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Triggered: Drug Relapse, His and Hers

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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This post is part of a collaborative narrative series composed of my writing and Chris Arnade’s photos exploring issues of addiction, poverty, prostitution and urban anthropology in Hunts Point, Bronx. For more on the series, look here.


The central problem in the treatment of cocaine and heroin addiction is high rates of relapse to drug use after periods of forced or self-imposed abstinence. Relapse can be modeled in laboratory animals a reinstatement procedure in which responding for drug is extinguished and then reinstated by acute exposure to the drug, drug cues, or stress. In this review, we first summarize data from recent (2003–2005) studies on the neural substrates involved in reinstatement of heroin and cocaine seeking. We also discuss the neural mechanisms underlying the progressive increase in cocaine seeking after withdrawal (incubation of cocaine craving). Finally, we provide an update on several novel candidate medications for relapse prevention suggested by recent preclinical studies, and we discuss the translation of findings from nonhuman laboratory studies to the clinical phenomenon of relapse.¹

Drug Table: Hunts Point, Bronx. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

Out of detox
Weighed down
By bags of clothes and a sensation
To run:

He cannot be seen. But she needs
Diesel, two bags.

He is clean,
Clean suburban husband
Wannabe left seat-tapping in
A mini-van. He has conquered and
This is her fault, her and her
Medusa’ed habit:

“Shit, I saw a white
Van and almost zombie-walked
Into a bust. Fuck, it’s raining
So Jose ain’t at his corner
Because he’s a pussy,”
She said,

Who then, for Buddha Bless?
She wanders.

He waits clean, proper until
Mania — there, on the sidewalk,
The dealer.

“Goddammit she’s walking
The wrong way.
God fucking dammit.”

His rage is a thumping thing
Against the seat

Matching her return
Crescendo of fury

“I bumped into
My dope fairy.” Bought

Four bags instead
Of two.

More Hunts Point Addiction Writing
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Chris Arnade’s Photos and his Facebook feed

Cassie Rodenberg About the Author: I write on culture, poverty, addiction, and mental illness: I explore things we like to ignore. I also teach public school in New York City's South Bronx. Follow on Twitter @cassierodenberg.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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