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NIDA. (2009, December 1). Recovery May Be Harder for Adolescents, Animal Study Suggests. Retrieved from

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December 01, 2009

Adolescents' heightened sensitivity to drug reward puts them at enhanced risk for progressing from drug experimentation to addiction and may also increase their challenges in recovery. In a recent experiment, researchers taught rats to associate a specific site with cocaine infusions. After dispensing of the drug was halted, adolescent rats continued to return to the site for 9 days; adult rats, in comparison, stopped frequenting the site after 5 days. The finding confirms that adolescents experience cocaine's rewarding effects more intensely and suggests that they develop cocaine-environment associations that are harder to break, say Drs. Heather Brenhouse and Susan Andersen of McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, in Boston.

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The adolescent animals in the experiment also renewed their predilection for the cocaine-associated site more readily than the adults when given a priming mini-dose of the drug. One potential implication, the researchers say, is that adolescent drug abusers may need longer treatment interventions than adults do to achieve stable recovery.

Behavioral Neuroscience 122(2):460-465, 2008. [Abstract]