Drug addiction is a disabling psychiatric disease leading to enormous burdens for those afflicted, their friends and family, as well as society as a whole. Indeed, the addict will seek out and use illicit substances even in the face of severe negative financial, family and health consequences. It is believed that drugs of abuse ultimately “hijack” the reward circuitry of the CNS leading to cellular adaptations that facilitate the transition to the “addicted” state.
As is the case with both rodent models of drug taking and throughout the global human population, not all individuals exposed to drugs of abuse will meet the classical definition of being truly “addicted”. Indeed, there is great variability in individual rates of propensities toward relapse following cocaine use. We are looking at how molecular and behavioral plasticity mediates individual differences in susceptibility to drug abuse and relapse.