Scientists have found a blood pressure medication that can help ward off relapses by erasing memories in the subconscious that trigger addiction.
The experimental drug, which has already been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has successfully halted cocaine and alcohol addiction in a series of experiments, according to a university release.
According to the study published in the journal Molecularn Psychiatry, the treatment could help ward off relapses by erasing memories in the subconscious that trigger addiction.
The drug represents a massive departure from the viewpoint in the 20th century that drug addicts simply lacked willpower.
The study was led by Hitoshi Morikawa, an associate professor of neuroscience at University of Texas, Austin.
In the experiments, a team of researchers trained rats to create an association between either a black or white room and the use of a certain drug.
When addicted rats were given the option of both rooms, they chose the room associated with their addiction nearly every time.
Today, most experts acknowledge that environmental cues — the people, places, sights and sounds an addict experiences leading up to drug use — are among the primary triggers of relapses.
“The isradipine erased memories that led them to associate a certain room with cocaine or alcohol,” said Morikawa.
The researchers found that blocking these ion channels in brain cells, using isradipine, appears to reverse the rewiring that underlies memories of addiction-associated places.
A treatment based on this latest research, however, would be much more effective, said Morikawa, targeting the associations an addict has with the experience leading up to taking a drug.
“Many addicts want to quit, but their brains are already conditioned. This drug might help the addicted brain become de-addicted,” he said.
One challenge with using isradipine in high doses to treat addiction is that it lowers blood pressure.
So it might be necessary to pair it with other treatments that prevent blood pressure from falling too low.