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Modified Amino Acid Can Quell Addiction To Cocaine

In late 2005, I made an interesting observation as I did a review of my patient files. I found that among patients who were less than 50 years of age and who came to me with some form of cancer or neurological disease, more than 75 percent reported a history of cocaine use. Experience has taught me that some people do not feel comfortable disclosing a history of recreational drug use, which means that in all likelihood, this number is even higher.

I can't think of a habit that will destroy a person's health more quickly and predictably than cocaine use.

Why is cocaine so dangerous?

Because it is a super concentrated stimulant that can overwhelm your nervous system and your cardiovascular system. Health complications related to cocaine use include:

* Disturbances in heart rhythm
* Heart attacks
* Chest pain
* Respiratory failure
* Strokes
* Seizures
* Headaches
* Gastrointestinal complications such as abdominal pain and nausea
* Malnourishment

If cocaine is taken along with alcohol, the liver can combine cocaine and alcohol to form a chemical called cocaethylene, which amplifies the effects of cocaine and increases the risk of sudden death from cocaine use.

To have some idea of the magnitude of concentrated stimulation that we are talking about, consider that cocaine is capable of generating physical pleasure that is ten times greater than the physical pleasure that the average person experiences with a sexual orgasm.

It's no wonder that people who start using cocaine can fast become addicted to it. Once a person's nervous system has experienced the physical pleasure that comes from cocaine use, he or she will inevitably feel less physical pleasure from activities that are normal to human physiology, such as experiencing a sexual orgasm or even just eating delicious foods. Put another way, the threshold of stimulation that a person needs to reach to feel significant physical pleasure goes up once his or her system has encountered cocaine.

Although cocaine use is illegal, and its destructive properties are well known by the general public, 2.7 percent of all Americans report having tried cocaine during their lifetime. Today, there are approximately 1.5 million people in the States who use cocaine on a regular basis.

Although there are no sure-fire solutions to overcoming an addiction to cocaine, a new study that was orchestrated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that a modified amino acid found in common over-the-counter herbal supplements can significantly reduce a chronic user's cravings for cocaine. The modified amino acid is called N-acetylcysteine (NAC), and is also thought to be effective in reducing cravings for heroin and alcohol.

NAC is well known for it's antioxidant effects. The NIH study was performed because NAC affects one of the same proteins in the central nervous system that cocaine does.

In phase one of the study, researchers exposed rats to cocaine until they were addicted to it. Rats that belonged to the treatment group were then treated with NAC. Following treatment, rats that were exposed to NAC "were significantly less likely to seek out cocaine" than those who were not exposed to NAC.

In phase two of the study, 15 people who were addicted to cocaine were separated into two groups - the first group received NAC, the second did not. All subjects were then asked to look at pictures that were not related to drug use, such as trees and boats, and pictures that were directly related to drug use. Subjects that were treated with NAC reported lower cravings for cocaine and spent less time viewing the drug-related pictures. Also, MRI imaging tests revealed that those people who were treated with NAC had less brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is the region of the brain that tends to be most active when a person craves cocaine.

If you know anyone who is addicted to cocaine or is at risk of being exposed to cocaine, please let him or her know about N-acetylcysteine (NAC). You may also want to pass this information along to people who are addicted to heroin or alcohol.


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