Research has recently emerged from America suggesting that sustained alcohol consumption may lead to an increased likelihood in developing a cocaine addiction.
The lab at Columbia University Medical Centre came to this conclusion following tests ran on rats. The science behind the theory is that, over time, alcohol consumption breaks down two proteins in the brain (histone deacetylases 4 and 5 if you were wondering) that are involved in blocking the ‘reward circuit’, which in turn increases cravings, making users vulnerable to addiction. The release circuit is a system that releases dopamine into the body, a compound known for bettering people’s moods.
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?”
Of the rats used in the experiment, one group was given water, and the other half alcohol. Then given a lever which would release cocaine, the latter group was far more persistent in using the lever: approximately 40 times more often than their sober counterparts.
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.
We found that alcohol is causing degradation of histone deacetylases which acts as a molecular brake pad inside the reward circuitry of the brain.
Our study helps us to understand how an early exposure to something like alcohol can actually tip the balance and increase a person’s ability to develop addiction.”
Perhaps that last glass of wine can wait until tomorow…
Want to know more about cocaine addiction? Watch Gordon Ramsey’s new documentary.