Oxytocin attenuates drug addiction in rats

Meth, an abbreviation for methamphetamine, is a powerfully addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Meth is meant to treat ADHD and obesity. However, it is commonly abused as a recreational drug. Currently, there is no pharmacotherapy for meth addiction, which is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that can ruin a person's life.

Now, a study from the Medical University of South Carolina suggests that a peptide hormone called oxytocin might be used as a therapeutic for meth addiction. Published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, the study reports that oxytocin acts in an important brain region to attenuate meth seeking and demand in rats.

Accumulating evidence shows that oxytocin, a hormone produced by the hypothalamus and secreted by the pituitary gland, is a promising therapy for drug addiction. This hormone has multiple functions, such as facilitating childbirth, promoting lactation, and regulating social interaction.

If we can get a deeper understanding of how oxytocin works, it may accelerate the development of addiction treatments. In this study, first author Dr. Brittney Cox and colleagues investigated the effects of oxytocin on meth addiction in rats. Rats were allowed to self-administrate meth, and their drug-taking behaviors were assessed. The researchers treated the rats with oxytocin and then investigated the effects of oxytocin on meth demand and meth seeking.

Results showed that oxytocin treatment significantly decreased meth demand and seeking in both sexes. Furthermore, these effects were dependent on oxytocin signaling in the nucleus accumbens, a brain region with a central role in the reward circuit that has been linked with drug addiction. Combined, these data suggest that oxytocin-based therapies might be a promising treatment for drug addiction.
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