Mystery of Valium addiction revealed

12 February 2010

Posted by:

Category: Research & medical benefits

medication–pills.jpgDrugs such as Valium and Xanax could be redesigned after a study on mice has revealed the mechanism which makes them addictive.

Valium belongs to the group of drugs named the Benzodiazepines (BDZs). It is used to treat anxiety, agitation and hallucinations among many other symptoms. Previous research shows that Valium works by stimulating the release of dopamine, the natural ‘reward' chemical in the brain. Now scientists have discovered it also acts on another brain pathway which they believe makes patients become addicted to the drug.

Researchers studied the pathway in mice after injecting them with a dose of BDZ. In particular they investigated the proteins found on the surface of brain cells, electrical currents and the numbers of neuro-transmitting molecules involved. Results showed that BDZs activate a neurotransmitter, GABA, which helps to increase the release dopamine. The increase in dopamine reflects activity from use of other addictive drugs such as heroin which works via a similar pathway. Hence they have proposed a medicinesuch as Valium may be addictive because it works using the GABA pathway.

Although scientists warn that Valium is not the same as illegal drugs like heroin, they do suggest that both stimulate similar dopamine mechanisms.

Further research could prompt pharmaceutical companies to redesign BDZ drugs like Valium and Xanax to exclude the addictive side effect.