Summary: Cocaine use and related deaths are on the rise in the U.S. Researchers are working to understand this trend and focus on the theory of addiction pathology.
The study involved rewarding participants for achieving their treatment goals, with immediate rewards effectively reducing the cost of the medication. The research hopes to guide the development of innovative interventions to reduce cocaine use and ultimately improve public health.
- Cocaine use is on the rise in the U.S., a substance that accounts for one in five overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
- The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC is conducting research based on the theory of reinforcement pathology, which rewards individuals who meet treatment goals to rapidly reduce the cost of drug use.
- The research aims to guide new interventions that can reduce cocaine consumption and have a positive impact on public health.
Source: Virginia Tech
About 2 percent of the U.S. population reported using cocaine in 2020, and the highly addictive substance accounts for one in five overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Cocaine-related overdoses have been on the rise in Virginia since 2013. There will be 968 fatal overdoses in 2022, a 20 percent increase from 2021, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.
Of those, four out of five involved fentanyl — prescription, illegal or analog — as the driving force behind the killings.
Researchers at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC are working to better understand cocaine use disorders and reverse the national trend.
“Motivators are coming back. “Cocaine use and addiction has been on the rise for more than a decade, and there is no solid treatment,” said Warren Bickel, professor and director of the Addiction Recovery Research Center at VTC’s Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.
“We need new ideas.”
The research reinforces the concept of pathology, in which an individual places a high value on immediate rewards—for example, the way a substance makes them feel—and a low value on future benefits.
For the study, researchers used emergency administration of cocaine by offering cash or something valuable to people who met their treatment goals.
“We know that people give up their jobs, their relationships, their families, even their lives when they take drugs, but when they receive several dollars for a drug-free urine sample, they become powerful. What explains it? Their temporal horizons. I’ll give you money for a clean urine sample and you turn it right away. The drugs lose their value,” says Bickel. He said.
The Addiction Recovery Research Center is recruiting adults who use cocaine for a paid research study on decision making. Participants will be asked to visit the Roanoke lab 13 times to get an MRI, report their cocaine use, take computerized assessments and provide urine samples.
The non-clinical research was supported by a grant of more than $700,000 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.
“We’re asking people to participate for consecutive weeks, and we’ll learn whether addressing their short-term vision is an additional key to treating them.”
“It’s important to explore new ideas. New interventions are long overdue, and there’s more evidence that this effort is an idea whose time has come. It’s getting the results we want to measure.”
Bickel is director of the Institute’s Center for Health Behavior Research, professor of psychology in the Virginia Tech College of Science, and professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.
Stephen M. LaConte, associate professor at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, joined the study.
LaConte said it’s important to work with partners in the fight against substance use disorders and use brain imaging to study the effects of cocaine use and changes in the brain during interventions.
“Thank you to the participants who give their time to come to the stage [institute] For our education,” he said.
“In addition to funding the science we do here, I’m grateful for the work our state and federal agencies are doing to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction.”
Their goal is to positively impact public health by leading new interventions to reduce cocaine use.
So addiction research news
Author: Leigh Ann Kelly
Source: Virginia Tech
Contact: Leigh Ann Kelly – Virginia Tech
Image: Image credited to Neuroscience News.