Vidyya Medical News Service
Volume 6 Issue 321 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 16-Nov-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 17-Nov-2004
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Information for patients: GVG -- A promising strategy for treating addiction

GVG, or gamma vinyl-GABA, appears to prevent the biochemical and behavioral effects of nicotine and cocaine in much the same way it prevents an epileptic seizure: by altering the way brain cells talk to one another.

In the brain, chemicals called neurotransmitters constantly float between brain cells, sending messages that travel through the brain and into the body in a process similar to the child's game "Telephone."

After neurotransmitter molecules complete their task of leaving their home brain cell and docking with a neighboring cell to convey the message, they usually return to their home cell or are eliminated in the space between cells, called the synapse. But nicotine, cocaine and many other addictive drugs wreak havoc with this process.

One neurotransmitter, called dopamine, has been described as the "feel-good" neurotransmitter. That's because drugs like nicotine and cocaine cause a pleasurable or "high" feeling by keeping dopamine molecules from re-entering their home cells and thus creating floods of dopamine in the brain. This pleasurable reaction is crucial to the process by which nicotine and cocaine addiction starts.

GVG is used to treat epilepsy because it increases the amount of the brain's most common neurotransmitter, called GABA, and enables better communication among brain cells. This moderates the effects of the uncontrolled neurotransmitter releases that cause epileptic seizures.

Coincidentally, GABA also reduces the level of dopamine in the region of the brain that's involved in addiction to nicotine, cocaine and other substances.

Knowing this, the BNL-led research team first focused on this normal interaction between GABA and dopamine in order to lay the foundation for a novel strategy to treat nicotine and cocaine addiction.

They began working with GVG because it enhances GABA levels, and developed ways to see if the epilepsy drug would reduce the surge in dopamine produced by nicotine and cocaine in both primates and rats. They also wanted to see if it would prevent the development and expression of other behaviors associated with cocaine addiction.

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