Cocaine addiction may affect how the body processes iron, leading to a build-up of the mineral in the brain, according to new research from the University of Cambridge. The study, published today in Translational Psychiatry, raises hopes that there may be a biomarker — a biological measure of addiction — that could be used as a target for future treatments.
Cocaine is one of the most widely-used illicit drugs in the Western world and is highly addictive. A report last year by the UK government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs found that almost one in 10 of all 16-to 59-year-olds have used cocaine in their lifetime. Cocaine use was implicated in, but not necessarily the cause of 234 deaths in Scotland, England and Wales in 2013. However, despite significant advances in our understanding of the biology of addiction — including how the brains of people addicted to cocaine may differ in structure — there is currently no medical treatment for cocaine addiction; most individuals are treated with talking or cognitive therapies.