Combination of two drugs can help fight cocaine addiction
Washington: Scientists have discovered that a combination of two existing pharmaceutical drugs has the potential of a new therapy for people addicted to cocaine.
Researchers from the Scripps Research Institute found that a combination of low doses of the drug naltrexone with the drug buprenorphine can reduce their craving for cocaine and blunt their symptoms of withdrawal.
Naltrexone is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) for treating alcohol and tobacco addiction.
Buprenorphine is an opiate?a painkiller similar to morphine or heroin?and it is known to be effective at helping people who are addicted to both heroin and cocaine.
Buprenorphine itself produces dependence and it is generally not prescribed unless someone is already addicted to a similar opiate, like heroin.
The danger is that treating cocaine addiction with buprenorphine would merely substitute one dependence for another, causing people to suffer from buprenorphine withdrawal instead of cocaine withdrawal.
The Scripps Research team found a way around this problem by combining buprenorphine with a low dose of naltrexone.
In laboratory experiments the combination made laboratory rats less likely to take cocaine compulsively, the researchers said in a statement.
"Many individual drugs have been tried in clinical trials in the past as potential treatments, but they have all failed to show significant efficacy in treating people addicted to cocaine," Scripps Research Professor George Koob, chair of the Scripps Research Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders and lead researcher said.
The research will be published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
When cocaine, a chemical salt extracted from the leaf of the coca plant, is snorted, injected, or smoked, the chemical enters the bloodstream and readily crosses the blood?brain barrier, accumulating rapidly in areas linked to the so-called motivational/pleasure circuits of the brain.
There, the cocaine molecules interfere with the normal regulation of dopamine by binding to dopamine transporters and blocking them from recycling the neurotransmitter.
This leads to the build-up of dopamine in the brain`s motivational systems, which produces a euphoric feeling in the user?a quick rush that hits seconds after the user takes the drug and lasts several minutes.