First Pharmacological Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine treatmentUnderstand that while you made the choice to try stimulants, you did not choose to become addicted. When you are addicted to stimulants, your brain is functioning abnormally and your stimulant use gets out of control. We know that addiction is an illness, not a moral weakness or character flaw – and as such, you need and deserve the same medical treatment that anyone else with a chronic illness would receive.

Devin Mueller, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Milwaukee and co-author of a recent study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology is part of a team of researchers who have discovered a potentially new treatment for cocaine addiction. If proven successful this would be the first time that a pharmacological treatment for cocaine addiction had been identified.

Whilst it has been claimed the numbers of users taking heroin and crack in the UK have dropped over recent years the number of people taking powder cocaine is still on the rise. Cocaine use is not widely thought of as worrying as Heroin, possibly due to the fact that it is not injected, its use is still the cause of numerous health and crime related issues. A breakthrough in the treatment of cocaine addiction would stand to save the NHS millions in the long term.

Professor Mueller states that “Right now, there are no FDA-approved medications that are known to successfully treat cocaine abuse, only those that are used to treat the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal, which are largely ineffective at preventing relapse.”

The drug in question is called Propranolol, a medication that is commonly used in the treatment of people who present with anxiety disorders, helping to combat symptoms such as palpitations and tremors.  Propranolol slows the heart rate to relieve these symptoms but it should be noted that it doesn’t address other anxiety related symptoms that are emotional in origin. It is also an effective treatment for high blood pressure as Propranolol slows down the activity of the heart and decreases blood pressure.

A member of the beta blocker family of drugs, Propranolol is shown in the study during animal testing to prevent the brain receiving memories of the desirable effects of cocaine usage.   The drug has not yet been tested on humans or undergone clinical trials in relation to its possible benefits when treating cocaine addiction.  Therefore it is yet to be FDA approved so we are still some way from seeing it used as an effective treatment.  As the effects of Propranolol are thought to be long term and in some cases permanent, even without the need for re-dosing, if it fairs well in clinical trials then this could potentially be a major breakthrough in the treatment of cocaine addiction.

Drugs that are currently used in Cocaine addiction treatment include Gabapentin and Vigabatrin, both are anticonvulsant/anti epileptic drugs that are predominantly used to make cravings less severe and relapse less likely.   Both these drugs are used in the withdrawal period of cocaine addiction treatment in order to combat some of the most undesirable symptoms. This sets them apart from Propranolol which would be used in the period subsequent to withdrawal to prevent the user feeling the need to take cocaine at all.

As always I will be following the progress of this study as it continues with interest and report back findings as and when they occur. In the meantime if you are using cocaine, or you have noticed your use has increased don't wait until the problem becomes out of control contact Life Works now for fast and effective stimulant addiction treatment.

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