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Combined medication shows promise for treating cocaine addiction

Science Spotlight

August 08, 2012

cocaine molecule

NIDA-funded research in rats shows that using a combination of buprenorphine and naltrexone can reduce cocaine intake without producing opioid dependence -- a promising step toward an effective medical treatment for cocaine addiction in humans, for which there are no current FDA-approved medications.

Buprenorphine is an opioid medication used for the treatment of opioid addiction. Recent studies suggest that buprenorphine may also be effective in the treatment of cocaine addiction. In fact, a randomized clinical trial showed that buprenorphine can curtail cocaine use independently of opiate use -- in a population of patients with both opiate and cocaine dependence. However, there is concern that giving bupenorphrine -- an opioid -- to opioid-naïve patients puts them at risk for opioid addiction.  In theory, this risk of addiction could be minimized by the concurrent administration of naltrexone, an opioid receptor blocker.

Studies have shown that naltrexone blocks buprenorphine’s actions at one opioid receptor type that is associated with drug reward (i.e., mu), while preserving its ability to potently interact with a second opioid receptor subtype (i.e., kappa), thought to contribute to compulsive cocaine use. This study showed that combining low doses of naltrexone with buprenorphine can reduce cocaine intake without inducing opioid dependence in these animals.

For a copy of the study by Wee et al., go to http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/current.

For more information, contact the NIDA press team at media@nida.nih.gov or 301-443-6245.

NIDA Press Office

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found at www.drugabuse.gov, which is now compatible with your smartphone, iPad or tablet. To order publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA’s DrugPubs research dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or email requests to drugpubs@nida.nih.gov. Online ordering is available at drugpubs.drugabuse.gov. NIDA’s media guide can be found at www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/dear-journalist, and its easy-to-read website can be found at www.easyread.drugabuse.gov. You can follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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    NIDA (6084). Combined medication shows promise for treating cocaine addiction. Retrieved , from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2012/08/combined-medication-shows-promise-treating-cocaine-addiction

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