LSU Health Shreveport Discovery Offers New Approach to Solving Addiction

January 18, 2022

Saving Lives and Families in Louisiana

The need for new solutions to addiction has reached an all-time high. Ten times more Louisianans died from drug overdoses in the past year compared to two decades ago. While synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are driving the overdose epidemic, cocaine and methamphetamine, or meth, don’t fall far behind. Meanwhile, there are no drug therapies for meth and cocaine addiction on the market today (unlike for opioid addiction).
 
While almost all research on addiction to stimulants (such as meth and cocaine) remains focused on dopamine and the body’s pleasure-and-reward system, a researcher at LSU Health Shreveport, Nicholas Goeders, took a different approach. Instead of reward, he looked at stress.
 
By combining two already FDA-approved drugs with different effects on the body’s stress response system, metyrapone (an adrenal suppressant) and oxazepam (an anti-anxiety medication), an early pilot study on cocaine addiction showed promise. Almost 80% of the subjects who received the combination medication had no trace of cocaine in their urine at the end of the study. Meanwhile, in the placebo group, the number was just over 20%.
 
For Goeders, solving addiction is deeply personal.
 
“I can’t tell you my last phone number, but I can tell you the number of the bar where my father would go when I was a child. My mother would have me call that number to talk to the bartender to ask my father to come home. That was more than 60 years ago, and I still remember… This is why I do the work I do. I want to help someone, and also the family that’s around them.”

Hands showing a red pill and blue pill

Drug abuse exacts an enormous toll on healthcare, the economy, and society as a whole. While opioids have received significant attention, and rightly so, this has also obscured what the CDC has described as a rising menace from cocaine and meth addiction, for which there are no approved medications. This is something LSU Health Shreveport pharmacologist Nicholas Goeders, in partnership with Embera NeuroTherapeutics, a national pharmaceutical company, is working to change.

– Leander Mackey

“Given there is nothing on the market to treat cocaine addiction; nothing to treat methamphetamine addiction, the potential impact of FDA approval [of our drug, currently in Phase 2 studies] would be tremendous. Using the same core technology, we can fight many types of addiction. It’s all about addressing the human stress response system’s role in driving craving and relapse.”

- Bob Linke, executive chairman of Embera NeuroTherapeutics, which licensed and built their company around the discovery made by Nicholas Goeders at LSU Health Shreveport