Researchers have successfully created a way by which cocaine craving could be reduced. This could help in the de-addiction of thousands of users feel experts. The team of researchers neutralized a protein molecule that is commonly seen among cocaine users in their blood and brain.
The team found that the protein granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), can affect the reward centres of the brain. Neutralizing it would be one of the safest methods by which cocaine craving could be reduced among addicts. The research comes from Mont Sinai Medical Centre in New York. The results of the study appeared in the latest issue of the journal Nature Communications.
Lead researcher Dr Drew Kiraly, assistant professor of psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai said that the results of this study are “exciting” because this is the first time an alternative to routine de-addiction programs is found. The regular traditional approaches include psychotherapy and “no medication-assisted therapy” that are used to treat the drug seeking behavior.
They found that since G-CSF is capable of producing a positive signal at the reward centres of the brain, it could be injected directly into the brain’s reward centres called the “nucleus acumbens”. This led to a significant rise in the cocaine seeking behavior as well as cocaine consumption among the mice that were tested. As the mice were treated with the G-CSF, they worked harder to look for and consume cocaine in the experiments.
Dr Kiraly said that medical science had already created safe drugs that could neutralize G-CSF. These drugs are commonly used to stimulate the production of the white blood cells or the immunity cells after rounds of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy typically suppresses the white blood cells. G-CSF stimulates the production of these WBCs. The team then administered drugs that could neutralize the G-CSF among the test mice. The mice then showed a lost motivation to seek out the cocaine. These drugs used are all approved by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), United States of America, the authors explain.
One of the most interesting findings was that these mice lost interest only in seeking out cocaine and not other food treats such as sugar water. Sugar water also stimulates the pleasure and reward centres of the brain. These results thus show that if the G-CSF could be neutralized in the brain, the animal would effectively just stop seeking cocaine and it would not alter other behaviors.
Authors write that the feasibility of using the new medications remains a problem. They write that the problems include, “side effects, routes of delivery, or abuse potential of agents tested.” Once these hurdles are overcome, a potential new area of medications for de-addiction could be developed. They conclude, “Treatment with a G-CSF modulator would have the distinct advantage that it may be harnessed to reduce drug taking while ostensibly having no abuse potential on its own—a known confound in many previous trials for psychostimulant use disorders.” Dr Kiraly says more studies and research is necessary before this could become a reality.