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Curbing Cocaine Cravings

Could Ritalin Break the Cycle of Cocaine?

Could the stimulant drug, Ritalin, prescribed for the treatment of ADHD also help break the addictive cycle of cocaine? According to Dr. Rita Goldstein, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, there is research that has shown this may be true.[1] Ritalin has been seen in a couple of studies to normalize the nerve pathways that are unbalanced in a cocaine addict’s brain.1

What Does Cocaine do to an Individual Who Uses?

CocaineSAMHSA reports that 800,000 Americans over the age of 12 are dependent upon cocaine, a drug derived from the coca plant grown in South America.1 It is inhaled, injected, or processed into a rock crystal form and smoked.1

According to Goldstein, cocaine addiction is the number one reason for emergency room visits among all of the illicit drugs, and refers to SAMHSA’s 2009 report when stating that it was involved in 423,000 visits during that year.1

Cocaine causes a person’s brain to overproduce dopamine, a chemical that controls pleasure and movement.1 During addiction, dopamine pathways become dysregulated and respond less to stimulants, causing people to use more compulsively.1 Ritalin, like cocaine, targets dopamine transporters.1

A Study: Controlling Cocaine Cravings with Ritalin

Goldstein and colleagues published a study in JAMA Psychiatry on June 26 2013 where adults addicted to cocaine were randomized and given a 20mg pill of Ritalin or a placebo.1 Then, MRI brain scans were taken when they were at rest.1 Non-addicted individuals served as controls. Goldstein and colleagues looked to compare the addicted individuals’ brain connectivity pathways to those of non-addicted individuals, both with and without Ritalin.1 Findings showed that Ritalin normalized the brain pathways of those addicted to cocaine.1 It increased and reduced certain needed neural activity to lessen drug seeking activity.1

The uptake of Ritalin is slower than that of cocaine, which is an essential part of other replacement treatment therapies, such as methadone and nicotine patches.1 Therefore, Ritalin may help those addicted to cocaine stay sober.1 Still, studies regarding treatment need to be conducted before Ritalin can be seen as a treatment for cocaine addiction.1



[1] Jaslow, R. (2013, June 27). Cocaine addiction may be cured by Ritalin. CBS News. Retrieved July 26, 2013, from http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57591202/cocaine-addiction-may-be-cured-by-ritalin/ Cocaine.

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