Researchers at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee think Propranolol, a common beta-blocker, could be the key to breaking cocaine addiction once and for all.
Propranolol is being tested for it’s “memory extinction” capabilities. Researchers unintentionally discovered that the drug is effective in preventing the brain from retrieving memories associated with cocaine use. Could it be used to purposefully prevent memory of the high associated with drug use? That’s the idea. If you can’t remember the reward aspects, you won’t repeat the behavior.
In the press-release-like report, researchers suggest a new drug based on this finding would be the first to target cocaine abuse. Current drug treatments for cocaine addiction only help ease the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal.
Cocaine addicts are currently treated with “exposure therapy”, where they gradually learn to disassociate pleasurable memories of cocaine use while around former triggers. According to a the Science Daily summary, success of exposure therapy is limited at best, with 80 percent of addicts relapsing within six months.
Propranolol is a “sympatholytic” and has been used to treat hypertension, and to reduce anxiety and lessen the potential for panic. It has been marketed by AstraZeneca and Wyeth as Inderal, Inderal LA, Avlocardyl, Deralin, Dociton, Inderalici, InnoPran XL, Sumial, Anaprilinum, and by Sandoz as Bedranol SR. Propranolol was banned by the Olympics, since it had potential to reduce anxiety and thus increase performance.
Researchers hope that combining exposure therapy with Proplanolol might boost the effectiveness of treatment.