AUSTIN, Texas, June 23 (UPI) -- The high blood pressure drug isradipine suppressed or erased memories that fed an alcohol or cocaine addiction in lab tests, revealing the potential to help addicted individuals avoid relapse.
The drug, which is sold under the name DynaCirc, is already approved by the FDA for use with high blood pressure patients, so researchers are confident clinical trials could be carried out more quickly than if a new drug had been used.
Since the 1970s, scientists have been aware that beyond a physical craving, drug addiction is tied to memories and habits, all of which have trained the brain to expect a substance based on an environment of situation.
"Addicts show up to the rehab center already addicted," said Hitoshi Morikawa, an associate professor of neuroscience at The University of Texas at Austin, in a press release. "Many addicts want to quit, but their brains are already conditioned. This drug might help the addicted brain become de-addicted."
In the lab tests, scientists conditioned rats to associate either a black or white room with an alcohol or cocaine addiction. When the rats were given a choice to enter one of the two rooms, they nearly always chose the one linked to their addiction.
The first day that rats were given does of isradipine, they showed a preference for their addiction room, however they showed no preference on days after. Researchers said they found no equivalent in the control group and believe the drug either suppressed or erased the addiction memory associated with the room.
Drugs designed to lower blood pressure block a type of ion channel found in heart and blood vessels, as well as brain cells. Using isradipine to block the channels also appeared to reverse the habits of addiction that become hardwired in the brain, researchers wrote.
The study is published in Molecular Psychiatry.