A medication used to combat high pressure has been identified as a potential weapon in treating drug addiction, new research has found.
Scientists from the University of Texas in Austin have found that isradipine, a drug used to treat high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, blocks the subconscious memories that supplements cocaine and alcohol addiction – or at least this was the case for lab rats.
It has been known for almost 50 years that drug addiction goes further than a physical dependence and is also largely down to habitual trends and memories which condition the brain to crave something when in a certain environment.
With that in mind, the researchers, led by Hitoshi Morikawa, associate professor of neuroscience at the university, conditioned lab rats to associate either a white or black room with a drug. The rodents then almost unanimously chose their preferred room once they had become addicted to the drug.
The scientists then gave the rats a high dose of isradipine, which is sold under the name DynaCirc, and found that in the following days there was no preference from the rats over which room they chose.
Morikawa said: "The isradipine erased memories that led them to associate a certain room with cocaine or alcohol.
"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."
Isradipine has already been approved by the US's Food and Drug Agency (FDA) so there will be no stumbling block with clinical trials but an issue that the team says could prove problematic is that high doses of it lower blood pressure, "so it might be necessary to pair it with other treatments that prevent blood pressure from falling too low," the statement from the university said.