The hottest topic in cocaine addiction is another drug, a medicine already sold to wake up narcoleptics.
Hundreds of cocaine users are testing whether that legal pill, called modafinil, could help them kick the addiction, and there is intriguing early evidence that it might.
In addition to blunting cocaine's notorious cravings, modafinil might also counter the damage that cocaine wreaks on users' brain circuits damage that in turn fuels the cycle of addiction.
The prospect of that double-whammy has the National Institutes of Health spending $10.8 million (Ђ8.75 million) researching modafinil as a potential cocaine treatment. Results from the first of three crucial clinical trials could arrive by year's end.
Scientists are cautious: In a hunt spanning two decades, no one has found a medication to help treat cocaine addiction, and there is no guarantee that modafinil will pan out.
But for Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIH's National Institute on Drug Abuse, the narcolepsy medicine tops the list of promising potential therapies. It may help restore proper function of a crucial brain chemical, dopamine, that addiction hijacks.
And in describing why he is hopeful, one leading researcher recalls the man who accused his drug dealer of selling bad coke before realizing that modafinil had kept him from getting high and several other modafinil testers who told of flushing cocaine down the toilet.
"I've been treating cocaine-addicted patients for something like 25 years, more, and I've never heard of anybody throwing away cocaine," says Dr. Charles Dackis of the University of Pennsylvania, who led a pilot study that suggested modafinil more than doubled addicts' chances of going cocaine-free for at least three weeks, reports AP.
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