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Cocaine Addiction

Common Antipsychotic Medication Aripiprazole Might Double as Effective Cocaine Addiction Medication

posted 10:29 AM EST, Wed December 14, 2011

Spanish researchers say that using a common antipsychotic medication may help cocaine users manage cravings and quit using.

Researchers in Spain say that cocaine addiction is a big domestic problem, especially among a young clubbing crowd that likes to mix cocaine and alcohol, but the lack of effective pharmacological interventions makes the treatment of these cocaine addicts very difficult.

While much research is currently centered on the development of new drugs and vaccines that may help those with stimulant addictions, scientists at the University of Murcia in Spain wondered if any existing medications might be useful as cocaine treatment medications.

After a review of some possible candidates, they decided to trial the use of a common antipsychotic medication called aripiprazole as a cocaine addiction treatment medication. Cocaine addiction results in disruptions in the functioning of the dopamine systems of the brain. Aripiprazole was chosen as it is known to stabilize dopamine functioning in both the cortical and pre cortical levels of the brain as a way to treat psychosis, which is also very related to dopamine functioning.

The Study

To test the medication, 46 cocaine addicted adults were given between 5 mg and 10 mg of aripiprazole per day. Each study participant also participated in addiction psychotherapy during this period.

  • At the end of the 6 month period, study participants displayed significant reductions in measures of impulsivity and cocaine cravings and improvements in overall functioning.

The study authors concede that because each participant received both medication and therapy it is impossible to say which intervention caused the improvements and they call for a future double blind controlled study to isolate the aripiprazole effects.

Commenting on the potential significance of the study, Dr. Shaul Lev-Ran of Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health said, “Some people are looking at completely new pharmacological agents that treat stimulant, cocaine, amphetamine dependence. But others are saying there are a lot of agents that are already around, and maybe we've overlooked some of them.”

The full research findings were presented at the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) 22nd Annual Meeting & Symposium.

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Story Highlights
  • Aripiprazole: This antipsychotic medication might work as an addiction treatment medication
  • Dopamine: Aripiprazole stabilizes dopamine functioning in the brain
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