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Addict Biol. 2007 Jun;12(2):133-51.

New developments in the pharmacotherapy of cocaine abuse.

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Department of Psychology, University of Cagliari, Italy and Genneruxi Medical Center, Italy.


Despite huge advances in the neuroscience of substance abuse and dependence in the past 20 years, no approved pharmacological treatment exists for cocaine abuse. The available drugs for the treatment of cocaine abuse are poorly effective, hence the need for new compounds to be screened and tested for efficacy: targeting symptoms might improve the effectiveness of the treatment of cocaine abuse and dependence. On the basis of the known neurochemistry of cocaine, some target compounds have been studied: among others, BP-897, a D3 partial agonist; vanoxerine, a highly selective inhibitor of dopamine uptake; aripiprazole, a partial mixed-action agonist approved for the treatment of schizophrenia. Recently modafinil, approved for the treatment of narcolepsy, proved effective in favouring cocaine abstinence in cocaine-abusing people. Some placebo-controlled studies also reported the effectiveness of topiramate, a licensed antiepileptic drug, and of tiagabine, a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) re-uptake inhibitor also approved as an anticonvulsant; both compounds increased cocaine abstinence with no serious adverse events. Promising results came from two more compounds acting on the GABA circuits, baclofen and valproic acid. Finally disulfiram, prescribed with active psychosocial therapy, was found to favour higher retention rates and longer abstinence periods from both alcohol and cocaine in polydrug-abusing patients. An alternative approach rests on the use of vaccines, to date in the experimental stage still. Psychosocial treatments are a useful companion in the pharmacotherapy of cocaine abuse, with group therapy and contingency management therapies improving motivation and social functioning, particularly in patients abusing alcohol as well.

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