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Treatment for Cocaine Dependence

Treatment for Cocaine Dependence



In this brief podcast, Dr Edward Nunes discusses the latest evidence from research studies on stimulant and cocaine dependence. Dr Nunes is Professor at Columbia University Medical Center Department of Psychiatry, in New York.

Along with presenters Andrew Saxon, MD, University of Washington; Theresa Winhusen, PhD, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine; and Madhukar Trivedi, MD, University of Texas Medical Center, Dr Edward Nunes will chair a symposium at the AAAP annual meeting titled "Cocaine and Stimulant Dependence: New Strategies for an Old Problem."

The symposium will cover some of the latest evidence on cocaine dependence, which is often difficult to treat. So far, there have been no medications that have clearly been effective for cocaine dependence, a frustrating fact in the field of addiction medicine. Tobacco dependence, opioid dependence, alcohol dependence—each has effective medications. Cocaine dependence does not yet have any effective medications. The National Institute of Drug Abuse and other agencies have been funding research to try to find medications.

This session will present some different studies that have been done very recently. One such study is of a combination of naltrexone and buprenorphine for treatment of cocaine dependence. The reason it is thought it might work is because buprenorphine is a kappa-opioid receptor antagonist and naltrexone is also an a kappa-opioid receptor antagonist. Naltrexone has the advantage blocking the other effects of buprenorphine. Because buprenorphine is an opiate, you do not want to give it to patients who are not opioid-dependent because you would risk making them opioid-dependent. Naltrexone gets rid of that because it blocks the new opiate receptor which is the main opiate receptor that produces addiction.

The idea here was to block kappa receptors. There are reasons to think that is important. Chronic cocaine dependence causes up-regulation in kappa receptors in the brain, and kappa receptors inhibit the release of dopamine in the brain and dopamine is important for motivation and energy. Dopamine is also depleted in chronic cocaine dependence. So this is an effort to correct the dopamine dysregulation that occurs in cocaine dependence.

The results are still a secret. We don't know what they are going to be but they will be presented at the meeting and so we will see what comes out of that session. This is what's fun about these up-to-date presentations and research studies because sometimes it's the first time the results are presented in a public forum.

A small pilot study on buspirone, which is an anti-anxiety medication that has been around for a long time for cocaine dependence, will be discussed. Buspirone was well tolerated but the results are inconclusive.

Exercise studies

Finally, a study that was done, not on medication, but on exercise for cocaine dependence. Exercise is a compelling idea as a way of helping to treat addiction. There are many people in the field that are actually working with patients day to day who believe out of their experience that exercise is helpful for drug dependence.


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