Have you ever had one of those days where you thought to yourself "Boy, I sure wish I didn't have this sexy yet expensive cocaine addiction"? Fortunately for you, there could be a new solution on the horizon, and all you have to do is fry your brain with lasers. Equally sexy.
A new study performed by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Ernest Gallo Clinic, and the Research Center at UC San Francisco has shown that when particularly hip, cocaine-addicted rats had the prelimbic region of the prefrontal cortexes treated with a little laser light, all manner of compulsive cocaine-seeking behavior promptly ceased. Granted, rats aren't humans, but there are some promising similarities. Like human cocaine addicts, rats also exhibit a crazy lack of inhibition when jonesing for a fix, and will keep on doing lines even if they've been trained to expect some pain afterwards. And all that stopped after the lasers.
In the study, neurons in the rat's prefrontal cortex were switched on and off by genetically engineering some light-sensitive proteins in there first. If and when the practice moves to humans, it probably won't be in laser-form though, as transcranial magnetic stimulation is a safer and more practical if less hell-yeah awesome approach. Even better, such a therapy is ready to go for human testing right now.
While the treatment stops the cravings, there's no word on what it does to the effect of cocaine on treated subjects. So though not physically addicted, druggies might still get a little urge if they just think cocaine is a fun thing to do. Still, it's a promising step toward treating addiction to cocaine and other drugs in general. It's no substitute to not getting started in the first place, but where's the fun in that, right? [Medical Xpress]