A Glimpse of Drug-Related Items Can Trigger a Craving; Important Drug Rehab News
Conducted using fMRI imaging, researchers found that very fast, indistinguishable images of things like cocaine rocks or cocaine-smoking pipes were enough to cause key brain areas of certain patients addicted to cocaine to be stimulated, especially those areas related to pleasure or reward - providing key information in the study of drug cravings.
Although previous research has delved into the nature of cravings for drugs, this study suggests that even subconscious cues can be enough to cause a craving for an addict. Conducted by University of Pennsylvania researchers, the team gave the participants one set of very fast cocaine-related images, too fast for their brains to consciously register, then followed these a short time later with photos they could actually see long enough to have cognizant awareness.
The participants who had the fastest brain-level reaction to the images, which were at or less than 33 milliseconds each, also had the highest positive relationship with the drug images they could view for longer periods.
Because addictions such as drugs or sex seem to activate similar brain areas, the researchers also looked at how the participants' brains reacted to sexual images in comparison to drug images, concluding similar reactions at the brain level in both cases. Further research will be aimed at helping patients more successfully ward off and avoid strong drug cravings, which can help experts as they deliver service in drug rehab settings.