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New study shows hope for treating inhalant abuse

UPTON, N.Y. -- A new study by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory suggests that vigabatrin (a.k.a. gamma vinyl-GABA or GVG) may block the addictive effects of toluene, a substance found in many household products commonly used as inhalants. These results broaden the promise of GVG as a potential treatment for a variety of addictions. The study will be published in the December 1, 2004 issue of Synapse, available online September 30.

Inhalant abuse or "huffing" continues to grow as a serious health problem: According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of new inhalant users increased from 627,000 in 1994 to 1.2 million in 2000. The chronic use of inhalants has been associated with heart, liver, kidney, and brain damage -- and can even result in sudden death.

The Brookhaven Lab study demonstrates that animals previously trained to expect toluene in a given location spent far less time "seeking" toluene in that location after being treated with GVG than animals treated with a placebo. This elimination of conditioned place preference -- a model of craving in which animals develop a preference for a place where they have previously had access to a drug, even when the drug is absent -- is similar to the aversion seen in Brookhaven's earlier studies of GVG with nicotine and heroin.

"The findings of this study extend the potential value of GVG to treat addiction," says Stephen Dewey, the Brookhaven Lab neuroanatomist who led the study. "More importantly, our results show promise in treating inhalant abuse as it continues to grow as a problem among adolescents." There are currently no pharmaceutical treatments for inhalant abuse.

The study was conducted by putting rats through a series of conditioning tests. The tests were intended to condition the animals to learn which chambers of a three-chambered apparatus contained toluene vapors. On the final day of the study, scientist
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Contact: Dennis Tartaglia
dennist@mbooth.com
212-481-7000
M Booth & Associates
30-Sep-2004


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