Scientists at the National Institute for Health (NIH) and at the University of California in San Francisco teamed up to use lasers to help the cravings on cocaine-addicted lab rats. The technique known as optogenetic stimulation reduced the cravings of severely addicted rats.
According to GovExec.com, “The researchers studied rats that were chronically addicted to cocaine. Their need for the drug was so strong that they would ignore electric shocks in order to get a hit. But when those same rats received the laser light pulses, the light activated the prelimbic cortex, causing electrical activity in that brain region to surge. Remarkably, the rat’s fear of the foot shock reappeared, and assisted in deterring cocaine seeking. On the other hand, when the team used a different optogenetics technique to reduce activity in this same brain region, rats that were previously deterred by the foot shocks became chronic cocaine junkies.
“Clearly this same approach wouldn’t be used in humans. But it does suggest that boosting activity in the prefrontal cortex using methods like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which is already used to treat depression, might help. In fact, clinical trials at the NIH are scheduled to begin soon. The researchers plan on using TMS to bump up activity in the prefrontal cortex and see if it decreases addictive behaviors in people.”
So, there you have it. Hope and help for cocaine addicts in emerging science may just prove to be viable in the near future.