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The shape of cocaine users’ brains may influence whether they become addicted to the drug, British researchers have found. A smaller frontal lobe is associated with a greater risk of cocaine addiction.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge studied brain scans and personality tests from people who had used cocaine over several years, according to The New York Times. Some of the people were addicted to cocaine, while others were not. Those with a larger frontal lobe, a region of the brain associated with self-control, tended to be sporadic cocaine users. Those who were addicted to the drug were more likely to have small frontal lobes.

The researchers said they believe a person’s brain shape predates drug use, and does not change as a result of using cocaine. Lead author Dr. Karen Ersche said the findings support the idea that addiction is more related to biological factors rather than character.

“These findings are important because they show that the use of cocaine does not inevitably lead to addiction in people with good self-control and no familial risk,” she said in a news release. “Our findings indicate that preventative strategies might be more effective if they were tailored more closely to those individuals at risk according to their personality profile and brain structure.”

The study appears in the journal Biological Psychiatry.


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