A new study in mice conducted by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School has indicated that diltiazem, a drug used in the treatment of high blood pressure, might help in reducing cocaine cravings.
Previous studies have demonstrated that two brain chemicals, dopamine and glutamate, independently boost the development of cocaine addiction.
The new study indicates that calcium channels offer critical links between dopamine and glutamate that drives the intense craving
related with cocaine addiction.
Diltiazem, one of a class of drugs known as calcium channel blockers, interrupts dopamine and glutamate association formed during
chronic cocaine use.
The researchers said that brain calcium plays a significant role in
learning and memory in that calcium influences an enzyme known as the "memory molecule."
"Our work shows that cocaine increases the levels of this molecule specifically in a brain area that controls motivation," Nature
quoted senior author Chris Pierce, a professor of pharmacology and psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, as saying.
"Thus, cocaine use teaches the brain to be addicted, resulting in a dysfunctional form of learning that drives the overwhelming
desire to consume more cocaine," he added
Presently, there are no effective drug therapies for cocaine addiction.
However, Pierce noted that his research could lead to desperately needed medications.
"The strength of this work is that it tells us something fundamental about how brain chemistry changes as cocaine addiction takes hold. Importantly, our findings also suggest new strategies for developing cocaine addiction therapies, which thus far remain elusive," he
The study will appear in the March issue of the leading medical journal Nature Neuroscience.