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Epilepsy drug can stop cocaine use in addicts

An epilepsy drug used in Europe and elsewhere can stop cocaine use in hard-core addicts, in part by eliminating their craving for cocaine, according to the first study to assess the treatment's effects on addicts.

The study was led by Jonathan Brodie, M.D., Ph.D., the Marvin Stern Professor of Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine, along with colleagues Stephen L. Dewey, Ph.D., of Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Emilia Figueroa, M.D., who directs several addiction treatment clinics in Mexico. It is published in the September 22 online edition of the journal Synapse.

The addicts in the study took GVG, which stands for gamma-vinyl-GABA. It is also known as vigabatrin and by the trade name Sabril. The drug has been used in Europe and many other countries to treat infantile spasms and epilepsy, but it is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States.

"Our results, in which 40 percent of hard-core addicts were able to stay clean for more than 60 days, were more spectacular than we would have ever dreamed," says Dr. Brodie. "These addicts were able to stay clean even without leaving the environment that had fostered their addiction. They gained weight, they got jobs, and they are now living with their families."

"For the first time it seems that we might have a way to treat people suffering from the life-threatening consequences of cocaine addiction," says Dr. Figueroa.

"Our results suggest that this drug, in combination with psychosocial therapy, offers a potential treatment for cocaine addiction," says Dr. Dewey. "We now need to confirm and extend these results in a large double-blind, placebo-controlled trial."

Financial support for this study was provided by the Biological Psychiatry Fund of NYU School of Medicine, and partly by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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Contact: Pam McDonnell
Pamela.Mcdonnell@med.nyu.edu
212-404-3555
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine
22-Sep-2003


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