A new study has discovered that drinking alcohol can make a person more vulnerable to developing a cocaine addiction.
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The reason for this is because alcohol that is consumed over a longer period of time causes the breakdown of two proteins in the body that act as a blocker in the brain’s ‘reward circuit’. This can lead to a craving for harder substances (in this study’s case, cocaine).
The reward circuit is a group of structures that release dopamine, which is linked to pleasure, and these are activated by things like drugs, hence why drugs make us happy.
Previous studies had already shown that alcohol and nicotine tend to be gateway drugs that lead to harder cocaine use, but the researchers at Columbia University Medical Centre said the aim of the study was to look at the biology of how gateway drugs lead to issues such as cocaine addiction.
The research was carried out on rats and it showed that the alcohol encourages the breakdown of the proteins istone deacetylases 4 and 5 in a region in the brain that makes up part of the reward circuit.
Dr Denise Kandel, professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University, said:
The gateway drug hypothesis is based on the observation that when kids get involved in drugs, they follow certain developmental sequences in which they use certain drugs prior to the use of other drugs.
The issue is – what mechanism accounts for the fact that the use of one drug increases the risk of use of another?
The study split the rats into two groups – one which was given alcohol while the other was given water.
Study author Dr Edmund Griffin, an assistant professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University, said:
We found that the animals in the alcohol priming group had enhanced behavioural responses.
We looked not only at how much cocaine they used but also will they continue to use a drug, even if they have a negative consequence – like a foot shock.
The rats with more exposure to alcohol use were discovered to be more persistent in seeking cocaine, pressing a lever to release the drug an average of 58 times during the experiment. This was compared to the rats without alcohol exposure who used the lever only 18 times. Those bloody rats sound like absolute party animals.
Seriously though, I think it’s obvious to most people that long-term alcohol leads to the craving for harder drugs such as cocaine. But I guess at least now we have a scientific explanation for it. Not that it’s going to stop many of you getting on the gear at the weekend.
For all the hideous ingredients that make up a line of cocaine, click HERE.