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New drug provides hope for preventing meth addiction relapse

A pharmaceutical agent known as vigabatrin is currently eyed as a potential treatment for methampethamine abuse relapse. This came after a new study from the Brookhaven Laboratory found the said agent’s efficiency in preventing persistent drug-seeking behaviors among animals trained to seek methamphetamine in a particular location.

In the new study, which was led by Brookhaven’s resident neuroanatomist Stephen Dewey, animals treated with vigabatrin manifested a loss of interest in waiting in a particular area which they were previously made to associate with methamphetamine.

The rats used for the study were first conditioned to expect a dosage of methamphetamine in a chamber of an apparatus with tree chambers and saline in another chamber of the same apparatus. The rats were allowed to roam freely within the apparatus. Those which spent most of their time in the methamphetamine chamber were deemed to have developed a “conditioned place preference.”

The researchers allowed the preference to be deeply established before extinguishing it by supplying the rats with saline instead of methamphetamine. This phase was carried out until the rats no longer had a preference for the chamber where they previously received methamphetamine.

After extinguishing the preference, however, the researchers reinstated it again by providing methamphetamine in the previously neutral chamber. They found that the rats went and remained in the chamber where they received methamphetamine during the whole exposure period. After demonstrating this reinstatement process, the researchers then tested the efficiency of vigabatrin in preventing it. The rats were given vigabatrin a few hours before they were injected with a preliminary dosage of methamphetamine. The animals were again allowed to roam among the three chambers, but none of the pre-treated rats showed preference for any one chamber.
Dewey noted that the restoration of persistent drug seeking behaviors after a long period of sobriety is the top cause of relapse into drug addiction. He pointed out how the results of the study highlights the potentials of using vigabatrin for human addiction treatment.

At present, Vigabatrin is being tried by Catalyst Pharmaceutical Partners to determine its safety and efficacy for use in treating methamphetamine and cocaine addiction in humans. The drug is currently undergoing Phase II clinical tests across the country.

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