Title

Exploring Psychedelics as a Treatment for Addiction [online video]

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Original Publication Date

2021

Document Type

Presentation

Comments

7th Annual VCU 3MT® Competition, held on October 15, 2021.

Abstract

Psychedelics may a robust and sustained ability to alter addiction-related behaviors. I am investigating the mechanisms behind these compounds using tools that trace neuronal projections across brain regions, in hopes to come up with a new medication that is effective and without the hallucinogenic side effects associated with psychedelics.

Transcription

laina Jaster: More than 70 thousand Americans died of a drug-related overdose in 2019. This includes illicit substances and prescription opioids. And yet, a lot of people don't understand the seriousness of addiction. They don't think it's a real disease, or they don't realize that it can affect anyone. So I'd like everyone to take a moment and close your eyes. And imagine yourself at four years old. Imagine being ripped from your bed at four in the morning and locked in the bathroom by your older brother because your dad was using again. And now imagine yourself as the addict who, despite your best efforts and multiple relapses, can't stop choosing a substance over family no matter how much it hurts. Because resources are limited, and treatments are not very effective. Now open your eyes and think about a world where it's possible for someone to take a medication once and have lasting benefits for months or maybe even years. So that kid never has to experience that kind of trauma again. And so that father doesn't have to miss another field trip. That's what my research is trying to do: stop the cycle of addiction and come up with a new innovative treatment that is non-addictive and effective. Classic psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin, produce changes in cognition and perception. They have little to no abuse liability and have been shown to decrease alcohol and nicotine cravings in humans. But little preclinical research has been done and, specifically, focusing on these compounds in the context of opioid use disorder. So, I use a model called conditioned place preference with mice, where I give the mice oxycodone, a commonly prescribed opioid, and I condition them to prefer a specific side of the box. By the mice associating one side of the box with oxycodone, it allows me to measure the perceived preference for a drug related environment. And this is similar to environmental conditioning seen in humans when they have prolonged drug use. So what does this mean? Well, this suggests that psychedelics have a robust and sustained ability to alter addiction-related behaviors. And so what I plan to do next, is investigate the mechanisms behind these compounds using tools that trace neuronal projections across brain regions, in hopes to come up with a new medication that is effective and without the hallucinogenic side effects associated with psychedelics. Because no one deserves to suffer from a disease, and hopefully with my research, addiction can be treated. Thank you.

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