Empathy Can Push Former Drug Users to Relapse

Empathy Can Push Former Drug Users to Relapse

Traumatic events can push those who are sober to seek out why they least need.

Empathy, states a new study from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, is a key feature in normal social interactions. It’s the awareness of another’s feelings and emotions, and integral to healthy relationships with others. But it can also push former drug users to relapse.

A group of researchers, led by Dr. Jonathan Gewirtz, performed a series of experiments to analyze links between empathy, stress, and drug use, using mice.

The mice were first placed in a two-sided compartment. On one side, the mice could access a neutral saline solution. On the other, a dose of morphine was given.

Next, the group of mice received only saline injections on either side of the compartment for two weeks, much like “going sober”.  Then, the drama ensued.

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One of the sober mice was forced to witness another mouse in a fearful state. It was then immediately put back in the dual-sided compartment.

Researchers watched to see if the now-sober mouse preferred one side of the compartment over the other.

Consistently, they said,  the sober mouse and those tested afterwards sought out the side of the compartment associated with morphine. And when the rodents were given oxytocin, a hormone produced by the body in social bonding, the fear response increased in the once-sober mice.

This, scientists say, could prove that drug-seeking behavior occurs when former users witness a traumatic event.

The researchers say these findings are the first to demonstrate a direct link between empathy and drug relapse.

For information on helping to fight drug addiction, new study.

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