Stress and addictions

Yale researchers have received $23 million from the National Institutes of Health to study how stress fuels addictions. They hope to understand why some people stick their hand in a cookie jar, smoke a cigarette or gulp cocktails when they’re overworked, have family conflicts or can’t balance their responsibilities. These studies could lead to new ways to combat the cravings of addiction and improve control over excessive smoking, drinking and eating.

“Stress is the kind of topic that really begs for being studied in an interdisciplinary way, because it affects every organ system in some way or another,” said Rajita Sinha, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and leader of a research consortium that will include psychiatrists, neuroscientists, social psychologists and communications and policy experts.

They will analyze the ways in which events early in life shape a person’s ability to handle stress; use neuroimaging to illuminate changes in the brain under stress; and explore the effects of pharmacological agents on stress and on lapses in self-control over such addictive behaviors as smoking, drinking alcohol and overeating. The consortium will also organize population-based studies as well as genetic analyses of vulnerability to stress-related addictive behaviors.

Related People

Rajita Sinha

Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry and Professor in the Child Study Center and of Neuroscience