There is still a lot that scientists do not understand about the complex nature of addiction. Nevertheless, researchers continue to tirelessly probe the human mind in order to decode the nature of addiction and the causes of relapse, with the hope that one day better treatments for the disease can be developed.
Over the last few years, addiction researchers have been testing the effects of a number pharmaceuticals developed for a series of medical conditions. The goal was to see if such drugs had an impact on the cycle of addiction. Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have been experimenting with the blood pressure medication isradipine, and if human trials prove successful, the drug could help prevent relapse, ScienceDaily reports.
The researchers gave high doses of the antihypertensive drug isradipine to rats addicted to cocaine or alcohol. Hitoshi Morikawa, an associate professor of neuroscience at The University of Texas at Austin, along with colleagues, trained rats to associate either a black or white room with the use of a drug, according to the article. Over time, the rats given isradipine no longer chose the room they associated with the addictive drug. The rats who didn’t receive the antihypertensive almost always choice the drug room. The findings suggest that the memories of addiction had disappeared entirely.
“The isradipine erased memories that led them to associate a certain room with cocaine or alcohol,” said Morikawa.
It may be possible to target the associations an addict has with the experience prior to the use of a drug. If isradipine can erase the unconscious memories that underlie addiction in humans, it would be a monumental advancement in addiction research.
“Addicts show up to the rehab center already addicted,” he said. “Many addicts want to quit, but their brains are already conditioned. This drug might help the addicted brain become de-addicted.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved isradipine, the article reports. Morikawa points out that clinical trials could begin in the near future.
The findings were published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
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