Researchers identify brain network that is uniquely activated through injection vs. oral drug use

NIH study suggests the brain’s 'salience network' is important for understanding substance use disorder, could be a future therapeutic target

Results from a new clinical trial suggest that a group of brain regions known as the 'salience network' is activated after a drug is taken intravenously, but not when that same drug is taken orally. When drugs enter the brain quickly, such as through injection or smoking, they are more addictive than when they enter the brain more slowly, such as when they are taken orally. However, the brain circuits underlying these differences are not well understood. This study offers new information that helps explain what may be causing this difference.

The study was published in Nature Communications and led by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), parts of the National Institutes of Health, at the NIH Clinical Center.

“We’ve known for a long time that the faster a drug enters the brain, the more addictive it is – but we haven’t known exactly why. Now, using one of the newest and most sophisticated imaging technologies, we have some insight,” said Nora Volkow, M.D., NIDA Director, chief of the NIAAA Laboratory of Neuroimaging, and senior author on the study. “Understanding the brain mechanisms that underlie addiction is crucial for informing prevention interventions, developing new therapies for substance use disorders, and addressing the overdose crisis.”

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This page was last updated on Wednesday, November 8, 2023