A new discovery by researchers could offer the potential for the development of a first-ever pharmacological treatment for cocaine addiction.
A common beta blocker, propranolol, currently used to treat people with hypertension and anxiety, has shown to be effective in preventing the brain from retrieving memories associated with cocaine use in animal-addiction models, according to Devin Mueller, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) assistant professor of psychology and a co-author.
This is the first time that a therapeutic treatment has been shown to block the retrieval of memories associated with drug addiction, a major reason many addicts experience relapse, said Mueller.
"Right now, there are no FDA-approved medications that are known to successfully treat cocaine abuse," said Mueller, "only those that are used to treat the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal, which are largely ineffective at preventing relapse."
The effects of propranolol were long-lasting and could be permanent, he said, even without subsequent doses and even in the presence of stimuli known to induce relapse.
The research is published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.