There are no current FDA-approved medications for cocaine addiction, but that might be about to change. A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry from researchers at University of Virginia’s Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences has shown that cocaine dependence can be treated with the repurposed medication topiramate.
Topiramate (trade name Topamax) is an anticonvulsant that has been used to treat a variety of conditions, such as seizures associated with epilepsy and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, bipolar disorder, alcohol dependance, and migraine prevention.
The double-blind study consisted of 142 individuals addicted to cocaine. Half of the group was randomly assigned to receive topiramate while the other half was given a placebo. Over the course of the 12 weeks for the study, the topiramate group reported significantly more cocaine-free days which indicate the likelihood of cocaine-free weeks. Additionally, the topiramate group reported fewer cravings and increased functioning when compared to the placebo group.
Side effects were mild and minimal, including inattentiveness, skin tingling, taste distortions, and decreased appetite. High doses of topiramate have been associated with glaucoma, though that was not a factor in this study. Ultimately, the results of the study suggest that topiramate is a safe and effective drug for combatting cocaine dependence.
Because topiramate has been shown to be effective in cocaine and alcohol addictions, head researcher Bankole A. Johnson is optimistic that understanding how the chemicals interact with the brain could help scientists understand the neurobiological cause of addiction.
Cocaine, a derivative of the South American coca plant, causes more emergency room visits than any other illegal substance. Cocaine is an intense stimulator of the central nervous system and affects the circulatory system by increasing heart rate while constricting blood vessels. Cocaine use can lead to stroke or cardiac arrest, which may cause death.