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Frustration: 4th major factor of addiction – study

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Jiya Saini
Jiya Saini is a Journalist and Writer at Revyuh.com. She has been working with us since January 2018. After studying at Jamia Millia University, she is fascinated by smart lifestyle and smart living. She covers technology, games, sports and smart living, as well as good experience in press relations. She is also a freelance trainer for macOS and iOS, and In the past, she has worked with various online news magazines in India and Singapore. Email: jiya (at) revyuh (dot) com

A team from the medical branch of the University of Texas at Galveston(UTMB), focused on drug addiction research, has pioneered a new way of studying frustration as a factor in substance use disorders.

The study, which was published in the medical journal Psychopharmacology, notes that the research on the role of frustration and substance use disorders is scant, but several studies suggest that people with substance use disorders have a lower tolerance to frustration. Studies have shown that sensitivity to frustration is correlated with relapse among people with substance use disorders.

Traditional addiction research has focused on three aspects of substance use disorders: desire, impulsivity, or habit. The scientists hypothesized that a fourth factor, frustration, could also lead to escalating drug use and addiction.

The UTMB studies used a rat model to focus on frustration-related behavior. Rats can be trained to press a lever to obtain food or drugs (reinforcers), and frustration is defined as when a subject is unable to achieve a reinforcer, receives less reinforcer than anticipated, or has to work harder to achieve a reinforcer.

“An example of frustration behavior is when someone can’t get the channel on the TV to change or when an elevator takes too long to arrive. People will often respond to both situations by pressing the button repeatedly or holding the button longer with repeated attempts. This typical human response to frustration is the same in rats,” said Dr. Thomas A. Green, from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at UTMB.

“When a rat presses a lever repeatedly that was supposed to deliver a banana-flavored sucrose pellet, but the pellets never arrive, they hold the levers down longer as the frustration builds,” he adds.

Tileena Vasquez, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the UTMB and lead author of the paper, explains that the study showed that all rats would press a lever for intravenous infusions of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, but about 10 percent of rats would increase fentanyl intake to about twice the average.

Even when rats take massive amounts of the drug, their pressure on the bar lengthens (in some cases up to 10 minutes in duration), although the researchers did not increase the amount of drug administered. The bottom line is that these rats are susceptible to increased consumption, even though they are taking as much fentanyl as their bodies can handle because they are frustrated as they are not getting enough medication yet to satisfy them.

Green says the study has obvious implications for future opioid use disorder studies and will help scientists understand how frustration, as well as desire, impulsivity, and habit, can lead to opioid escalation.

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