Vigabatrin Tested as Cocaine Addiction Treatment

Cocaine addiction has been a rock against which many a wave has broken without creating any movement or diminishment. Researchers and those who treat cocaine addicts directly are forever in search of new ideas and methods which might prove successful.

One potential tool on the horizon is the drug Vigabatrin. Vigabatrin is more fondly referred to as GVG and is chiefly administered to epileptic patients as an anti-convulsant medication. The drug is powerful and for that reason is usually only prescribed after other epilepsy medications have failed to work. Likewise, it is usually only prescribed for patients above the age of 16 years. Used in combination with other drugs, GVG has proven to be effective in controlling partial seizures.

In recent years, however, GVG has been tested in the treatment of cocaine addiction. Here’s how it works. Vigabatrin increases the amount of GABA in the brain. That is key because GABA inhibits the production of dopamine and dopamine is the chemical which cocaine use causes to wash over the brain creating the intense pleasure that users are seeking. A drug which can temper the effects of dopamine essentially reduces the addictive effects of cocaine. After all, what is cocaine minus the high?

There have been several phases of clinical studies on the efficacy of Vigabatrin already.There have been trials of the drug in other countries, but in the US preliminary testing has been performed by the National Institutes of Health, by the NYU school of Medicine and the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Results from these trials have shown GVG’s potential in the treatment of cocaine addiction. Actually, in the preliminary US trial a significant 40% of addicts who, concurrently to taking the drug, were involved in counseling, kicked the habit for the 60 day duration of the study. It is hard to overstate the significance of a drug that can reduce cravings with that degree of success.

Critics of the drug’s potential say that it doesn’t address the key problem which is getting an addict to want to break his addiction. There are 1.5 million cocaine addicts in the United States and they are largely recreational users. They enjoy their habit and are not likely to be interested in a drug which essentially steals their high. Therefore, some critics say that GVG will have little effect in reducing numbers of cocaine addicts overall.

On the other hand, few, if any, physicians or treatment experts would be likely to rely on pharmacology alone even should GVG prove successful. Experts who have gone on record with their comments have said that robust treatment which combines psychosocial and behavioral cognitive therapies would be augmented by the use of GVG. Multi-faceted treatment would likely remain the standard of care – but with a kick that could finally budge what formerly seemed an immovable rock.

For the present, GVG will remain in the lab here in the US. Prolonged use of the drug could cause tunnel vision. Until such concerns are satisfied, FDA approval will remain withheld.