Baclofen for Treating Cocaine Addiction
Could Baclofen Help Cocaine Addicts?
Baclofen, which treats muscle spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, is being research as a potential treatment for cocaine withdrawal. However, researchers aren’t sure whether it has anti-craving or anti-anxiety effects, even though it has been found to reduce cocaine use in studies. Medications for cocaine addiction should be combined with other treatments, such as counseling.
Cocaine addiction is an aggressive and unforgiving condition that can leave you at the mercy of the drug’s effects and cravings.
Within the US, an estimated 1.7 million adults suffer from cocaine addictions, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
As of yet, no medication has received FDA approval as an effective treatment for cocaine addiction. Baclofen is currently being tested as a potential treatment to help provide relief for the withdrawal symptoms associated with cocaine use.
Baclofen’s Counteracting Effects
The sensations that go along with a cocaine “high” can make it difficult to resist using. Some people experience a rush of energy while others may feel acutely aware, alert and calm all at once. These feelings result from the chemical changes taking in place in the brain. Over time, brain cells become damaged and unable to function without the presence of cocaine and so the addiction begins.
One of baclofen’s main benefits is its ability to keep the brain from secreting the neurotransmitter dopamine. When ingested, cocaine triggers a rapid release of dopamine chemicals in the brain, which produces the sought-after sensations cocaine brings. Baclofen eliminates the drug’s effect by limiting the amount of dopamine chemicals released in the brain. And while dopamine secretions play a pivotal role in managing cocaine’s effects, other chemical processes may also be at work.
Anti-Craving or Anti-Anxiety Effects?
One study conducted by Washington State University shows baclofen acting on the brain cells responsible for dopamine secretions. Another study conducted by the Leningrad Regional Dispensary of Narcology in Russia indicates baclofen may actually be creating a calming effect by triggering GABA secretions in the brain. GABA – another neurotransmitter chemical – has the ability to relax the nervous system and alleviate many of the withdrawal symptoms that develop when a person stops using.
The different results obtained by the two studies leaves researchers unsure as to whether baclofen works as an anti-craving treatment or an anti-anxiety treatment. Since one study shows dopamine effects as the determining factor while the other points to GABA, further research studies are needed to fully understand how baclofen affects brain chemical processes.
Reward System Pathways
While dopamine and GABA are two of the primary brain chemicals affected by cocaine use, these two chemicals interact with many other neurotransmitter pathways and processes in the brain. Some of the chemicals and areas affected include:
- Noradrenaline chemical pathways
- Glutamate chemical pathways
- Frontal cortex metabolism functions
- Catecholamine chemical pathways
Baclofen’s potential effects on dopamine and GABA may possibly redirect the domino-like effects that occur when cocaine enters the brain.
Because of the unforgiving nature of cocaine addiction, even an effective medication treatment requires additional supports to be in place in order for you to have a successful recovery. Additional support systems often take the form of 12-step groups and psychotherapy on an individual and/or group basis.
One group of study participants were given baclofen in addition to receiving substance abuse counseling while another group received a placebo drug as well as counseling support. Participants in the baclofen group showed significant decreases in their cocaine use while the placebo group showed little to no change.
Considering the studies currently underway, baclofen medication treatments may someday provide needed relief and recovery for those who suffer from cocaine addiction. Everyone who struggles with cocaine addiction should seek out help to give themselves a real chance at recovery.
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