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Zapping Cocaine Addiction

April 24, 2013

Lasers can eliminate cocaine addiction in rats, pointing to new therapies for humans.



Lasers point to a new kind of rehab. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Lasers can wipe out cocaine addiction, at least in rats. This according to Antonello Bonci, scientific director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Bonci explains that cocaine-addicted humans have low activity in their brains’ prefrontal cortex. His team showed that healthy rats suffer the same effect when they become addicted to cocaine. And remarkably, stimulating that sluggish brain area with lasers reversed the addiction.

ANTONELLO BONCI (National Institute on Drug Abuse):

And what is extraordinary to me as a scientist is in just a session – in just a few hours – their desire to take cocaine was completely wiped out.

Although the laser treatment would be impractical in humans, Bonci says a magnetic technique, already used to treat depression, would be a good substitute. An open question is how long such a treatment would last. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Cocaine addiction is one of the hardest addictions to treat. (Jupiter Images)