Pax House

UCSB Determines the Pleasure Principle in Cocaine


Altadena, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 03/14/2014 -- The University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) initiated a research to examine the motivational system caused by cocaine in animals. This will trigger the awareness of more people taking part on the pursuit to stop cocaine addiction.

Aaron Ettenberg, professor in UCSB’s Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences said, "We weren't looking at pleasure; we were looking at the animal's desire to seek that pleasure, which we believe is the key to understanding drug abuse." This is the same focus of Pax House, one of the renowned drug rehabilitations centers in California that continues to do research of the relation between human behavior and substance abuse.

The results of the research suggest that there are similar neural mechanisms in the animal’s way of deciding on things with the influence of cocaine. Ettenberg said, "Just looking at the positive is looking at only half the picture; you have to understand the negative side as well."

He added, "It's not just the positive, rewarding effects of cocaine that drive this desire to seek the drug" he said. "It's the net reward, which takes into account the negative consequences in addition to the positive. Together the two determine the net positive output that will lead to the motivated behavior."

The researchers made use of the norepinephrine instead of cocaine since the latter is known to affect the primary neurotransmitter. Headed by professor Ettenberg, the researchers studied two parts of the brain, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) and the central nucleus of the amygdale (CeA). These parts are known to trigger effects on the emotional process.

This significantly addresses a different approach in the treatment of cocaine addiction. Ettenberg said, "We need to more fully understand the underlying neuronal mechanisms altered by cocaine before we can treat people. Once we understand how the brain systems producing the positive/euphoric and negative/anxiety effects of the drug interact, we might be able to produce treatments that address the balance between these two opposing actions, both of which serve as strong driving forces. We therefore need to understand both of these systems in order to come up with a rational treatment down the line."

The research thoroughly contributes to the understanding of cocaine in emotional process of a victim. The result of the study is now being disseminated by the healthcare team of Pax House. Pax delivers effective therapy to substance abuse with their competent, experienced, licensed, and certified counselors. To know more about their facilities, visit