Addiction & Alcoholism
Cannabinoids play a diverse role in addiction. They confer some of the euphoric feelings of many drugs, but also help eliminate memories that trigger cravings. The also regulate dopamine in a part of the brain called the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Normally, dopamine release in the VTA helps orient animals, including humans, to new kinds of stimuli.
Although it may not be obvious during these Trump-rattled times, we’re in the midst of a psychedelic revival. There is more interest than ever before in experimenting with LSD, magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, ketamine, and other psychedelic drugs.
Alex Berenson, a science fiction author and former New York Times reporter, has written a book that would make Harry Anslinger blush. Anslinger, of course, was the longtime Federal Bureau of Narcotics director who waged a salacious, racially-charged sleaze campaign against marijuana, “the devil’s weed” that turned people into psychotic killers.
An unfortunate slogan of the cannabis legalization movement has been “Regulate cannabis like alcohol.” But cannabis, unlike alcohol, is not associated with domestic violence, sexual assault, liver toxicity, cancers, neurodegeneration, and the list goes on. Cannabinoids can, in fact, attenuate many of these issues, as described in a recent review.
Little needs to be said about the devastating impact methamphetamine abuse can have. It is a highly addictive substance whose use can lead to transient psychotic behavior and long-term cognitive problems. As part of an Iranian researcher’s PhD thesis, two scientists demonstrate that CBD can reduce the likelihood of methamphetamine relapse, even while one deals with stresses like sleep deprivation. This is particularly important because drug withdrawal often causes temporary insomnia, yet many of the medications that induce sleep are highly addictive.