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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

New Evidence Shows Why Adolescents Are Vulnerable to Addiction

why adolescents are vulnerable to addictionStudies have shown that teens are more vulnerable to the effects of addictive substances like cocaine and nicotine than are adults, but scientists had been unable to identify why this is true. Now, two studies with mice by investigators at Baylor College of Medicine have discovered a likely cause.

The eIF2 molecule is essential for protein synthesis, and its subunit, eIF2a, is a key factor in regulating this process. In the two studies published together in the journal eLife, results showed that the regulatory activity of eIF2a in adolescents was reduced in the presence of the addictive substances.

Results Confirmed in Both Studies 
The two similar studies, one with cocaine, the other with nicotine, produced evidence of how the addictive substances reduced the activity of eIF2a molecules in adolescents, but not for adults.

Study 1: Adolescent and adult mice were injected with saline or a low-dose of cocaine. Results showed that cocaine led to a reduction in the eIF2a activity in the adolescents, but not in the adults.

Then, investigators tested the effects of cocaine on adult mice in which the production of proteins controlled by eIF2a molecules was altered, and on adolescent mice whose eIF2a activity was increased. Results showed that the adults with altered eIF2a activity demonstrated the same susceptibility to cocaine-induced changes as shown in adolescents, and the adolescents whose eIF2a activity had been increased showed greater resistance to the effects of the drug.

Study 2: Similar experiments were carried out on mice using nicotine instead of cocaine. Results showed that the different effects on adolescents and adults were also true for this drug.

In addition, this study identified a genetic variation in eIF2a which affects how smokers’ brains respond to reward. Evidence of this finding was confirmed with functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Advancing Addiction Education & Treatment 
According to Andon Placzek, lead author of the nicotine study, the results of these studies could help to educate young people about the risks of experimenting with addictive drugs. “They could also help discover a new way to fight addiction in both adolescents and adults, for example by altering the activity of eIF2a in the brain.”

Addiction Help for Young Adults
For young people, addiction to drugs or alcohol disrupts a promising future and destroys the opportunity for a fulfilled and productive life. Addiction treatment at Hope Academy restores opportunity with effective modalities, sober living, and academic and career counseling. If your young adult loved one is caught up in substance abuse, dial 866.930.4673 to speak with one of our recovery advisors and begin the enrollment process for your loved one now.

Source: eLife. "Studies explain adolescents' vulnerability to addictive drugs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2016. 

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