Extended exposure to cocaine can actually cause permanent changes to how genes are switched on and off in the brain and the finding could help lead to effective addiction treatment according to the same research. Ian Maze of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and colleagues established their finding utilizing mice. In the study it was found that continual cocaine dependence prevented a specific enzyme from shutting off other genes in the pleasure circuits of the brain causing the mice’s craving for the drug to increase.
During the study the group gave one grouping of young mice frequent doses of cocaine and another group repeated doses of saline, then a single dose of cocaine. This lead to the discovery that cocaine alters the reward circuits in the brain by inhibiting gene 9A, which makes an enzyme that plays a critical role in switching genes on and off. This isn’t the only study to link cocaine to gene changes and intensified drug addiction symptoms but it is the first time that the way these changes occurred could be documented.
The study also lead to the discovery that the effects could be reversed by increasing the activity of gene 9A. The increase completely reversed the effects of chronic cocaine use in the test mice, leading to the belief that the same method could help human addicts of the drug and could even help with other forms of addiction including nicotine and alcohol.