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Experimental treatments for cocaine addiction may prevent relapse
Date:8/26/2010

for the sensation of pleasure produced by natural rewards such as food or sex, Weinshenker says. Cocaine "hijacks" the dopamine system, which plays a large role in addiction. Similarly, norepinephrine has a role in attention and arousal, but its overactivation can trigger stress responses and relapse, he says.

Weinshenker's team showed that disulfiram prevents rats from seeking cocaine after a break, a model for addicts tempted to relapse. At the same time, it doesn't stop them from taking cocaine when first exposed to it, or from enjoying their food.

Disulfiram appears to work by inhibiting dopamine beta-hydroxylase, an enzyme required for the production of norepinephrine. A dose of disulfiram that lowers the levels of norepinephrine in the brain by about 40 percent is effective, while doses that do not reduce norepinephrine have no effect on relapse-like behavior in rats.

To confirm that the beneficial effects of disulfiram were because of dopamine beta-hydroxylase inhibition, the researchers turned to a drug called nepicastat, which was originally developed for the treatment of congestive heart failure in the 1990s.

"Nepicastat is a selective dopamine beta-hydroxylase inhibitor that does not sequester copper or impair a host of other enzymes like disulfiram," Weinshenker says. "We reasoned that if disulfiram is really working through dopamine beta-hydroxylase, then nepicastat might be a better alternative."

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have recently completed a Phase I safety trial studying nepicastat for the treatment of cocaine addiction in human subjects.


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Contact: Holly Korschun
404-727-3990
Emory University
Source:Eurekalert

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