Friday Factoid: Mouse Hugs over Hard Drugs: Implications of Neuroscience on Addiction Treatment

Neuroscience has only minimally contributed to addiction treatment. One of the factors that may advance research is this rodent model about social interaction and substance use. Researchers trained rats to make an operant level of choice between drugs or social interactions.  The two choices were either to press a lever for a drug (heroin or methamphetamine) or socialize with another rat. Across multiple conditions rats were consistently choosing social time over the drugs. These conditions were differing drugs, dosages, sex of the rat, and rat’s previous level of addictive responses to the drugs. The only time drugs were preferred was when researchers punished the rats for choosing social time with electric shocks or delaying access to other rats. These positive factors of social interaction are included in current treatment methods such as community reinforcement approach (CRA) which use social reinforcers such as support groups and positive work environments. The clinical implications are that they are hoping to use social-media approaches to expand use of social supports during or before drug-seeking episodes.

Venniro, M., Zhang, M., Caprioli, D., Hoots, J. K., Golden, S. A., Conor, H., … Shaham, Y. (2018). Volitional social interaction prevents drug addiction in rat models. Nature Neuroscience, 21, 1520-1529.

Andrew Goebel, MS, LPA (Temp)
WKPIC Doctoral Intern

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