An old drug in a new light is offering hope for a better treatment protocol for cocaine abuse.Vigabatrin, a GABA modifying drug used in the treatment of epilepsy has been tested in small scale trials in Mexico on people that had been using cocaine daily for at least three years, and a substantial of these people were able to reduce their cocaine consumption significantly.
In response to the success of these earlier Mexican trials, Catalyst pharmaceuticals is testing it’s own version of vigabatrin, charismatically named CPP-109, and will be entering phase 2 clinical human trials later this summer. The drug shows great potential to increase the ability of addicts battling cocaine and other stimulant addiction to overcome cravings through a process of dopaminergic modification.
CPP-109 works by increasing the amount of GABA in the brain, and this surplus of GABA serves to reduce the effect of cocaine on dopamine in the brain. GABA will not allow for the production of as much dopamine in response to cocaine, and without the production of dopamine, cocaine has little effect. The drug is reported to be able to dramatically reduce the cravings as experienced by drug addicts in withdrawal, and as a result is able to increase the length of sobriety.
The Mexican studies have been previously criticized for their small sample size and their limited duration, so it will be interesting to see whether the results as reported in the Mexican studies will endure under a larger and more strictly controlled clinical trial. The clinical testing results are expected to be ready for publication by the summer of 2008.
This new drug seems to me to be very similar in some ways to the meth and cocaine vaccines in development. While the cocaine vaccines attack the cocaine while still in the blood, and do not allow it to get to the brain, and this drug simply renders the cocaine ineffective, they both allow for the lessening of the effects of ingested cocaine, and for a resultant lessening in tolerance and ultimate cravings.
Both seem very promising, and if either or both pass successfully through all stages of clinical trials and gain FDA approval, will be very welcome additions to the drug treatment arsenal. No one proposes that these drugs will be enough on their own to combat drug addiction, but when combined with existing psycho social and behavioral cognitive therapies, should greatly increases the effectiveness of our best treatments. An addiction to cocaine is notoriously difficult to overcome and any pharmaceutical assistance against the cravings involved in cocaine withdrawal will be very much appreciated by the estimated 1.5 million American cocaine addicts.
Find out more at this cocaine addiction treatment and recovery resource.