Hospital for Sick Children
How do memories trigger drug relapse?
Long after an addicted individual has become drug-free, simple events or circumstances that were associated with prior drug use, such as walking through a particular neighbourhood or hearing a particular song, can reawaken powerful memories that can trigger drug craving and provoke a relapse. These environmental stimuli may render an addict vulnerable to a return to drug use. This type of stimulus-evoked relapse is a major roadblock to treating addicted individuals.
Dr. Dekel Taliaz, a cellular and molecular biologist at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, is studying how people's choices are permanently altered by previous drug use, and whether that puts them at increased risk of relapse, even after prolonged periods of abstinence.Using advanced learning and memory paradigms, together with state-of-the-art molecular techniques, Taliaz is studying the neural mechanisms that link external stimuli with the pleasure, relief or other rewards associated with drug use. The project will also test whether it's possible to disrupt the expression of this memory to prevent a relapse.
The findings from this research could serve as a foundation for the development of new pharmacotherapies aimed at treating or even preventing drug relapse.
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