A Common Sense Approach to Cocaine Addiction Treatment

“For the first time, researchers from the Institut de physiologie et biologie cellulaire (CNRS/Université de Poitiers) have shown that positive and stimulating environmental conditions make it easier to treat cocaine addiction”. In particular, Marcello Solinas and Mohamed Jaber exposed cocaine addicted mice to an enriched environment during cocaine withdrawal. The environment consisted of small houses, a running wheel, tunnels and many other stimulating items in a large cage. The researchers observed three measures of typical addictive behaviour: 1. Behavioural Sensitization: the progressive augmentation of behavioural responses to cocaine that develops during repeated administration. 2. Location Preference: the ability of the context to induce drug-seeking behaviour and strengthen the contextual association with drug use. 3. Probability of Relapse: “cocaine’s ability to lead to a relapse after a period of withdrawal.” Results showed that all three of these typical behaviours disappeared after the mice had endured 30 days of the enriched environment. In the brain, this disappearance was seen by a decrease in activity in the specific areas associated with dopamine transmission and relapse. Does this seem like news to anyone? Of course rehab won’t work for individuals who are thrust right back into the same environmental circumstances. The rehabilitation process should definitely include changes to living conditions. Availability of cocaine will clearly hinder the probability of relapse. The same basic routine will allow an addict to easily slide back into old habits. Besides pointing out the obvious, this “new” research does provide a bit of insight. Addiction treatment centres may want to consider adding housing support workers to the therapeutic process. The social, physical and mental stimulation seem to be key factors in maintaining sobriety; therefore it might be beneficial to include exercise regimens and educational programs as well. The ideal solution does not seem to be spending 30 days discussing the reason you became an addict only to settle right back into the same old routine after successful completion of a program. Evidently, the emotional aspect is a necessary step in the process, but if anything, this research proves that there is more to treating cocaine addiction. It’s a complete lifestyle overhaul.

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