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Licorice ingredient can help treat cocaine addiction

Researchers from both Korea and the state of Pennsylvania identified a potential treatment for the effects of cocaine abuse. These researchers are pointing to an ingredient used for making the confectionery sweet licorice as a possible antidote for the effects of the said drug. The said ingredient, according to the researchers, can prevent most of the toxic effects of excessive cocaine intake, including fatal overdoses.

Licorice is a widely popular candy that is flavored with the roots of the licorice plant. Aside from its taste, another one of its claims to fame is the natural sweetener used in making it which has several pharmaceutical properties, including being an expectorant and a laxative.

For the prevention of the effects of cocaine abuse, however, scientists are looking at yet another ingredient of licorice. The ingredient is known as isoliquiritigenin (ISL) and has been shown by several past animal model studies to block the production of to block dopamine production in the nervous system. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in movement and emotion among other brain activities.

Researchers Chae Ha Yang, Meeyul Hwang, and their colleagues noted that there is still no single effective medication that can be used for cocaine abuse treatment, but that ISL holds much promise. Their study was published in the January issue of the American Chemical Society’s monthly publication, the Journal of Proteome Research.

The researchers explained that since cocaine and other drugs manipulates dopamine to perpetuate their pleasurable and addictive effects, drugs that can block the said neurotransmitter can also block the effects of the drug.

To test their hypothesis, the researchers conducted an animal model experiment using rats that were given the ingredient ISL right before being injected with cocaine. Around 50% of the said rats were observed to manifest less of the effects of cocaine, particularly its behavioral effects.

The researchers were also able to show through the said experiment how ISL injections can protect the brain’s nerve cells from most type of damages caused by cocaine and other illicit drugs.

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