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Study Finds Drug Effective in Treating Cocaine Dependence

Update Date: Oct 26, 2013 11:14 AM EDT

For drug addicts, finding ways to quit is relatively limited. Oftentimes, people cannot quit on their own, forcing them to enroll in a rehabilitation program. These programs work by weaning people off the drug slowly and teaching them how to overcome their urges. Even though rehab is one of the only options available to drug addicts, not everyone finds them effective, which suggests that other methods need to be created. Now, in a new study, researchers found that a drug that was just approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat epilepsy and migraines could also treat people with cocaine dependence.

For this study, the research team headed by the chairman of the psychiatry department at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the head of the School's new Brain Science Research Consortium Unit, Bankole A. Johnson, DSc.MD., MB.ChD., MPhill. examined the effects of topiramate. The research team recruited 142 participants over the age of 18 who needed help quitting their cocaine habit. Once the participants were enrolled, they were randomly assigned to the drug group or the placebo group. The study was designed to be a double-blinded study, which meant that the participants and the officials administering the drugs did not know who belonged to which group.

"Our findings reveal that topiramate is a safe and robustly efficacious medicine for the treatment of cocaine dependence, and has the potential to make a major contribution to the global health crisis of addiction," Johnson said reported by Medical Xpress. "However, topiramate treatment also is associated with glaucoma, and higher doses of the drug can increase the risk of side effects; therefore, caution must be exercised when prescribing the drug, especially when given in high doses."

The researchers found that people in the topiramate group had fewer cravings for cocaine in comparison to the placebo group. This group of people was more likely to reduce their use of the addictive drug and reach cocaine-free weeks.  The people in the drug group also had improved global functioning. The side effects included skin sensations, taste distortions, difficulty concentrating and anorexia. The researchers believe that this drug could potentially be used to treat people with addictions who have not found success from other options, such as rehab.

The study was published in JAMA Psychiatry.

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