Strong interpersonal relationships have been shown to ward off drug addiction, and new clues as to why come from prairie voles—rodents that form long-term, monogamous bonds with their mates. Kimberly A. Young of Florida State University and her colleagues found that pair-bonded voles responded less than unattached, sexually naive voles to the rewarding properties of amphetamine. The drug boosted dopamine, a brain chemical involved in pleasure and motivation, equivalently, but pair-bonded voles had fewer receptors ready to receive the dopamine signal. Such evidence that social attachments alter the brain’s response to drugs may spur new ideas for addiction treatment.
This article was originally published with the title "How Partners Prevent Addiction" in SA Mind 22, 5, 9 (November 2011)