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Mike Tyson, Cocaine, and NAC -- With Mike Tyson Looking at Prison Time for Cocaine, Is there Anything That Can Help Our Athletes with Addiction? Yes, it's a Supplement Called NAC

By Robert Rousseau, ExtremeProSports.com
Mike Tyson has always been a man of near mythical proportions.

At the tender age of 20 in 1986, he became the youngest heavyweight boxing champion in history. Though that was certainly noteworthy; perhaps even more so was the impression he left with us. To some, he became inhuman: a vicious, ruthless, and unbeatable opponent.

A man that threw punches with "bad intentions."

Don't lie; you remember that sense of foreboding just before Iron Mike's fights back in his prime. Excellent professional boxers like Michael Spinks were beaten before they even entered the ring.

Said another way, no one in history ever had a tougher persona, nor reputation; even if it all lasted only a short time.

Later in his boxing career, the almighty Mike Tyson's immortal fighting impression faded tremendously. He was a shell of the unbeatable fighter he'd once been. Thus, more youthful boxing fans that didn't witness the early days remember him as anything but invincible.

Still, those of us that saw Tyson's glory days have once again been reminded that Mike Tyson is hardly invincible.

Recently Tyson was pulled over by police in Scottsdale, Arizona after nearly hitting a sheriff's vehicle. He was then arrested for driving while under the influence of drugs and possession of a controlled substance (cocaine).

In court documents, it was reported, "that he (Tyson) admitted to using today and stated he is an addict and has a problem."

No doubt that Tyson has brought loads of problems upon himself, and using in the first place is just another sign of this. Still, he is human; thus, like all of us, he is susceptible to drug addiction.

Unfortunately, men and women have real difficulty breaking from cocaine addiction. However, there seems to be some promising new help on the horizon. Thus, why not use Tyson's circumstance in a positive way to bring this up?

But first.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that directly affects the brain. It basically comes in two forms: hydrochloride salt and freebase. The hydrochloride salt version (powder) can be taken intravenously or sniffed; whereas the freebase version has not been neutralized by an acid ( thus, it can be smoked ).

Crack is a freebase form of cocaine; it is highly popular among addicts because it can be smoked, and the high from it can be experienced in less than 10 seconds.

In other words, one of the draws is how quick it takes affect.

According to the NSDUH back in 2002, 1.5 million Americans were considered dependent on cocaine.

Therefore, it is a highly addictive substance.

How Cocaine Works

Cocaine seems to be about rewards.

Research has shown that the ventral tegmental area of the brain is deeply affected by this drug. Nerve cells originating in this area of the brain stretch to the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain that is key in terms of reward / survival.

In other words, studies have determined that food, water, sex, and drugs of abuse increase activity in this area of the brain.

When a rewarding event is occurring, a large increase of released dopamine is witnessed within the nucleus accumbens by neurons that started in the VTA. Usually, dopamine is released by a neuron in the synapse where it binds with dopamine receptors ( specialized proteins ) on another neuron close by. Normally dopamine is then sent back to the sending neuron via a dopamine transporter.

However, cocaine attaches to this dopamine transporter and disrupts the entire recycling situation; thereby, an abundance of dopamine builds up in the synapse ( space between the neurons ).

And this is what causes the pleasurable, though dangerous effect.

Furthering these statements, the disruption in the recycling situation is in a large way related to a reduction of the amount of glutamate ( a neurotransmitter ) in the nucleus accumbens. The reduction of this neurotransmitter plays a role in all of these inefficiencies, and in turn causes addicts to be highly responsive to cocaine.

Beyond the above, cocaine addiction tends to overrun the rest of the survival/ reward mechanisms. Thus, the drug will oftentimes become more important than things like food, sex, etc.

Hence, it is very powerful; and some of the terrible things you hear addicts forsaking for the drug are likely related to this.

Promising New Information for Addicts - Enter NAC

First, always consult appropriate mental health and / or medical professionals for advice regarding cocaine addiction. Remember that information presented in this article is designed only to increase your awareness when speaking with such professionals.

Research funded by the National Institute of Health ( NIH ) and conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina ( MUSC ) seems to be onto something. In short, the aforementioned research may have found a way to truly reduce the cravings associated with cocaine addiction via a supplement. This would be a major step on the treatment front.

Getting to the point, the supplement N-acetylcysteine ( NAC ) may be the answer to modulating or lessening some of the effects of cocaine addiction. Peter Kalivas, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurosciences at MUSC, summarizes their hopes well.

"The discovery that a readily available herbal supplement can reduce the intense cravings associated with use is an important finding for individuals undergoing treatment for cocaine addiction. Reduced cravings might help individuals restrain from abusing cocaine."

The Research on NAC

The first phase of the MUSC study involved two groups of rats that were addicted to cocaine. Rats in one group were treated with NAC, while the other group's rodents were not. After treatment, the rats that were given NAC were less likely to seek out cocaine than those that had not been given NAC.

Promising.

In the second phase of this study, a small group of 15 cocaine dependent subjects seeking help were used. In short, after treatment with NAC addicts spent less time looking at available cocaine related pictures ( as opposed to other kinds of pictures like trees, boats, etc. ) than those addicts that had not been given NAC. Further, those treated with NAC showed reduced brain activity in areas of the brain activated during cocaine craving.

Research is also promising in regard to our ability to respond to higher doses of NAC.

Not bad. However, a larger study appears needed. Good thing is that those at MUSC have already started one with 282 subjects.

Here's hoping.

How NAC Works

Earlier it was noted that cocaine addiction reduces the amount of glutamate ( a neurotransmitter ) in the nucleus accumbens. When this happens, the accumbens do not regulate properly, which in turn causes addicts to be highly responsive to cocaine.

Levels of glutamate can be increased by cysteine, an amino acid that is often sold in the form of NAC. In reality, NAC helps the body to release glutamate that has been kept in reserve, and this seems to help the accumbens function more appropriately.

When this occurs, addicts appear to feel less desire for cocaine.

Don't Forget Other Treatments for Cocaine

By no means is there any one answer to dealing with cocaine addiction. Therefore, always remember to consult professionals in the field ( doctors, mental health professionals, addiction facilities, etc. ) before making any decisions. Along with this, there are other treatments available to you that might be used without or with the aforementioned depending on how the professionals consulted choose to guide.

Pharmacology- Medications are being investigated all the time. NAC might be utilized in such a way someday. However, to date there are only promising medications, not surefire solutions.

Behavioral- In light of the fact that there is no medication that has been proven to work with large samples of subjects, behavioral interventions are really the key. These interventions can be delivered in outpatient or inpatient settings.

Some possibilities include positive behavioral programs for staying clean ( reward systems ), therapy ( oftentimes with a cognitive behavioral slant ), and residential programs. Residential programs are often recommended initially for detoxification purposes, as well as to get the suffering person out of the environment that has been a part of their addiction climate.

Also, one should never forget about the people around the addicted. They will need help dealing with the situation as well ( children, spouses, parents, etc. ).

In sum, dealing with cocaine addiction is not something that anyone wants to go through. However, there are ways to deal with it and promising new avenues like NAC are being explored everyday. If you or someone you love needs help; don't wait. Seek out a professional right now.

References:

Cocaine Abuse and Addiction

Modified Amino Acid Can Quell Addiction To Cocaine

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