Centre pioneers drug addiction research

February 3, 1995

Treating and preventing drug and alcohol misuse is the aim of a research centre which opened this week at Swansea University.

Based in the department of psychology, the Centre of Substance Abuse Research claims to be unique in bringing together the social and biological consequences of addiction.

According to director David Clark, four major areas of research are being covered - behavioural neuroscience, human psychopharmacology, psychology and social policy.

"The neuroscience project seeks to discover how drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine stimulate the brain," Dr Clark explains. "Particular interest is being paid to the drugs' relationship with the brain chemical dopamine, as this may be connected with the euphoria that users experience."

Neuroscience could also hold the key to understanding and solving the problem of cravings. When linked with psychopharmacology it may explain why some users return to drugs or alcohol after a lengthy period of abstinence.

Why people have relapses will also be examined. They may be triggered by the addict seeing something associated with their craving such as a drug dealer, a syringe or a glass of beer.

To prevent this, the centre aims to develop training programmes for former users that will enable them to avoid and resist temptation.

The centre is well aware that the causes of addiction are numerous. But personality may be significant. Many people use drugs and alcohol recreationally without becoming hooked. But others are soon addicted.

It may be that those who are prone to addiction have difficulty in dealing with stress and so turn to drink, drugs or tobacco as a way of coping with the problem.

Developing ways of giving up for current users and prevention programmes for highly stressed people will be a priority.

The centre will also assess the extent of alcohol and drug misuse, both within the population at large and among vulnerable groups such as prisoners and teenage rave enthusiasts.

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