Researchers from the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Malaga, specialized in addictive disorders, have shown in an animal model (mice) that the presence of a relevant social stimulus reduces interest in cocaine. The results underline how social support can be a key tool in the treatment of drug addiction.
Experts, from the Biomedical Research Institute of Malaga (IBIMA), have shown how a positive and relevant enhancer– such as social interaction with another animal– can lessen the preference for seeking this drug.
For the test, the researchers used the so-called ‘place preference conditioning paradigm’ which, according to lead author Patricia Sampedro, allows us to study the animal’s preference for two different contexts (in one of them the animal receives cocaine and in the other receives saline water).
“After four days of observation we detected that they preferred to spend more time in the compartment associated with the drug,” says the expert.
In a next phase of the study, the scientists placed a juvenile mouse –a high positive rodent enhancer– in the compartment in which the animals had received saline and analyzed whether they preferred to spend more time in this place or in the compartment who had associated with the effect of the drug.
“We realized that most animals preferred to spend more time with this social stimulus than to explore the context in which they had received cocaine,” says Sampedro, who therefore highlights the key role of social interaction for Reduce the search for the drug.
Reduce the attractiveness of drugs
The conclusions of this article, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, show similar results both in animal models that live individually and in those that live in groups and, in addition, have also taken into account the novelty factor.
“We performed the same experiment but using a new inanimate object as a reinforce –a Rubik’s cube. In this case we observe that the animals preferred the compartment matched with the administration of the drug, which means that it is in itself the social component that is highly relevant to capture their attention,” he concludes.
This research team proposes social support as a key tool in the treatment of drug addiction. As next steps, researchers seek to advance new strategies that reduce the attractiveness of the drug and change the preference for healthier activities such as physical exercise.