A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Bait and Switch


Stress flips cocaine relapse to ‘on,’ research switches it back to ‘off.’

A heartbreaking phenomenon of addiction is that just a brief stressful episode can trigger relapse. In a detailed new cocaine addiction study conducted in rat models, which closely parallel human addictive behavior, scientists have identified what appears to be taking place in the mammalian brain to make that happen and uncovered the molecular biology that allows them to switch the stress-induced relapse back off.

The findings, published in the journal eLife, suggest a new way to develop medicines to combat relapse, even a day or so after stress has occurred.

“That’s so critical because you don’t want to be taking medication all the time in anticipation of stress,” says senior author Julie Kauer, PhD, professor of molecular pharmacology, physiology, and biotechnology.

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