Cocaine addiction is a serious problem affecting thousands of Americans, and in the United States, it is the most frequently mentioned illegal drug reported to the Drug Abuse Warning Network by hospital emergency departments. However, a recent study from Cardiff University in Wales suggests that an already available cancer drug may help curb cocaine addiction.

In a move reminiscent of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," the drug, currently used in cancer therapy trials, blocks certain memories responsible for cravings. In trials, a single administration of the drug was shown to completely obliterate cocaine-associated memories and significantly accelerate the end of drug-seeking behavior in animals. What’s more, because the drug is already being used in cancer trials, it could be easily repositioned for treatment of cocaine addiction and other drugs that are abused.

“With drug use recently on the rise, new treatments for breaking addiction are much needed,” Dr Stefania Fasano, a researcher involved in the study, explained in a recent statement. “The availability of a powerful drug from Pfizer, already validated in humans, could speed up the clinical development of our findings."

When a person uses cocaine, it triggers memories of the intense pleasure and other feelings associated with the drug. These memories and feelings can cause a recreational drug user to become a compulsive drug user. Unfortunately, increasing your use of cocaine may also increase your risk of experiencing some of the drug’s bad side effects such as irritability, restlessness, panic attacks, paranoia, and even full-blown psychosis, in which the individual loses touch with reality and experiences auditory hallucinations.

The proposed new cocaine treatment aims to target these long-lasting memories and drug-associated cues. In mice, by suppressing these memories, the drug was able to prevent the transition from recreational to compulsive drug use. The next step is to test the experimental treatment on humans.

Source: Papale A, Morella IA, Indrigo ME, et al. Impairment of cocaine-mediated behaviours in mice by clinically relevant Ras-ERK inhibitors. eLife . 2016

Read More:

Cocaine Addiction Causes 2016: This Brain Molecule May Drive Compulsive Drug Use: Read Here

Lifetime Drug Abuse, Especially Cocaine And Meth, May Permanently Skewer Users' Moral Compass: Read Here