December 14, 2005
N Acetyl Cysteine Might Reduce Cocaine Cravings

All still very preliminary.

"Cocaine is highly addictive and can have devastating effects on the health and well being of users," says lead researcher Peter Kalivas, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurosciences at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). "The discovery that a readily available herbal supplement can reduce the intense cravings associated with cocaine use is an important finding for individuals undergoing treatment for cocaine addiction. Reduced craving might help addicted individuals restrain from abusing cocaine."

In the first phase of the study, Dr. Kalivas and the research team conditioned rats on a regimen of cocaine to establish their addiction. The rats in the treatment group were then treated with NAC. After treatment, the cocaine-addicted rats exposed to NAC were significantly less likely to seek out cocaine than those without NAC. Those treated with NAC ceased to actively seek cocaine, but showed normal food-seeking behaviors.

In the second phase of the study headed by Drs. Robert Malcolm, Hugh Myrick, Steve LaRowe, and Pascale Mardikian in the Department of Psychiatry at MUSC, NAC treatment was investigated in a small inpatient study (n=15) involving non-treatment seeking cocaine-dependent subjects. In this phase of research, subjects were asked to look at pictures that were either neutral (e.g., trees, boats) or cocaine-related (e.g., drug paraphernalia). Those individuals treated with NAC reported less craving for cocaine and spent less time looking at the cocaine-related pictures. In addition, when using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) test, subjects treated with NAC had reduced brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain activated during cocaine craving and used to modulate the addictive behavior of chronic cocaine use. An open label trial, which was recently completed, indicated that cocaine-dependent patients could take NAC on an extended outpatient basis, with minimal side effects. More importantly, patients taking higher doses of NAC were more likely to complete the trial, providing further indication of the potential benefits of NAC.

"The potential to use NAC for the treatment of individuals addicted to cocaine is a major finding," emphasized Dr. Kalivas. "For those individuals who have the desire to end their addictive habit, a NAC supplement might help to control their cravings."

A larger clinical trial that will follow 282 cocaine-dependent individuals has just begun in order to further understand and corroborate how NAC works in the brain to reduce cocaine craving. Dr. Kalivas stresses that while the initial findings are very promising, the widespread use of NAC in cocaine treatment is not advised until larger scale studies are complete.

The number of humans involved (15) is too small to know for sure. The bigger study they have begun will provide a more definitive answer.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2005 December 14 07:15 AM  Brain Addiction

rather rapid said at December 14, 2005 10:51 AM:

hmmmm. pray tell. rr is a researcher regarding cocaine addiction. hmmm. nac. just the thing to test. exactly.

Robert Silvetz said at December 14, 2005 3:41 PM:

Well, thiols, of which NAC is one, are very very interesting substances. I wonder also about the feedback loop between cocaine inactivation in the liver and NAC bolstering glutathione-based liver clearance.

Interesting, interesting...

rather rapid said at December 15, 2005 11:53 AM:

thanks for answering the q robert. the liver. of course.

Bob Jenkins said at December 16, 2005 12:34 PM:

Isn't NAC supposed to prevent flu symptoms too (

Marvin said at December 18, 2005 6:50 AM:

Nat Neurosci. 2003 Jul;6(7):743-9.
may be more location where NAC interacts with cocaine effects. N Acetyl Cysteine is well known for being used in cases of acetaminophen poisoning, to protect the liver. Cocaine is hepatotoxic, and NAC has
a hepatoprotective effect for cocaine toxicity.

The liver and the brain share many things, many fates.

david barnes said at March 15, 2007 4:49 PM:

i need help to get to a reheb could some one out there help me

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