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Kudzu Vine Extract May Treat Alcoholism, Cocaine Addiction

August 23, 2010

Researchers at Gilead Sciences Inc. said on Sunday that an extract of the kudzu vine being developed to treat alcoholism may also help treat cocaine addiction.

The Gilead team reported in the journal Nature Medicine that tests on rats showed the drug could stop them from giving themselves cocaine.

Gilead inherited the experimental drug a year ago after it acquired CV Therapeutics Inc.  A spokesman for the company said it was working to try to bring the drug to the market.

“There is no effective treatment for cocaine addiction despite extensive knowledge of the neurobiology of drug addiction,” Lina Yao, Ivan Diamond and colleagues wrote in the journal.

Kudzu is an old remedy for alcoholism.  The vine is native to Asia and has spread across much of the U.S. Southeast after being imported to control soil erosion.

CT Therapeutics made a synthetic extract known as selective aldehyde dehydrogenase-2 inhibitor or ALDH2i. 

Tests on rats showed it might be able to help stop their cocaine addiction.  The drug can also prevent relapse after rats are weaned off cocaine.

The researchers found that the drug works by raising the levels of a compound called tetrahydropapaveroline or THP.  Cocaine cravings make levels of a brain chemical known as dopamine soar and THP interferes with this.

“We propose that a safe, selective, reversible ALDH-2 inhibitor such as ALDH2i may have the potential to attenuate human cocaine addiction and prevent relapse,” the researchers wrote.

Image Courtesy US Fish & Wildlife Service

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