University of Minnesota Center for Addiction Neuroscience (UMnCAN)

The destructive impact of drug abuse on individuals across the spectrum of society is true tragedy, impacting 24 million Americans. Drug abuse is a nervous system disorder and its ultimate treatment and cure will depend on a comprehensive understanding of the pathological effects of drugs on the brain

yellow neuron

About the University of Minnesota Center for Addiction Neuroscience

University of Minnesota Center for Addiction Neuroscience (UMnCAN) was formed in 2016 to coordinate the efforts of dozens of clinical and basic research scientists at the University of Minnesota to apply their research discoveries to developing new and better approaches to treat addicted individuals and help them maintain healthy, drug-free lives. 

Our goal

UMnCAN is to be an integrative home for the wealth of talented basic researchers and clinicians at the University of Minnesota, driven to discover the effects of drug use on the brain.  The Center will also be a repository of information where researchers, clinicians and the general public can gather to discover and disseminate the latest resources on drug abuse.

Contact us

Mark Thomas

Mark J. Thomas, PhD
Interim Center Director
Department of Neuroscience
tmhomas@umn.edu
612-624-4963

Support addiction research

University of Minnesota researchers are working to unlock the secrets of how drugs work at all levels of our nervous system. Please support this research.

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Tackling addiction from every angle

Our researchers have taken on the twin challenges of ending addiction to painkilling drugs and preventing relapse during recovery by finding the root causes of these conditions. 

Learn more about the goal to end addiction at Driven to Discover

Why addiction research matters

In any given week there is a news story about tragedy resulting from drug abuse.  Often these stories highlight celebrities, yet the true tragedy is the destructive impact of drug abuse on individuals across the spectrum of society, including the drug user, family, friends and community.  We know that drug abuse is a nervous system disorder and that its ultimate treatment and cure will depend on a comprehensive understanding of the pathological effects of drugs on the brain.  

Our research focus

The diversity of approaches to discovering why a person becomes addicted to drugs is what makes the University of Minnesota ideally positioned to solving the problem of drug addiction. This section highlights current advances in addiction research by Center faculty.

Building a better painkiller

Develop nonaddictive pain medicationsPerhaps a third of middle-aged individuals and more than half of the population over the age of 65 experience chronic pain.  One of the most difficult aspects of chronic pain control is that the common pain medications have the unwanted side effect of producing drug dependence. An exciting avenue of research at UMnCAN is the development of new compounds and new combinations of existing medications to better treat chronic pain in patients, without producing unwanted side effects such as addiction. 

The problem of relapse

problem with relapseAt the same time that drug addiction can be treated, a sad truth is that most people will relapse and go back to using drugs.  The positive is that quitting smoking or drug use for even a few months can have dramatic positive benefits.  The goal of addiction research is not just finding a treatment program that works, but discovering a life-long cure.  To this end MnCAN researchers are discovering the factors that impact relapse both in people and in animal models of addiction.  The results of this research will transform addiction therapies into addiction cures. 

Women and addiction

clear brain scanDid you know women are more vulnerable to many addictive substances than are men? Women often show a greater initial euphoria to drugs of abuse leading to an escalation of their drug intake. As a result, women become more vulnerable to the addictive properties of drug use. Researchers at UMnCAN study the brains of male and female drug users to identify the factors underlying the vulnerability of women to addictive drugs.