Washington: Propranolol, a common drug prescribed in hypertension and anxiety, seems to be effective in treating cocaine addiction in animal models.
Cocaine is one of the worst addictions to kick with about 80 percent of those trying to quit experiencing a relapse within six months.
This is the first time that a therapeutic treatment has been shown to block the retrieval of memories associated with cocaine habit, a major reason many addicts experience relapse, study co-author Devin Mueller was quoted as saying by the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
"Right now, there are no FDA-approved medications that are known to successfully treat cocaine abuse, only those that are used to treat the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal, which are largely ineffective at preventing relapse," says Mueller.
Mueller, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, conducted the research with James Otis, according to a Wisconsin statement.
The effects of propranolol were long-lasting and could be permanent, Mueller says, even without subsequent doses and even in the presence of stimuli known to induce relapse.
Currently, "exposure therapy" is used to help recovering addicts suppress their drug-seeking behaviour. The patient is repeatedly exposed to stimuli that provoke cravings but do not satisfy them.
Done repeatedly over time, the patient experiences less craving when presented with those stimuli.
The success of exposure therapy, however, is limited. Combining therapy with the use of propranolol, says Mueller, would boost the effectiveness of the treatment.