Addictions Curable?

By: Summer Knowles
By: Summer Knowles

October 20, 2005

A new research center at UVa is offering some hope to patients struggling with addiction.

It's doors haven't even been open a year and already they're seeing some ground-breaking progress.

The UVa Center for Addiction Research and Education, also known as UVA C.A.R.E., has one main goal, conquering addiction.

"A lot of patients who've been trying to get rid of their addiction for years and years have been very much helped by the medication we're testing," said Dr. Bassima Ait-Daoud with UVa C.A.R.E.

Right now the focus is alcohol addiction, but Dr. Ait-Daoud believes research on drug addiction isn't far away. She has joined forces with world renowned Dr. Bankole Johnson to develop a treatment program that would help alcoholics stop drinking.

"The idea is to find molecules that target specific parts of the brain to reduce the cravings for alcohol and other drugs," explained Johnson, the Chair of the UVa Department of Psychiatric Medicine.

Their research targets a neurotransmitter in brain called dopamine, which sends messages through the brain about perceptions of pain and pleasure.

"By modulating the affects of dopamine we can do several things, we can change the way people feel about alcohol, we can change the way people think about alcohol, and we can change the way people react to the presence of alcohol," Johnson said.

With recent success, Dr. Johnson is hopeful more is on the way. "We're hoping that over the next ten years, we'll have medications that are as effective as anti-depressants for depression," he explained.

If you're interested enrolling in a UVA C.A.R.E. trial, you can call the center directly at (434) 243-0549.

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