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Study: Addicts are escaping lows, not chasing highs

A commonly held view about drug addiction is that users are constantly chasing the euphoric highs that they felt when they first tried illicit substances. Recent research conducted at Rutgers University has challenged this assertion, however, suggesting that addicts continue to engage in substance abuse because they are trying to escape emotional lows.

In the study, published in Psychopharmacology, laboratory rats were allowed to self-administer cocaine. During this time, researchers recorded the rats' high-pitched (euphoric) and low-pitched (depressed) sounds. Over  the course of several hours, the euphoric sounds became less frequent, while the depressed noises increased.

"Our results suggest that once the animals started a binge, they may have felt trapped and didn't like it," said Mark West, the study's lead researcher, in a press release.  "This showed us that negative emotions play an equal, if not more important role in regulating cocaine abuse."

West and his colleagues said that their animal research may be able to be applied to humans. Studies with mice are sometimes more reliable because the animals cannot lie about their physical and emotional state or tell scientists what they think they want to hear. This study may also help to explain the reason behind multiple types of addiction including food and tobacco. 

One important takeaway from this study is that we should not be so quick to judge someone suffering from addiction. It is a disease and the reasons behind their addiction may be far more complicated than we can understand. That said, you should be supportive of someone who is dealing with substance abuse, and encourage them to seek treatment. Contact Intervention Services today to learn how an experienced interventionist can help your loved one. 

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