A drug used to treat paracetamol overdose may be able to help individuals who want to break their addiction and stop their damaging cocaine seeking habits, new research has found.
Cocaine is a stimulant drug that can lead to addiction when taken repeatedly. Quitting can be extremely difficult for some people.
The researchers focused on the effectiveness of the drug — N-acetylcysteine — in helping people quit the use of cocaine.
“A hallmark of addiction is that the user continues to take the drug even in the face of negative consequences — such as on their health, their family and friends, their job, and so on,” said study co-author Mickael Puaud from the University of Cambridge.
“Our study suggests that N-acetylcysteine — a drug that we know is well tolerated and safe — may help individuals who want to quit to do so,” Puaud noted.
The researchers used an experiment in which rats compulsively ate the cocaine given to them. They found that rats given N-acetylcysteine lost the motivation to self-administer cocaine more quickly than rats given a placebo. Moreover, when they stopped working for cocaine, they tended to relapse at a lower rate.
Also, in the brain, N-acetylcysteine increased the activity of a particular gene associated with plasticity — the ability of the brain to adapt and learn new skills.
The study was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.