Dr. Tracey Ledoux is the principal investigator on a sub-project, which will study the long-term use and health consequences of heroin. Patrick Bordnick, professor in the UH Graduate College of Social Work, is the principal investigator of the overall five-year, $1.25 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Dr. Tracey Ledoux
The two-year sub-project, which begins in the fall of 2015, will aim to study the association between adiposity, diet and food addiction tendencies. Ledoux and her investigators will work with the hypothesis that former heroin users may replace their drug addiction with food.
“We expect that the former heroin users will have higher rates of obesity, poorer diets and higher food addiction scores than the non-users, never users and current users,” Ledoux said. “If we do see that, then we can make the conclusion that people with an addiction may be replacing that addiction with a different substance that is more socially acceptable.”
The study will work with Mexican-American men from ages 45-60 years old, who will be divided into three groups: current users, former users and those who have never used heroin. Although Hispanics have higher rates of obesity and heroin use, there has never been a formal study of this population.
The idea of exchanging the addiction to heroin for an addiction to food is based on the fact that the neurobiological pathways that food triggers are the same as the ones that are triggered by heroin. “These shared properties don’t exist between food and other substances such as cocaine or amphetamines, which are more stimulators and have somewhat different pathways,” Ledoux said.
Read more about the overall NIDA grant on UH news