A combination of the drugs naltrexone and buprenorphine might be an effective treatment for cocaine addiction, a study in rats suggests. The study found the drugs made the animals less likely to take cocaine compulsively, while preventing significant withdrawal symptoms, according to Time. Naltrexone and buprenorphine are used to treat heroin and prescription opioid addiction.
There is currently no medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating cocaine addiction.
A clinical trial to test the drug combination in humans is currently enrolling patients who use both cocaine and opioids, the article notes. If the treatment is found to be successful for cocaine addiction, it might also work for addiction to methamphetamine, National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow told the magazine.
The study included two groups of rats. One group was given access to cocaine for only one hour each day. They did not develop signs of dependence. The second group had access to cocaine for six hours a day. They compulsively sought cocaine, and worked increasingly harder to get the drug. A combination of buprenorphine and low doses of naltrexone was able to reduce drug use in the compulsive users, but not in the non-dependent group.
“These findings potentially represent a huge bridge from basic research to the establishment of a new and effective medication for cocaine addiction,” study co-author Leandro F. Vendruscolo of The Scripps Research Institute said in a news release.
The study appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine.