How Drug Addiction and Salt Cravings are Intertwined

How Drug Addiction and Salt Cravings are Intertwined

Ever wonder how humans can become so hooked on drugs? Here’s some tasty insight.

A team of U.S. and Australian scientists has found that addictive drugs like heroin and cocaine may be working on an ancient network in our brain. These drugs seem to have hijacked the same nerve cells and connections that make humans crave salt.

The hunger for salt is an ancient, deeply embedded pathway in our brain. Scientists note that among wild animals, it’s very advantageous to be able to satisfy any appetite for salt quickly.

An animal with a strong craving for salt will lap at a salty solution energetically, and essentially ‘eat quickly and leave’. This reduces the amount of time they have to stop and fill up, and in turn cuts down on their vulnerability to predators.

So how were these ‘nerve pathways of instinct’ discovered?

Related: Is Your Child An Emotional Eater?

Researchers examined how certain genes in salt appetite were “turned on” or “turned off” in mice as they satisfied their hunger. It was found that these genes could activate and deactivate rapidly, depending on the level of sodium in the body.

“We were surprised and gratified to see that blocking addiction-related pathways could powerfully interfere with sodium appetite,” said co-lead author Wolfgang Liedtke, M.D., Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Neurobiology at Duke University.

“The work opens new pathways of experimental approach to addiction,” Denton said.

On the flip side, now you know why it’s so very hard sometimes to turn down a bowl full of Cheetos. It simply comes down to survival.

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