Drug Combination May Help Treat Cocaine Addiction, Study Suggests

A new study suggests combining the anti-seizure drug topiramate with amphetamines may help treat cocaine addiction. The Los Angeles Times reports topiramate has shown promise in treating nicotine and alcohol dependence, while amphetamines are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Both classes of drugs have been tested independently as a treatment for cocaine addiction. Topiramate is slow to take effect, while amphetamines have not shown promise by themselves as a treatment for cocaine dependence.

No single drug has been proven effective in treating cocaine addiction, the article notes.

In the new study, 39 people with cocaine dependence were given the drug combination for 120 days, while 42 received a placebo. Those who received the drug combination were about twice as likely to be abstinent from cocaine use for three consecutive weeks (33 percent vs. 16.7 percent). Participants in both groups received psychotherapy designed to keep them on their medication, while avoiding street drugs.

The combination treatment appeared to work within a few weeks. Previous studies of topiramate alone indicated the drug took eight weeks to show an effect. The new treatment seemed most effective in those who used cocaine most frequently. The combination appears to correct several chemical imbalances in the brain caused by frequent use of cocaine, the researchers note in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

“The combination of mixed amphetamine salts and topiramate appears promising as a treatment for cocaine dependence,” the researchers from Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute noted in a news release. “The positive results observed in this study need to be replicated in a larger, multicenter clinical trial. The findings also provide encouragement for the strategy of testing medication combinations, rather than single agents, for cocaine dependence.”

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