Drugs to Treat Addiction Issues

Worldwide, cocaine addiction affects 13.2 to 19.7 million people. In the U.S., it is responsible for more emergency room visits than any other illegal drug. In the long-run it harms the brain, heart, blood vessels and lungs, and often causes death. Cocaine users often want to quit rationally, but the biological dependency makes it feel impossible.

Fortunately, a new study recently published in JAMA psychiatry found that Topiramate, a drug approved by the FDA in treating epilepsy and migraine headaches, can be the first reliable drug to help treat cocaine addiction. In the study, Professor Johnson, from the Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Science Departments at the University of Virginia, found 142 adults seeking treatment for cocaine addiction. Participants were randomly assigned to two groups: one that used Topiramate and another that used a placebo. It was a double-binded study, i.e. neither the patients nor the health care professionals giving out the drugs knew which user was in which group. It was found that the Topiramate group had a higher proportion of days in a week of cocaine nonuse, as well as higher likelihood of having cocaine-free weeks. The Topiramate group also felt a milder craving for cocaine and had better global functioning.

They were some mild-side effects, including tingling skin sensations, taste distortions, anorexia and difficulty concentrating. Topiramate is also associated with Glaucoma. The drug can play a huge role in reducing addiction worldwide, but because of the risk of side-effects, the prescription for it will have to be given out cautiously only to those deep enough in addiction.

Studying Topiramate will be able to tell us a lot about the neurological basis of the addiction.