Cocaine Use Disorder Presents Significant Health Problems
Cocaine is a powerfully addictive drug
An astounding 5-6% of people who began using cocaine 24 hours ago will become long-term users, according to a paper in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. Addiction varies with each person’s individual brain chemistry, but the presence of dopamine in the brain is a highly rewarding feeling that most people will work to replicate.
Chronic cocaine use often damages and changes the brain’s prefrontal cortex (PFC), including significant brain volume reduction, impairment in functioning, and other debilitating effects.
Cocaine use disorder (CUD) represents a significant health problem and is very common worldwide, with about 14–21 million users in 2014. In spite of the significant distress associated with cocaine use, no effective pharmacological or psychological therapies had been identified to treat cocaine addiction.
New Study Finds TMS Could Treat Cocaine Addiction
Published December 3rd 2015 in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, a small study suggests that TMS may offer the first therapeutic treatment for cocaine addiction.
Patients in the study underwent eight treatments of TMS, electromagnetic pulses to the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Though the study’s findings are preliminary, cocaine addicted patients reported fewer cravings for cocaine after the eight treatment sessions.
“Addiction is a brain disease, not so different from schizophrenia and not so different from diabetes,” said study co-author Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, chief of clinical psychoneuroendocrinology and neuropsychopharmacology at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. “One reason we are excited about these findings is that this could open up the possibility for the first time to have a biological basis for a treatment to help patients with cocaine addiction.”
TMS works by stimulating the brain’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex with magnetic pulses. This region is involved in controlling inhibition, or impulsive behavior, but it has abnormally low activity in people addicted to cocaine, Leggio said.
“Addiction is a chronic relapsing medical disorder, not bad behavior,” Leggio said. “People who use cocaine and other drugs know when they use drugs that it could be dangerous for them and that they can die, but they use in spite of the consequences.”
Current Treatments of Cocaine Addiction
The traditional methods of treating cocaine addiction include weaning the individual off the drug gradually (or at once), generally with mixed results. Some addicted individuals respond well to this approach, while others don’t stop their cocaine use immediately and many others stop for a short while before taking it up again.
The research community is hard at work to come up with an effective alternative that will work for a higher proportion of chronic cocaine users because continued addiction is often so destructive for individuals and their families.
If TMS proves to be an effective treatment of cocaine addiction, then it will help to solve a serious problem in a more humane way. Those addicted can be treated with TMS on an outpatient basis which takes less time and supervision, and can allow the patient to live a more normal life during treatment.
Addictions and Treatment
Since TMS was developed as a treatment for mental health issues, its potential uses have been the focus of hopeful speculation by researchers and physicians who are keen to make the most of this exciting new technology. TMS has already gained a solid foothold in the medical community by helping patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and treatment resistant depression.
In some countries TMS has been used to treat those that have an addiction to smoking as well as uses in helping to lessen the chronic pain that some patients feel when they have other diseases. Other uses include helping those with obsessive compulsive disorder or anxiety.
The next step is to look at other health issues and explore possible uses of TMS to help people with a variety of ailments and a variety of symptoms. Effective research will transform the way TMS is used in the future.