Addiction is no joke, and it’s a complicated disease that many of us struggle with. Among the biggest problems, though, is the fact that certain psychological cues can amplify the addiction; just ask a former smoker about things that make him or her want a cigarette. But a drug that’s already on the market might just help you break the habit.
Isradipine, a blood-pressure medicine, is surprisingly effective at ending habits. It does this by making the brain more “plastic,” that is, easier to essentially rewire. Researchers tested it by putting rats in either a white room or a black room and dosing them with coke and booze. The rats quickly learned which color got them wasted, and made a beeline for it. But after a few doses of isradipine, they seem to forget the association; they just picked a room at random, not to get a dose. Furthermore, even after they got the rats addicted to drugs again, using the same methods, they still didn’t show a preference for a room color.
Needless to say, this needs to be tested with humans, something that can be fast-tracked because isradipine is already on the market. And it won’t help with the chemical symptoms of withdrawal, which are their own hurdle. But if it works in humans, this might be a huge step forward in treating addiction.