Epilepsy Drug Shown to Reduce Cocaine Dependence, Penn Study Reports
July 18th, 2013
Research completed in late June by a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania shows a prospective new use for the drug topiramate, an anticonvulsant drug used to treat epilepsy.
With such a huge cocaine addiction problem in the United States, and around the world, it is unbelievable that drug counseling — what’s offered by rehab facilities — is basically the only option for treatment. With this idea in mind, the 13-week study was conducted by the department of Psychiatry at Penn Medicine to find the combination of prescription medication and cognitive behavioral therapy that would best assist cocaine addicts in cutting the habit.
Over that time frame, the double-blind, placebo-controlled study tested the effects of topiramate on 170 subjects with a dependency on alcohol and cocaine. The drug, which is FDA approved for the treatment of epilepsy and weight loss through the increase of GABAergic activity, has been shown to help those with drinking problems cut back. How, exactly? Apparently, the higher levels of GABA can reduce the amount of dopamine released in drinking and/or cocaine. As a result of that decrease, the incomparable “high” that is so desperately craved by addicts is no longer attainable. Thus, their want/need for it will fade away.
Although the findings did not reveal some sort of magic potion that would instantaneously end any sort of craving for alcohol or cocaine, they did prove that there was a higher rate of staying in treatment for those treated with topiramate over those placebo-treated subjects. In addition, 20% of the topiramate-treated subjects abstained from their crack cocaine habits during the last three weeks of the trial, while only 7% did the same on the placebo, this article revealed.
Interestingly enough, the drug did not reduce alcohol dependence, but was however most effective on the heaviest cocaine users. Dr. Kampman attributes this statistic to the idea that the “drug likely had a more positive impact on heavy users because they experience higher levels of cocaine euphoria,” as quoted in an article explaining the newsworthy study in Penn Medicine’s website. Consequently, he believes the drug would have a more positive effect on subjects who drink more heavily. Which is great news for those with severe dependency, because if topiramate is eventually used in conjunction with therapy, it could yield a long-lasting sobriety.
What does this mean for addiction treatment? For now, it’s a stepping stone for more research. Dr. Kampman assures future studies will be conducted that will combine topiramate “with other promising medications for the treatment of cocaine dependence in the hope of achieving even higher levels of cocaine abstinence than were achieved with topiramate alone,” he states in the article.
-Sharon Frajlich, Editor