Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have revealed that an antihypertensive drug called isradipine could help stop cocaine and alcohol addiction.

Isradipine is currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat high blood pressure, and was found to be effective on addicted rats.

During a study, Hitoshi Morikawa, associate professor of neuroscience at the university, and a team of researchers trained rats to associate either a black or white room with the use of a drug.

Over a period of time, the addicted rats were given a high dose of isradipine and were observed to have shown a lack of preference in their choice of room they associated with their addiction.

Commenting on the findings, Morikawa said: “The isradipine erased memories that led them to associate a certain room with cocaine or alcohol.”

“Many addicts want to quit, but their brains are already conditioned. This drug might help the addicted brain become de-addicted.”

Published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the research hopes that the treatment may prove effective in humans in helping prevent relapses by erasing the unconscious memories that underlie addiction.

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Morikawa added: “Addicts show up to the rehab centre already addicted. Many addicts want to quit, but their brains are already conditioned. This drug might help the addicted brain become de-addicted.”

He also noted that using isradipine in high doses to treat addiction may lower blood pressure. However, this challenge can be overcome by teaming it up with other treatments that prevent blood pressure from falling too low.

The research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which are part of the National Institutes of Health.

Image: Addictive drugs are thought to rewire brain circuits, forming powerful memories of drug-related cues. Photo: courtesy of amenic181/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net.