Diabetes drug may help overcome cocaine addiction

04-28-2016 Posted in Blog, cocaine addiction

If there is any substance after methamphetamine that has Americans in its clutches, it is surely cocaine that creates a psychological dependence like no other drug. The rewarding effect experienced after cocaine intake subsides quickly, forcing the addict to take increased quantity of the drug to achieve the same effect. Many a times, addicts prefer to combine cocaine with other drugs such as marijuana, amphetamines and heroin which not only aggravates the risk of cocaine addiction but also turns out to be fatal.

While looking for an effective antidote to treat cocaine addiction, a study by the University of Pennsylvania revealed that drug Byetta, used for treating diabetes and unrestrained weight gain, has the potential to help addicts get rid of cocaine dependence.

The drug approved for use in regulating feeding behaviors by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is procured from a naturally occurring hormone identified as glucagon-like peptide-1(GLP-1). The scientists realized the effectiveness of GLP-1 in tackling cocaine addiction.

Finding antidote to cocaine addiction

The study, titled “Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor Activation in the Ventral Tegmental Area Decreases the Reinforcing Efficacy of Cocaine,” conducted in a span of two-and-a-half years on rats revealed that “cocaine-fed rats exhibited a diminishing rate of cocaine intake after consuming Byetta.”

The study was based on previous findings by the authors that manifested overlapping of the neural circuits affecting feeding and drug taking. The researchers assumed, “If GLP-1 regulates intake of palatable food, then perhaps it also regulates consumption of cocaine.”

During the study, the scientists saw that on activation of the GLP-1 receptors in the portion of the brain associated with reward behavior, identified as the ventral tegmental area (VTA), the rodents showed less inclination to take cocaine.

The scientists avoided injecting the drug into the mice. Rather, they created a model which made the rats press a lever to allow for inoculation of the drug in themselves based on the method adopted by humans to take drugs.

After the stabilization of the drug taking regimen in rats, the researchers injected the GLP-1 receptor directly into their brains. Lead researcher Heath Schmidt of the University of Pennsylvania said, “We are looking at what activation of GLP-1 receptors in the VTA does to the animal’s self-administration of cocaine. We were able to show a nice decrease in cocaine self-administration.”

Commenting on the findings, published online in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology in December 2015, Schmidt said, “Our interest is really to understand how chronic exposure to drugs of abuse changes the brain to produce addiction-like behaviors.”

Significance of the study

The drug, already approved by the FDA to treat type-2 diabetics and overweight persons, can be experimented on humans for necessary medical interventions in cocaine addiction. The observations made during the study also opens new avenues for further trials in humans to find out the pathway that GLP-1 follows in the brain as scientists look for effective and evidence-based medical interventions for cocaine addiction.

Schmidt said, “That gets into a systems neuroscience approach, into the circuitry underlying the behavior. It’s really provocative… We talk about the VTA and the reward circuit that drives cocaine taking. But there’s also this pathway that cocaine is activating that’s functioning as a ‘brake’ to try and stop or reduce the behavior.”

Fighting addiction

Drug addiction is a serious matter. The fact that addicts are still not able to avail of the necessary comprehensive treatment they need is even more serious. Apart from the impact of addiction, it is the stigma associated with it that derails the recovery process. The tendency of the society to view addiction as an indicator and consequence of moral failing as opposed to the medical definition of classifying it as a chronic brain disease has made it more difficult for addicts to ask for help or seek treatment.

If you or your loved one wants to get rid of an addiction to drugs or any other substance, contact the 24/7 Drug Addiction Helpline to find an effective treatment plan. Our experts can guide you through the entire recovery process. Chat online or call at 866-403-5607 for more information.