The blood pressure drug propranolol may help treat cocaine addiction, a new animal study suggests. The study investigated the behavior of rats repeatedly given injections of cocaine in a particular cage. The rats learned to associate the positive feelings of cocaine with the cage, much as humans associate the high of cocaine with the environment in which they use the drug, Time reports.
The researchers found that rats given propranolol before they were allowed to enter the cocaine cage, no longer showed a preference for it over any other cage. Rats who were given shots of saline instead of the blood pressure drug continued to seek out the cocaine cage for at least two weeks.
In humans, propranolol might dull the pleasant associations of cocaine, the article says. The cravings that accompany those feelings might also dissipate, and that in turn could reduce the risk of a relapse. The article notes that propranolol has been studied as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, with mixed results.
The new study appears in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.