UB, Buffalo State College Researchers Focus on Cocaine Dependence

By Kathleen Weaver

Release Date: December 19, 2006

BUFFALO , N.Y. – A $1.6 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to researchers at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) is funding new research geared to reducing anxiety and craving associated with cessation of cocaine use over the short-term, and reducing cocaine dependence over the long-term.

Alexis C. Thompson, Ph.D., principal investigator on the RIA study and associate professor in the Department of Psychology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences is collaborating with co-investigator Jean DiPirro, Ph.D., assistant professor in Buffalo State College's Department of Psychology and associate research scientist at RIA.

"By targeting neuropeptide Y, a neurotransmitter in the brain," Thompson explained, "and testing whether enhancing the activity of this neurotransmitter will reduce heightened anxiety and craving for cocaine, we hope to learn what happens during periods of abstinence from cocaine. This is important because craving, anxiety, and depression during cocaine abstinence are known to underlie relapse to cocaine use."

Thompson and DiPirro will test methods of suppressing anxiety during the very important first 48 hours of abstaining from the drug, as well as at one-week and three-week intervals. They also will investigate the general role of stress in initial and ongoing cocaine use. The ultimate goal of this study is to identify drug therapies that will alleviate cocaine dependence.

"Cocaine use greatly affects both individuals and the community-at-large with a wide range of economic, biomedical, psychiatric and social problems," according to Thompson. "That includes crime, the spread of infectious disease, neonatal drug exposure, escalation in health care costs, and diminished quality of life in those suffering from the addiction."

For some time, both Thompson's neurochemistry and behavior lab at RIA and DiPirro's neurobiology and health lab at Buffalo State have been investigating how exposure to drugs change the brain and lead to long-term changes in motivation underlying drug addiction and other mental health disorders.

Their new study will add to the understanding of neurobiological substrates that underlie cocaine dependence and help to determine whether a medicinal compound can be identified as a viable treatment for cocaine dependence.

The Research Institute on Addictions has been a leader in the study of addictions since 1970 and a research center of the University at Buffalo since 1999.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.