Ziva Cooper, Ph.D.

Dr. Ziva Cooper is an Associate Professor of Clinical Neurobiology in the Department of Psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. She received her Ph.D from the University of Michigan in Biopsychology, where she studied the abuse liability of drugs in laboratory animals specifically focusing on how different states of opioid dependence alter operant behavior maintained by various reinforcers. In 2009, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Drs. Margaret Haney and Sandra Comer in the Division on Substance Abuse at Columbia University studying human behavioral pharmacology of cannabinoids and opioids. Her general research interest involves understanding the neurobiological, environmental, and behavioral variables that influence the reinforcing effects of drugs. To that end, she is currently concentrating on human laboratory models of polysubstance abuse in order to determine how multiple receptor systems contribute to the abuse liability of psychoactive drugs, including cannabinoids, opioids, and cocaine.


Current Research Activities:

Behavioral and Physiological Effects of Cocaine Smoked with Marijuana

Substances are rarely abused independently, thus, determining the physiological and behavioral effects of abused drugs administered independently and simultaneously under well-controlled conditions is an imperative preliminary step to advance the area of substance-abuse treatment in dually dependent populations. Marijuana abuse and dependence among the cocaine-dependent population is widespread. Although there has been a great deal of research investigating the behavioral and physiological effects of cocaine and marijuana independently, there are few reports documenting how marijuana alters cocaine’s behavioral and physiological effects and no studies directly assessing how marijuana alters relapse to cocaine use. Dr. Cooper and colleagues are interested in identifying variables that contribute to the abuse liability and health risks associated with this drug combination by investigating how marijuana and cocaine-associated cues may impact the subjective, reinforcing, and physiological effects of smoked cocaine. These findings will clarify the role of the cannabinoid system on cocaine’s effects while also providing clinically relevant information to direct treatment strategies for this dually dependent population.

Analgesic Effects of Marijuana and Oral THC
Laboratory animal studies have demonstrated the analgesic effects of drugs that act on the cannabinoid system; however, these effects have yet to be clearly elucidated in humans. To better understand the potential clinical application of cannabinoids for pain management, Drs. Cooper, Haney and Comer are investigating the analgesic efficacy of smoked marijuana and oral THC in the Cold-Pressor Test (CPT), a laboratory model of pain. The CPT has predictive validity for clinical use of analgesics. Determining the efficacy of cannabinoids in an experimental model of pain will provide important endpoints of this effect to further investigate the potential role for clinical use of smoked marijuana and/or oral THC as analgesics.

Glial-inhibitors for Opioid Tolerance and Dependence
Recent evidence has reliably demonstrated that opioid agonists increase glial cell activity, resulting in neuroadaptations that increase opioid tolerance and dependence, and directly contribute to their abuse liability. Dr. Cooper is working with Dr. Comer and colleagues to identify the potential of glial-cell inhibitors to both decrease the abuse liability of opioids while enhancing their therapeutic efficacy as analgesics by attenuating tolerance and dependence associated with opioid-induced glial activation.

Recent Publications