Anxiety Medication Found to Have Mechanisms Similar to Cocaine and Heroin

Scientists have discovered that anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium, Xanax, and Ativan affect the brain’s reward pathways in a way that is similar to illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

Researchers from Switzerland and the United States found that benzodiazepine drugs increase the action of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Addictive drugs like marijuana and opioids also increase the action of this neurotransmitter, suggesting that both types of drugs affect the same reward pathways in the brain. This could help scientists develop non-addictive drugs to help treat anxiety.

The study found that benzodiazepines work by binding to a certain part of the GABA neurotransmitter, which the researchers named the alpha1 sub-unit of the GABA type A receptor. They suggest that creating similar benzodiazepines that bind to a different part of the neurotransmitter may offer a non-addictive alternative to existing medication.

Posted on February 11th, 2010
Posted in Abused Drugs

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