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Negative emotions play an important role in cocaine abuse, a new animal study suggests. Researchers at Rutgers University say initial positive feelings of intoxication are quickly followed by negative emotional responses when drug levels start to fall.

The study challenges the view that drug addiction occurs because users are chasing a high, MedicalXpress reports. “Our results suggest that once the animals started a binge, they may have felt trapped and didn’t like it,” said lead researcher Mark West. “This showed us that negative emotions play an equal, if not more important role in regulating cocaine abuse.”

The researchers studied high-pitched calls made by laboratory rats, when they began a six-hour period in which they could self-administer cocaine. After 35 to 40 minutes, the researchers noted the absence of high-pitched calls, even though the rats continued to give themselves cocaine for several hours. When drug levels fell below the level rats wanted, they emitted lower-pitched calls, associated with negative feelings.

The findings will appear in the journal Psychopharmacology.

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