Low-Level Lead Exposure Might Make You Fall Off the Wagon

Indiana University Summary released a new study elucidating the negative effects of low-level developmental lead exposure in mice. They explained that it could be the reason of alcohol use relapse among people who are alcohol dependant.

These research findings were published in the journal, Neuropharmacology. The study demonstrated how developmental lead exposure can significantly elevate the propensity to relapse to alcohol consumption in mice. They further studied the impacts of amino acid signalling in brain, as they are considered the regulators of brain motivation and reinforcing circuits, in brain regions associated with drug addiction.

Source: CDC

Lead (Pb) is a well-known neurotoxic heavy metal pollutant, which despite the persistent efforts, remain persistent in human population causing lead poisoning. Previous data showed that in adults, a long history of childhood lead exposure have profoundly demonstrated constant cognitive impairments. These lead to the neurological alterations in brain, that have been associated with disruptions of amino acid signalling called the glutamate signalling.

Furthermore, in the study researchers have found the deleterious effects of lead exposure and poisoning on cognition, clinical and preclinical studies by proving correlation between the Pb exposure and increased proclivity to drug addiction for cocaine and opioids.

Therefore, in the study, researchers investigated the developmental Pb exposure and its capability can increase the propensity to alcohol consumption as well as the relapse using an alcohol self-administration paradigm in mice model.

They randomly assigned into two groups: control group (no lead treatment) and treatment groups (lead treatment). Since, amino acid transporter are involved in the mechanism to prevent the drug addiction, therefore, in the study, researchers investigated the effect of Pb exposure increased dysregulated amino acid signalling and their associated effect on the on the drug addiction behaviours.

They found that while developmental Pb exposure did not increase risk for alcohol self-administration, it did play a significant role in relapsing to alcohol. Furthermore, the amino acid signalling was found to be significantly reduced, which explained the inability to prevent the relapse to alcohol.

Therefore, study concludes that the developmental lead exposure does not increase alcohol self-administration, however, the low-level lead exposure does cause significant increase in the risk of relapse to alcohol seeking. Moreover, after relapsing on alcohol seeking, it was found that the amino acid signally levels got reduced, unable to prevent the alcohol seeking.

Stephen Boehm, professor in the Department of Psychology at IUPUI, said, “Low-level lead exposure alter brain circuits in such a way that once a dependency is developed, it makes it harder to refrain from turning back to alcohol.”

Source: CDC

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