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Reversing Addiction

June 30, 2015

Could a drug erase the memories that keep addicts coming back for more?

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Portrait of Dr. Hitoshi Morikawa for a banner feature story on addiction.

Hitoshi Morikawa. (University of Texas, Austin)

Erasing drug memories. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

One of the reasons drug addicts find it hard to quit is that environmental cues can trigger strong cravings.

HITOSHI MORIKAWA (University of Texas, Austin):

You think you’re addicted to drugs, but actually you’re more addicted to drug-associated cues like the dealers, the syringe, things like that.

HIRSHON:

That’s UT Austin neuroscientist Hitoshi Morikawa. He says drug-addicted rats do the same thing, preferring to spend time in rooms they associate with taking a drug. But Morikawa’s team reports in the journal Molecular Psychiatry that when they gave the rats a drug called isradipine, those preferences completely disappeared.

MORIKAWA:

It seems that the original memory might have been erased.

HIRSHON:

He says while other drugs can block the euphoric effects of addictive drugs, isradipine has the potential to actually cure addiction. But he cautions that human trials are still a long way off. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.