Experts are Still Looking for the Right Medication for Cocaine Addiction


Believe it or not, there is no FDA-approved medication that is effective in treating cocaine addiction. There are many forms of effective treatment, such as participating in therapy, residing at a treatment center, attending 12-step meetings, etc. However, medications can often make withdrawal and fighting cravings easier.

The good news is that there are other types of medication that have been somewhat effective. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drugs like vigabatrin, modafinil, tiagabine, disulfiram, and topiramate have been used with cocaine addicts with some success. And among these, the drug disulfiram, which is used to prevent someone from drinking alcohol, has also been the most consistent with preventing cocaine use.

Finding the Best Medication

However, NIDA is currently researching and testing the safety of certain medications for cocaine addiction. Because of the way cocaine affects the brain, experts are focusing on certain areas of the brain as a means to find the best medication. For instance, with cocaine and other addictions, experts identified that the stimulation of the glutamate neurons in a specific region of the brain activates the dopamine-containing neurons in the brain’s reward circuit. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter whose receptors are important for communication, memory formation, and learning. Furthermore, the increase or decrease of dopamine in the brain affects the communication between neurons as well as the functioning of the brain.

Therefore, medications for cocaine addiction are being developed that focus on glutamate neurons and the level of dopamine in the brain. These medications are still in their infancy stages and are being tested for safety. In addition to cocaine prevention medication, other drugs are also being explored, such as a vaccine, that can be used in emergency situations like cocaine overdose.

Variety of Ways to Find Support

In the meantime, when someone enters treatment for cocaine addiction, there are a variety of ways to find support. Certain forms of therapy, for instance, can help someone learn about their triggers to use. They may be able to identify thoughts and feelings that drive them to use cocaine. And they may be able to learn relaxation techniques so that they feel less inclined to turn to cocaine when stressed. All of these techniques have been incredibly successful. In fact, even if a medication to prevent cocaine use was developed, these techniques would be used in conjunction with that medication.

Research has found that addiction must be addressed in a variety of ways. Medication can have an affect on the body and the brain, while therapy can help a person identify what’s contributing to their addiction. Lastly, support groups and 12-step meetings provide a person with a sober community to participate in. One of the key components to healing from addiction (in addition to getting psychological and medical assistance) is having a new group of friends and acquaintances that are all focused on one thing: sobriety and staying free and clear of cocaine.

If you or someone you know is struggling with cocaine addiction, contact a mental health provider today.


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