Cocaine-Linked Memories Might Be Erased

Researchers removed these powerful cues to addiction in rat studies

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WEDNESDAY, Sept. 14, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- In research with rats, scientists showed they can selectively disrupt memories associated with cocaine use -- a finding that may help in the development of new ways to fight addiction.

While the actual high of cocaine and other drugs is one reason that addicts crave drugs and suffer relapses, addicts also have powerful memory associations linked to their drug experiences. Researchers believe that by removing those memory associations, it may be possible to improve treatment.

In two studies published in the Sept. 15 issue of the journal Neuron, researchers from the United Kingdom and the United States report that they were able to selectively eliminate rats' memory associations connected with receiving cocaine.

Disrupting these memories in human addicts could be "a potentially powerful and novel approach to the treatment of drug addiction by diminishing the behavioral impact of drug cues and thereby relapse," wrote researcher Jonathan Lee of the University of Cambridge.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found similar results in their own study with rats. They concluded that, although these strong memories often lure users to relapse back into drug use, they may also be "susceptible to disruption by pharmacological or other neurobiological interventions, providing opportunities for new therapies."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about drug abuse and addiction.

SOURCE: Cell Press, news release, Sept. 14, 2005

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