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The Connection Between Drug Addiction and Salt

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, together with scientists from Australia have discovered that addictive drugs share the same nerve cells and connections in the human brain that regulate the natural appetite for salt. Certain genes are regulated in the hypothalamus. This region of the brain controls the equilibrium of salt, water, energy, reproduction and other natural rhythms. These gene patterns activated by the appetite for salt were the same groups of genes regulated by an addiction to cocaine or opiates like heroin. “We were surprised and gratified to see that blocking addiction-related pathways could powerfully interfere with sodium appetite,” said co-author of the study Wolfgang Liedtke, M.D., Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Neurobiology at Duke University. “Our findings have profound and far-reaching medical implications, and could lead to a new understanding of addictions and the detrimental consequences when obesity-generating foods are overloaded with sodium.” The appetite for salt is an integral and primal instinct. This new research may help to explain precisely why recovery from drug addiction is so difficult.

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