Charles P. O’Brien, M.D., Ph.D.
[Slides not available.]
SUMMARY: Basic and clinical data show that repeated drug use produces changes in the brain that are represented by learned responses to drug-related cues. Numerous studies have shown that cues previously associated with drug taking can act as conditioned stimuli and produce reflexive changes in former drug users. Many of these changes are perceived as compulsive drug craving. Medications have now been discovered that suppress craving and lead to an improved treatment outcome, although the mechanism of this compulsive drug craving is poorly understood. Dr. Charles O’Brien suggests that the empirical finding from clinical trials of craving-suppression by specific medications may signal a new class of medications available to the psychiatrist.