Wanna Know Why It’s So Hard to Quit Drugs?

  • How can you control cravings at the subconscious level?
  • How can you avoid cues that lead to cravings when these cues get processed unconsciously, and it all happens so quickly that you may start craving drugs, with no idea of why?
  • How can you control cravings that stimulate a system of the mind responsible for self preservations acts such as sex and eating, cravings that provoke this system strongly enough to override all other impulses (including towards food or sex)?

Well the answer is that you can, but it’s really really hard! A study released today in PLoS One, funded by NIDA and the National Institute of Health, reveals that cocaine addicts can experience cravings after being shown pictures of drugs for only 33 milliseconds – so fast that the cocaine patients weren’t even aware of having seen them, but were aware of all of a sudden wanting cocaine!

Study authors Dr. Anna Rose Childress and Dr. Charles O’Brien, at the University of Pennsylvania used MRI imaging to observe brain response after cocaine patients were presented with pictures of crack, or a crack pipe, pictures flashing by so fast, that patients were not consciously aware of them. The brain however does see, even when we are not aware of it, and after each provocative stimulus, researchers saw a dramatic response in the limbic system of the brain.

The limbic system is responsible for reward and pleasure, and is known to be involved with addiction.

Cocaine addicts can see things in their environment, not even realize that they see them, and start feeling strong urgings to use cocaine. When a major strategy for early relapse avoidance involves minimizing these types of cravings provoking stimuli, this is obviously very problematic.

Researchers claim that greater understandings of the neurological underpinnings of addiction and craving takes them closer to medications that may work to minimize this effect in the limbic systems, and give cocaine addicts (and likely all addicts) a much better chance at quitting. Willpower is essential for recovery, yet willpower has nothing to do with addiction. We cannot call addicts who relapse weak for failing to manage impulses they can’t control. Willpower keeps addicts in treatment, fighting, but willpower alone is just not enough.

  • How can you control cravings at the subconscious level?
  • How can you avoid cues that lead to cravings when these cues get processed unconsciously, and it all happens so quickly that you may start craving drugs, with no idea of why?
  • How can you control cravings that stimulate a system of the mind responsible for self preservations acts such as sex and eating, cravings that provoke this system strongly enough to override all other impulses (including towards food or sex)?

Well the answer is that you can, but it’s really really hard! A study released today in PLoS One, funded by NIDA and the National Institute of Health, reveals that cocaine addicts can experience cravings after being shown pictures of drugs for only 33 milliseconds – so fast that the cocaine patients weren’t even aware of having seen them, but were aware of all of a sudden wanting cocaine!

Study authors Dr. Anna Rose Childress and Dr. Charles O’Brien, at the University of Pennsylvania used MRI imaging to observe brain response after cocaine patients were presented with pictures of crack, or a crack pipe, pictures flashing by so fast, that patients were not consciously aware of them. The brain however does see, even when we are not aware of it, and after each provocative stimulus, researchers saw a dramatic response in the limbic system of the brain.

The limbic system is responsible for reward and pleasure, and is known to be involved with addiction.

Cocaine addicts can see things in their environment, not even realize that they see them, and start feeling strong urgings to use cocaine. When a major strategy for early relapse avoidance involves minimizing these types of cravings provoking stimuli, this is obviously very problematic.

Researchers claim that greater understandings of the neurological underpinnings of addiction and craving takes them closer to medications that may work to minimize this effect in the limbic systems, and give cocaine addicts (and likely all addicts) a much better chance at quitting. Willpower is essential for recovery, yet willpower has nothing to do with addiction. We cannot call addicts who relapse weak for failing to manage impulses they can’t control. Willpower keeps addicts in treatment, fighting, but willpower alone is just not enough.

Vigabatrin. An Epilepsy Drug That Eases Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms.

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.

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.