Hospitals, Pharma

Could blood pressure medication be the answer to breaking alcohol and drug addiction?

Erasing memories of addiction-triggering cues could be the answer to treatment with the help of an unexpected medication.

Many people are genetically predisposed to addictive behavior, which makes it that much harder for them to stay clean when they attempt to quit using drugs or alcohol. Beyond the challenge that comes with genetic disposition, deeply ingrained social and environmental influences add another level of difficulty.

For this reason, researchers at University of Texas at Austin decided to look into medications that promote brain plasticity, specifically the drug isradipine used to treat high blood pressure, and how they could play a role in essentially rewiring a person’s brain in order to forgot the influences that make breaking addiction harder.

This medication so far been tested on rats addicted to cocaine and alcohol, but within days, erased all memory of addiction-triggering cues, according to the report published in Molecular Psychiatry.

Sponsored Post

Physician Targeting Using Real-time Data: How PurpleLab’s Alerts Can Help

By leveraging real-time data that offers unprecedented insights into physician behavior and patient outcomes, companies can gain a competitive advantage with prescribers. PurpleLab®, a healthcare analytics platform with one of the largest medical and pharmaceutical claims databases in the United States, recently announced the launch of Alerts which translates complex information into actionable insights, empowering companies to identify the right physicians to target, determine the most effective marketing strategies and ultimately improve patient care.

As Science Alert reported:

The team tested the drug out on rats that had become addicted to either alcohol or cocaine, and were trained to associate either a white or black room with consumption of the drug. Just like the bell was an environmental cue that kicked Pavlov’s dogs’ saliva glands into gear, when given a choice, the addicted rats would always move to the room associated with their drug of choice. But this all changed when the rats were given a dose of isradipine.

“The isradipine erased memories that led them to associate a certain room with cocaine or alcohol,” one of the team, neuroscientist Hitoshi Morikawa, said in a press release.

The reason why blood pressure drugs are effective in this way is because not only do they block a type of ion channel that’s present in the heart and the blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure, they also do the same thing in certain brain cells. When the ion channels in brain cells are blocked by researchers, they can undo the addiction-based rewiring that is connected to memories of associated places.

Of course, it’s yet to be seen if these drugs will have the same impact on humans as they have with the rats, but these findings appear to be a promising development in the treatment of addiction.

Photo: Flickr user Samantha Cohen