Breaking Cocaine's Deadly Grip

Jim Meehan was addicted to cocaine for 20 years, reports CBS News Correspondent John Roberts.

"Initially it was up the nose, then it became smoking crack and then it was exclusively smoking crack cocaine," says Meehan. "It was impossible for me to say no to."

Even with the help of a hospital program, quitting took extraordinary effort.

However, scientists from the Brookhaven Laboratories announced Wednesday that in experiments with rats and baboons, a new drug was found to break the cycle of addiction.

"We've let animals self-administer cocaine as much as they want," said Stephen Dewey of Brookhaven Laboratories. "And we give them this compound and they stop."

Cocaine causes addiction by activating dopamine -- a brain chemical responsible for pleasure and reward. This new drug, "GVG," originally developed for epilepsy, blocks the production of dopamine and takes away the pleasure of using cocaine.

Addiction specialist Dr. Alex De Luca says it could be a powerful new weapon against cocaine, but only as part of a comprehensive treatment program.

"Cocaine will be that much easier for a person who is motivated to quit to stay away from it," says De Luca. "By itself, I don't think it will be a cure in any sense."

Because of the way it works in the brain, researchers say this drug could also be effective in treating other addictions such as nicotine. However, it is a long way from rats and baboons to humans and there are other drugs for treating cocaine that showed promise in animals -- but didn't work for people.

Reported by John Roberts
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