Kudzu: A new hope for cocaine addiction treatment

By Yogini Bhavsar

Daily Mississippian, U. Mississippi via UWIRE

In recent research at Gilead Sciences Inc., scientists have successfully demonstrated that the extract of kudzu vine could have therapeutic significance in treating cocaine addiction.

Kudzu, which is originally native to Asia, is already known to have good efficacy in treating alcoholism. It was imported by the United States to control soil erosion, and it is now spread throughout the southeastern United States, including Mississippi. This vine grows so profusely that it is popularly known as “the vine that ate the South.”

Statistics show that every year people fall prey to various kinds of drug addictions, and cocaine has remained in vogue for several decades now. Regardless of socioeconomic status, age group or gender, cocaine continues to victimize a vast population.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse reported in 2009 that about one in six Americans (15 percent in 2007) tried cocaine by the age of 30, and seven percent had tried it by their senior year of high school. In recent years, knowledge of serious ill effects of cocaine on neurological and cardiovascular health has made it compelling to determine the corrective agents to treat cocaine addiction.

Despite the best efforts, there is no specific medication available to treat cocaine addiction. Kudzu extract is now under consideration as a new hope for that treatment.

Gilead reported in a Nature Medicine Journal that treating rats with kudzu extract made them abstain from consuming more cocaine. Kudzu extract acts on the brain to reduce excess dopamine levels and “restore the homeostasis.”

“This drug seems to work on the basis of the intensity of the craving or need,” Ivan Diamond, former vice president of neuroscience at Gilead Sciences Inc., said.

“It is more powerful as an inhibitor the more you are addicted. In short, the greater the craving, the more effective the drug.”

The studies also showed that not only did kudzu stop rats from consuming more cocaine, but it also prevented them from relapsing.

The big advantage of this pharmacological discovery lies in the fact that it does not block dopamine receptors or inhibit dopamine synthesis.

Blocking receptors or inhibiting dopamine production would interfere with the normal pleasure.

Diamond said he is positive about soon securing FDA approval for using kudzu in cocaine treatment.

This new discovery has brought in new hopes for cocaine addicts, but as exciting as this innovation may be, the fact remains that prevention is the only fool-proof cure.

Read more here: http://www.thedmonline.com/article/kudzu-new-hope-cocaine-addiction-treatment
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