A hallucinogenic can be used as therapeutic agent to reverse and prevent addictions, according to a study by the Mexican neurobiologist Hector Vargas-Perez, published this at the European Journal of Neuroscience, online version.

In his study, the scientist demonstrates how a single administration of the hallucinogen 4-acetoxy-dimethyltryptamine reverses the neural mechanisms involved in addiction to substance abuse, such as nicotine, heroin and morphine.

According to Vargas-Perez’ previous research, published in prestigious publications such as Science and Journal of Neurosciences, abuse of addictive substances is caused by a phenomenon of neuronal plasticity, very similar to learning, in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain.

In his studies, Vargas-Perez has observed that when an organism is in a state of forced abstinence from addictive substances, the neuronal plasticity in the VTA increases, a phenomenon also observed in other pathologies such as depression or neuropathic pain. This plasticity, he explains, is dependent on a molecule called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

According to the researchers, “these BDNF-induced adaptations in the VTA are associated with the establishment of aversive withdrawal motivation that leads to a drug-dependent state. Growing evidence suggests that 5-HT2A (5-hydroxytryptamine type 2A) receptor signaling can regulate the expression of BDNF in the brain.” Therefore they used 4-acetoxy-dimethyltryptamine, as a 5-HT2A agonist.

Graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and with postgraduate degrees from institutions in Europe and Canada, Hector Vargas and colleagues of the University of Toronto created rodent models of dependency, either by infusion of BDNF in the VTA or exposure to addictive substances, such as heroin, morphine and nicotine, in laboratory rodents.

Then, they observed that a single systemic or intra-VTA administration of the hallucinogenic blocks both the aversive conditioned response to drug withdrawal and the mechanism responsible for switching from a drug-naive to a drug-dependent motivational system. After the experiment the animals behaved as if they had never been addicted.

The results of the Mexican Scientists suggest that 5-HT2A agonists could be used as therapeutic agents to reverse a drug dependent state, as well as inhibiting the aversive effects produced by drug withdrawal.

 

Source: La Jornada / European Journal of Neurosciences