For some time, scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have studied gamma-vinyl GABA, or GVG, for its ability to block the neurochemical and behavioral changes associated with addiction. Now they have found that it might also block environment-based cravings. The new study appears today in the European Journal of Pharmacology. "This is the first therapeutic agent that successfully combats three major components of drug addictionthe neurochemical and behavioral effects of the drug itself and the neurochemical changes triggered by drug-related environmental cues," says lead researcher Stephen Dewey.
The scientists demonstrated that environmental triggerssay, returning to a place where drugs were once consumedcause measurable increases in dopamine in addicts. (In fact, alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, methamphetamine and the like bring about similar increases in this neurotransmitter, particularly in parts of the brain associated with reward and reinforcement.) In rats trained to expect cocaine in a particular setting, dopamine levels shot up 25 percent when they entered that settingregardless of whether they received the drug or not. But when the scientists gave the animals GVG before entering the drug environment, dopamine levels remained normal. "No other drug has been tested as extensively for substance abuse treatment as GVG," Dewey says, "and no other drug has been tested for substance abuse treatment using these simultaneous biochemical and behavioral tests