A memory-boosting medication along with behavioral therapy could help addicts stay clean, animal study suggests.
The study has suggested that D-cycloserine, previously used in the lab to treat fear and anxiety disorders, could help an addict resist drugs even when confronted with drug-related cues outside of rehab.
Substance abusers have high rates of relapse, often falling back into old habits only days after they 'quit.'
In this study, a group of researchers led by Mary Torregrossa of Yale University, observed 168 rats that self-administered cocaine for weeks, a behavior that mimics addiction in humans.
The authors then used a form of behavioral therapy called extinction therapy to dampen the craving-inducing effects of cues. The scientists supplemented the therapy with the memory-enhancing drug.
"Extinction therapy usually only works where the therapy takes place, like a treatment center," Torregrossa said.
"Using drugs like D-cycloserine to make extinction work more broadly is a big advancement in the treatment of addiction."
The new results show that extinction therapy, in conjunction with D-cycloserine, could combat relapse due to cues, even in new environments.
The authors also found that the medication acted primarily on a brain region called the nucleus accumbens, an area associated with drug addiction and the formation of drug-related memories.
Barry Everitt, of the University of Cambridge said the study by Torregrossa and her colleagues has implications for transferring clinical therapies to the real world of the addict.
"The study suggests that boosting the activity of glutamate in a specific area of the brain removes this context-specificity of extinction, and might therefore make existing addiction therapies more effective," Everitt said.
The findings were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.