In his commentary, Leri discusses the role of a sugar-rich diet in opioid addiction based on his latest research findings. It’s known refined sugar can promote addictive behaviours by activating the brain’s reward centres in much the same way as addictive drugs. Opioid abuse is also associated with poor dietary habits, including preferences for sugar-rich foods, as well as malnutrition. Based on this, Leri investigated whether excessive consumption of refined sugar may affect vulnerability to opioid addiction by exploring whether unlimited access to high fructose corn syrup altered rats’ neural and behavioural responses to the semi-synthetic opioid, oxycodone. His findings suggest that a diet high in corn syrup may dampen the reward associated with oxycodone and may therefore encourage consumption of higher quantities of the drug.
Leri is a psychology professor who studies the psychological and neuropharmacological mechanisms in the development, persistence and recurrence of behaviours reinforced by natural and chemical substances, including addiction and its long-term treatment.