Writer and broadcaster covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.
Content for Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers created by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and restaurants. Advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity. www.cohn.media
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