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Valium-like drugs use the same potentially addictive "reward pathways" in the brain as heroin and cannabis, findings that scientists say may help in the search for non-addictive alternative anxiety drugs.

Valium-like drugs use the same potentially addictive "reward pathways" in the brain as heroin and cannabis, findings that scientists say may help in the search for non-addictive alternative anxiety drugs. Researchers from Switzerland and the United States found that so-called benzodiazepine drugs, such as Ativan, Xanax and Valium, exert a calming effect by boosting action of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the same way as addictive drugs like opioids and cannabinoids. This in turn activates the gratification hormone, dopamine, in the brain, the scientists said, showing that the same brain "reward pathways" are used by both types of drugs. The findings may help in developing a next generation of non-addictive benzodiazepines, they wrote in the journal Nature. Swiss-based Roche Holding AG's drug Valium, known generically as diazepam, is the best known of the benzodiazepine class of drugs, which have dominated the anxiety medicine market since the 1960s. It and Ativan were among a host of other prescription drugs found in the blood of American pop star Michael Jackson when he died in June last year.

The study found that benzodiazepines seemed to work by binding to a particular part of the GABA, which the researchers named as the alpha1 sub-unit of the GABA type A receptor. The findings show that developing similar benzodiazepines that bind to a different part may offer the same drug benefits without the addictive side effects, they said. A study published earlier this month found that people with higher levels of dopamine in the brain tend to be more prone to addictive behavior.
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Title Annotation:RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY
Publication:MondayMorning
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 15, 2010
Words:259
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