A National Survey on drug abuse in America reported in 2004 that about 34 million Americans are currently using or have been exposed to cocaine at some point in their lifetime. Cocaine is highly addictive and affects individuals along with their families. The cost of health care services has risen due to the increasing use of cocaine. Currently, the Roskamp Institute is involved in research to discover a treatment for substance abuse. Dr. Michael Mullan MD, PhD is the director of the Roskamp Institute and has worked vigorously on addiction and has found that addictive disorders have a significant genetic component. These genetic components play a key role in drug abuse.
The Roskamp Institute scientists have previously shown that a genetic change called polymorphism in a gene for an opioid receptor in the brain is a risk factor for alcohol dependency. With this information, the Roskamp Institute researchers then examined the frequencies of this polymorphism carrying genotypes and alleles in numerous groups of individuals addicted to the substance versus individuals with no history of addiction to the substance. These Roskamp Institute scientists found that the mu-opioid receptor’s polymorphism is a genetic risk factor for substance dependence but not to any particular type of drug. Meaning, an individual with this polymorphism is more likely to become addicted to a substance than an individual without it. The Roskamp Institute previously published these findings in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
Dr. Mullan and Dr. Crawford along with the other researchers at the Roskamp Institute received an award from the Counter drug Technology Assessment Center (CTAC), to continue their work on drug addiction.
Affymetrix is a name of the company which provides the Roskamp Institute with the genetic software that is used by scientists who study genetics (genomics). The Roskamp Institute used genomics technology in order to find the cocaine’s affects on the brain cells known as neuronal cells. The Roskamp Institute scientists continue to research projects which are focused on the inflammatory and immune responses to cocaine. The Roskamp Institute scientists showed that these responses also results from the exposure of the neuronal cells to cocaine and these responses are also time dependant. These findings, originally published in the Journal of Neurochemistry, illustrate that there are biological and physical consequences of cocaine addiction.
The Roskamp Institute researchers are currently working on studies involving oxidative stress in the brain. This oxidative stress can also be caused by excessive use of cocaine and is hypothesized to result in permanent brain damage. With such experiments in progress, the Roskamp Institute is a good candidate for additional government funding and these discoveries will be useful towards the battle against drug abuse in form of treatments.