Researchers from the University of Texas (Austin) have stopped cocaine and alcohol addiction in lab mice using high blood pressure medication, specifically a compound known as “isradipine”.
The compound, one that’s already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), prevents relapse by either suppressing or altogether erasing memories that fuel a subject’s addiction.
Hitoshi Morikawa, lead author and associate professor of neuroscience over at The University of Texas (Austin), gave a statement saying that “Addicts show up to the rehab center already addicted. Many addicts want to quit, but their brains are already conditioned. This drug might help the addicted brain become de-addicted”.
Even with all the progress that the medical community has made since the 1970s, proving that addiction is not just a mere physical craving without any mental or emotional components (memories and experiences involving certain people, places, sounds and sights), and that it takes more than just will power to overcome it, addiction is still a major problem world-wide.
Many addicts continue to not want to admit that they have a problem, and other who actively seek out help often relapse months, weeks or even days after getting clean. Professor Morikawa and his team hope that this study will enable healthcare workers to offer better help to those looking for it.
For the study, the researchers trained lab mice to link either a white or a black room with the use of a specific drug. When addicted fuzzy rodents were given the option of choosing which room they wanted to go in, they almost always chose to go inside the room that they linked to their addiction.
After a while they were given a dose of isradipine right before having to make the choice, and noticed that while the animals still preferred the room linked to their addiction in that initial day, their desire to go into it disappeared in the following days.
Since the researchers found no equivalent for this behavior in the control group, they strongly believe that the memories associated with their addiction were not just suppressed, but erased altogether.
Addictive substances are know to rewire the brain, and what the blood pressure drug does is block a certain type of ion channel that’s found not only in the blood and heard vessels, but also in the brain.
Since isradipine is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Professor Morikawa hopes that human trials can start sooner rather than later.
The study was published earlier this week, in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
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