Researchers Gain Insight into Stimulant Effects on Brain

Rob Wipond
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In what a press release described as “a major advance in the field of neuropsychiatry,” researchers from Oregon Health & Science University said they believe that they have gained a clearer understanding of precisely how cocaine, amphetamines and related psychostimulant drugs “disrupt the normal functioning of the dopamine transporter in the brain.” The study appeared in Nature.

The study authors noted that the biogenic amine transporters are the primary targets of both therapeutic and abused drugs, “ranging from antidepressants to the psychostimulants cocaine and amphetamines, and to their cognate substrates.”

“This discovery paves the way for developing treatments that could blunt the effects of cocaine and amphetamines in patients who are addicted,” stated the press release.

Researchers discover how cocaine, amphetamines disrupt the brain’s normal functioning (Oregon Health & Science University press release on ScienceDaily, May 11, 2015)

Wang, Kevin H., Aravind Penmatsa, and Eric Gouaux. “Neurotransmitter and Psychostimulant Recognition by the Dopamine Transporter.” Nature advance online publication (May 11, 2015). doi:10.1038/nature14431. (Abstract)

8 COMMENTS

  1. What was the suggested treatment for people being given psycho-stimulants like Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Vyvanse et ct ? I’ve a thought: Stop prescribing these brain damaging drugs! For those persons already affected by long-term use of these drugs perhaps the research will provide a way forward to lessen the damage wrought.

    • Do you know anything about individual differences in susceptibility to addiction to stimulants?

      I’ve read (in the popular press) that methamphetamine causes addiction in one trial, and somewhere else that about 10% of users end up addicted.

      In my college days cocaine was around. In high school were we taught that it wasn’t addicting, just a ‘party drug.’ One friend was earning a masters in film and tv, and had a great future and healthy childhood, and went from party use to habitual use via dangerous methods. He said it was too compelling to ignore, at the time. He lost a lot. (He got well and back in track.)

      • There are two different problems when one talks about “addiction” – physical dependence and psychological addiction. The latter only develops in some people who use drugs as a way to cope with their life problems. The other is caused by the biochemical action of the drug over the long term that changes the natural function of the body and causes withdrawal upon discontinuation.

        The appearance of either of them to any kind of drugs seems to be very individual as well as related to frequency and dosing of the drug (the more often and higher the dosing the more likely the ill psychical effects are).

        My guess is for most people occasional use of narcotics will have little negative impact (with few who could have very severe reactions to them) but the risks accumulate with dose and time. In some cases the risk may be justified or tolerable but that is not the approach that psychiatry has taken in respect to these drugs.

        Btw, isn’t it funny how on one hand they criminalize and scream about the dangers of amphetamines obtained illegally but if you get it from a pharmacy they are wonder drugs which are “safe and effective’. Psychiatric miracles everywhere. Like psychiatrists are Jesus who can turn water (dangerous toxic drugs) into wine (wonder medicine).

      • One more thing to add is that psychiatric prescribing actually fosters psychological addiction – they prescribe these drugs to people who are already in dire psychological condition (so the population already at risk), they downplay the risks and often don’t disclose these drugs are essentially narcotics and they claim that these drugs should be used regularly to cope with life problems. It’s like telling a guy who got dumped by his gf and is depressed or something: go buy some whiskey, and drink it every time you feel bad about her leaving you and up the dose when it stops helping and remember this is safe and effective and does not lead to addiction or personality changes. Sounds legit…

        • There really is no difference, except that the guy downing the whiskey at least knows he’s “drowning his sorrows” and not engaging in “medical treatment.” I’d be a lot more tolerant of the drugs if the docs were at least honest about what they are used for – a temporary means to feel better that does nothing to address the underling cause, and can have long-term adverse effects that could damage your health. Just like drinking alcohol.

          —- Steve

          • I started a reply to B the other day, but making my point depended on finding definitions of addiction and dependence from the same source. I spent a long time, and gave up.

            In my post, by the way, I meant “whatever other people mean when they say ‘addicted’.”

            I THINK the connotation of addiction used to be craving and seeking the drug, and dependence just meant feeling lousy without it.

            And yes, B, to this, “if you get it from a pharmacy they are wonder drugs which are “safe and effective’.” –The difference between selling meth and going to jail vs to the Bahamas is if you call it “ice” or “Desoxyn.”

            When talking about antidepressants, I like “physically addicted.”

            Steve, what you wrote made me think it would be nice to hear from a former speed or heroin addict who later had to get off ADs ,and hear their “reviews.” Maybe on bluelight or one of those sites.

  2. “This discovery paves the way for developing treatments that could blunt the effects of cocaine and amphetamines in patients who are addicted,” stated the press release.

    And blunt the effects of anything fun in life !

    This approach is old news.

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