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Anti-Epileptic Drug Curbs Cocaine Use in First Study Comparing Placebo Dose
Date:11/11/2009

n. The scientists just received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S Department of Defense to continue their work in treating human addictions.
   
"In animal models, vigabatrin works to reduce the use of virtually every addictive substance," said Dr. Dewey. The work was conducted at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where Dr. Dewey had worked from 1996 until moving his laboratory to the Feinstein Institute earlier this year. It was in 1998 when he discovered that the epilepsy drug, which had been approved for use in Europe but not in the United States, showed potential to end cocaine addiction. A year later, it was used for smoking cessation and then methamphetamine. The drug was even used to see if it could reduce cravings for high-sugar, high-fat food.
   
It was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in epilepsy treatment. "If this can do for humans what it did for animals, we may have opened the door for addicts around the world to kick their habit," said Dr. Dewey. Gamma vinyl GABA, or GVG, blocks the chemical process that triggers the "high." The substance increases the amount of the brain's most common neurotransmitter, GABA. The increased GABA allows brain cells to communicate more effectively.
   
The researchers became interested in GVG because it also reduces the level of another brain chemical called dopamine. This brain substance has been shown to modulate pleasure and reward, as well as other behaviors. Cocaine users experience a "high" because the drug - and other mind-altering substances - seems to stimulate a flood of dopamine in the brain regions that govern reinforcing and rewarding behavior in humans and animals alike. Dopamine is known as the "feel-good" transmitter, although it has many different roles in the brain. Vigabatrin reduces levels of dopamine in the circuits of the brain that gove
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