Adolescent brain ‘sensitive to drugs’ (BBC  11/10/02)


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Adolescent brain ‘sensitive to drugs’ (BBC  11/10/02)

From: Miles Townes

Date: 11/11/2002

Time: 10:49:01 AM

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The brains of adolescents are far more sensitive to the addictive effects of drugs, experiments on mice suggest. And the researchers, from Jefferson Medical College in the US, believe that the effect may be the same in human teenagers.

The scientists used cocaine and amphetamines in their experiments.

They found that a certain protein was produced in a part of the brain called the striatum when both adults and adolescents were exposed to these drugs on a regular basis.

While they are not sure exactly what this protein is for, they believe it is part of the ‘adaptation’ process that programmes long-term responses – including addiction – to drugs.

They found that the quantity of this protein produced was higher in the adolescent striatum compared to either the striatum of adult or newborn mice.

Reward feeling

The protein was also produced in much higher quantities in a part of the striatum called the accumbens in adolescent mice.

This part of the brain, in animals and humans, is associated with the feeling of ‘reward’ after taking drugs.

Professor Michelle Ehrlich, who led the research, said: “The implications are that there is an increased adaptation in the younger brain than in the older brain to these psychostimulants.”

If the mouse proved to be a good model for the human brain – which is far from certain – it would suggest that an adolescent taking a psychostimulant drug would have a more powerful effect in his or her brain chemistry.

Whether or not this would automatically mean either a more powerful addiction, or addiction with smaller doses of drugs is also as yet unproven.

However, said Professor Ehrlich: “Periadolescence and adolescence are when addiction usually begins, so we will be looking to see if this increase is a clue to sensitivity to addiction and sensitivity to drugs such as therapeutic agents.”

Last changed: November 11, 2002

Adolescent brain ‘sensitive to drugs’ (BBC  11/10/02)
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