Learning about addiction to prevent and treat it

Before a big game, you can find most coaches holed up in their offices poring over video footage of the upcoming opponent. They know that, in order to design an effective counter-strategy, it helps to know first exactly how the opponent operates, down to the details of each and every play.

The same general principle applies to fighting drug abuse. We have a much better chance of successfully preventing and treating addiction if we understand at deeper levels why and how addiction develops, both at the social level and at the more subtle levels you'd need a microscope to see. It can be challenging to relate the work of a scientist at a lab bench to what occurs on the front lines of abuse or treatment, but this is exactly what we aspire to do at the MARC.

About the MARC

Methamphetamine (MA) use disorder is a chronic relapsing disease with increasing global prevalence, one of the highest relapse rates among substance use disorders, and no effective treatments. In Oregon, deaths from MA exceed deaths from opioids. Multiple investigators involved in this P50 have independently pinpointed the trace amine-associated receptor1 (TAAR1) and Taar1 (rodent)/TAAR1 (human) genotype as having key roles in MA craving in human MA users, MA intake, and MA-induced synaptic plasticity. This Center uses a cross-species comparative approach in humans and animal models to study the role of TAAR1 in MA use disorder.

Technically, the MARC is a P-50 research center funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an agency of the federal government that sponsors much of the addictions research that happens in the United States. The MARC was founded in 2006 when a group of neuroscience researchers and doctors at OHSU and the Portland VA Medical Center decided they wanted to work together to study the many interacting facets of the disease. At OHSU, the center is jointly housed with the departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience.