Drug rehabs are intrigued by a recent study conducted by a University of Michigan addiction researcher named Jennifer Cummings. According to drug treatment center experts, Cummings has stumbled upon an interesting difference between cocaine responses in female rats who are mothers and those female rats who have not given birth. Doctors and therapists from drug rehabs wonder if becoming a mother may result in less cravings for cocaine from women who are addicted to the drug. At present there are large numbers of young women being admitted to drug treatment centers for cocaine addiction every day who have yet to become mothers.
According to the study, becoming a mother changes a female rat’s response to cocaine, lessening the drug’s effects on the animal’s body. Cummings concluded her evidence by feeding cocaine to female rats, and later examined the release of dopamine in the "pleasure center" of the rats’ brains. Mother rats released much less dopamine when they were fed cocaine than rats who did not have babies.
In a separate experiment, all of the rats were administered multiple cocaine dosages. Researchers observed the animals to see if they became more active, as was expected. They discovered that the mother rats did not increase their activity, while the non-mother rats did.
Cummings asserts, "While we have not yet identified a mechanism to explain these differences, they do suggest that the reward system and brain circuitry affected by cocaine is changed with maternal experience. The next step is to determine how factors such as hormone changes in pregnancy and early motherhood, and the experience of caring for offspring, might be differentially contributing to this response."
Cummings presented her team’s findings last week at the Society for Neuroscience Conference.