Throughout the last century of health care research and practice, a biological focus on the chemical precursors to illness has led to the development of many different drugs. Based on research and other empirical evidence, these clinically administered substances are specialized to treat specific diseases and disorders. However, areas of ambiguity still inhabit the vast variety of processes involved in mental health care. As a result, some pharmaceutical medications carry various side effects. While some are relatively bad, other residual impacts come in the form of unintended benefits and new uses for that drug.
One of the most recent cases of this phenomenon occurred within a new study from the University of Texas at Austin. Researchers successfully alleviated the symptoms of cocaine and alcohol addiction in rats using a drug known as isradipine, which has been previously approved as a high blood pressure medication. The team suggests the substance may prevent relapse by disconnecting unconscious processes related to memory. As a result, the triggers underlying addiction are erased.
By tapping into the brain circuits known to be involved with learning, memory and reward, the team first formed memories of drug-related cues. They trained rats to associate cocaine or alcohol consumption with either a black or white room it was found in. After the rats became addicted to the substances, the researchers then administered a dose of isradipine to the addicted rats moments before presenting them the two rooms again.
In contrast to the untreated control group, which continued to enter the room linked with drug use, the group administered with isradipine started to show different behavior after the first day of treatment. On subsequent days, the specimen demonstrated a lack of preference when choosing a room as if the association with drug use was dissolved. As of now, isradipine is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as safe for human use. However, people should not take the compound for unintended purposes until further clinical trials support this new evidence.
New applications for different medications
Discovering additional applications for a particular prescription is actually common in the health care world. While originally created to combat depression, antidepressant medication was found to be significantly useful in treating anxiety as well. This showcases the intertwined relationships within the body and brain. As more inclusive and comprehensive models of treatment are further developed, learning more about these underlying connections may fill in the remaining gaps that limit the field today.
Unfortunately, unintentional use related to prescription drugs does not always have a positive outcome. Some medications are specifically misused for alternative benefits, which can lead to serious dependency. Along these lines, a recent surge of research uncovered alarming trends of over-prescription and abuse. In fact, the most commonly abused substances by Americans 14 and older are prescription and over-the-counter medicine according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“Addicts show up to the rehab center already addicted. Many addicts want to quit, but their brains are already conditioned. This drug might help the addicted brain become de-addicted,” said Neurology professor Hitoshi Morikawa, the study’s lead researcher.
The research is reflective of both biological and psychological perspectives of mental illness. A major concept within the treatment field is that dependencies to alcohol and other substances are fueled by powerful and enduring memories of particular people, places, sights and sounds, also referred to as triggers. Triggers usually lead up to and have a close proximity to episodes of drug use. Also due to the powerful weight they carry, a person exposed to these influential cues run a high risk of relapse. Essentially, the goal of treatment is aimed at rewiring the neurological connections between environmental cues and addictive tendencies.
Sovereign Health Group is a critically important resource for those dealing with mental health disorders, drug and alcohol addiction and co-occurring conditions. Best of all, we are well aware of the needed balance between medicine and therapy in mental health care. For people who have become dependent on certain substances, Sovereign offers various types of detox to get their system cleaned out. For people who require medication to maintain stability, Sovereign also provides pharmacogenetic testing to ensure our clients receive a medication that will work best without side effects or toxicity. If you or a loved one needs professional, clinical support, you can talk to a member of our team at anytime online or over the phone.
Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer