In a study it has been found that a herbal supplement can effectively combat cocaine addiction.
The combater is N-acetylcysteine (NAC) which is a potential agent to modulate the effects of cocaine addiction. This has been successfully tried in animal models for the treatment of heroin addiction, and possibly alcoholism.
NAC is available over the counter as an herbal supplement known for its antioxidant effects. Antioxidants are agents that clean up damaging free radicals in the body and are therefore thought to slow down the aging process of cells.
'Cocaine is highly addictive and can have devastating effects on the health and well being of users,' said Peter Kalivas, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurosciences at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). 'The discovery that a readily available herbal supplement can reduce the intense cravings associated with cocaine use is an important finding for individuals undergoing treatment for cocaine addiction. Reduced craving might help addicted individuals restrain from abusing cocaine.'
The two phase study included in the first putting conditioned rats on a regimen of cocaine to establish their addiction. The rats in the treatment group were then treated with NAC. After treatment, the cocaine-addicted rats exposed to NAC were significantly less likely to seek out cocaine than those without NAC. Those treated with NAC ceased to actively seek cocaine, but showed normal food-seeking behaviors.
What followed was the second phase where NAC treatment was investigated in a small inpatient study (n=15) involving non-treatment seeking cocaine-dependent subjects. In this phase of research, subjects were asked to look at pictures that were either neutral (e.g., trees, boats) or cocaine-related (e.g., drug paraphernalia). Those individuals treated with NAC reported less craving for cocaine and spent less time looking at the cocaine-related pictures.
'The potential to use NAC for the treatment of individuals addicted to cocaine is a major finding,' emphasized Dr. Kalivas. 'For those individuals who have the desire to end their addictive habit, a NAC supplement might help to control their cravings.'
A larger clinical trial that will follow 282 cocaine-dependent individuals has just begun in order to further understand and corroborate how NAC works in the brain to reduce cocaine craving. Dr. Kalivas stresses that while the initial findings are very promising, the widespread use of NAC in cocaine treatment is not advised until larger scale studies are complete.
This could be very useful in treatment and prevention of cocaine addiction.