Addictive drugs are believed to rewire brain circuits involved in reward learning, forming powerful memories of drug-related cues. Giving hopes to millions of addicts around the world, a new research has revealed that a drug helpful in treating high blood pressure is now effective in ceasing cocaine and alcohol addiction in animal models. Anti-hypertensive drugs block a particular type of ion channel, which is expressed not only in heart and blood vessels but also in certain brain cells. The researchers found that blocking these ion channels in brain cells, using a drug called isradipine, appears to reverse the rewiring that underlies memories of addiction-associated places.
For the study, the research team trained rats to associate either a black or white room with the use of a drug. Later when the addicted rats were offered the choice of going into either room, they nearly always chose the room they associated with their addiction. Subsequently, the researchers gave the addicted rats a high dose of an anti-hypertensive drug called isradipine before the rats made their choices. Although rats still preferred the room they associated with their addiction on that day, the animals no longer showed a preference for it on subsequent days.
Lead researcher Hitoshi Morikawa, associate professor of neuroscience at The University of Texas at Austin, said, "The isradipine erased memories that led them to associate a certain room with cocaine or alcohol. Because isradipine is already labelled as safe for human use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), clinical trials could potentially be carried out much more quickly than with non-approved drugs."
The research is published in the Molecular Psychiatry.