Medication For Alcohol Addiction May Be Effective For Some Cocaine Addicts
Addiction can be challenging to treat, and some addictions are particularly so. For example, many individuals who enter a substance abuse treatment center for cocaine addiction and complete the treatment program soon return due to relapse. The tools acquired in treatment for dealing with cravings are sometimes not effective in patients who have a particularly challenging case of addiction to cocaine.
A new study indicates that there may be help for those who have a cocaine addiction that does not respond to traditional treatments. While there has been little success in treating cocaine addiction with medications, the study finds that this strategy may be effective in certain situations.
Disulfiram is a medication that has been approved for treatment in alcohol addiction for 50 years. Its effectiveness is rooted in the blocking of acetaldehyde metabolism, causing acetaldehyde to build up in the body. The result is an unpleasant mix of nausea, headache and vomiting, accompanied by an increased heart rate. Those who take Disulfiram may quickly learn to avoid drinking alcohol.
Based on previous studies at Yale University that linked a Disulfiram-related reduction in the use of cocaine when paired with alcohol or opiate dependence, researchers recently published new findings in the journal Biological Psychiatry that support the use of Disulfiram in treating cocaine addiction.
The study’s findings show that Disulfiram is able to inhibit dopamine ß-hydroxylase, or DßH, which is an enzyme responsible for the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine.
Led by Thomas Kosten, the researchers examined Disulfiram’s effectiveness among cocaine and opioid dependent participants who received either the medication or a placebo over a ten-week period.
The researchers also genotyped the DßH gene, which controls the levels of the enzyme to determine which variant of the gene was present in each patient. The researchers wanted to determine whether the variant impacted the success of the Disulfiram as a treatment for cocaine addiction.
The study results showed that Disulfiram was effective in reducing the use of cocaine among the participants according to the DßH gene variant they possessed. The data supported the researchers’ expectation that Disulfiram impacted cocaine consumption by blocking DßH.
The researchers note that there was a significantly greater effectiveness related to Disulfiram use among those participants that carried the genetic variant, and this accounts for perhaps about 60 percent of cocaine addicts. This supports the use of pharmacogenetic matching to establish the best strategy for treatment of cocaine addiction.
The findings are particularly promising, given the challenge that has been connected with treatment for cocaine addiction. While the medication may not effectively treat every individual with cocaine addiction, it may help close the gap for those who carry the necessary genetic variant.