Can Ritalin Cure Cocaine Addiction? ADHD Drug Helps Coke Addicts Quell Cravings [REPORT]

By Philip Ross on June 28, 2013 3:58 PM EDT

ritalin drug use
Ritalin could cure cocaine addiction, health officials say. (Photo: Flickr/Ian Barbour)

Can Ritalin cure cocaine addiction? That's what researchers in New York City believe. They say a single dose of Ritalin, the drug frequently prescribed to people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, could help regulate cocaine addicts' self-control and cravings.

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Researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City say that Ritalin, a methylphenidate, affects people addicted to cocaine by normalizing certain brain circuits. Their study on Ritalin and cocaine use was published in JAMA psychiatry.

"Orally administered methylphenidate increases dopamine in the brain, similar to cocaine, but without the strong addictive properties," Rita Goldstein, Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai, told ANI. Goldstein led the research team in answering whether or not Ritalin can cure cocaine addiction.

According to CBS News, researchers recruited 18 adults who were addicted to cocaine but were otherwise healthy, and gave half of the volunteers a 20 milligram pill of Ritalin and half of them a placebo. They then took MRI scans of the volunteers' brains in order to measure the strength of particular brain circuits known to affect addiction.

"They found that a single dose of methylphenidate normalized the brain pathways, increasing and reducing some of the neural activity between different networks of brain regions," CBS News reports. "Given the brain networks involved, Goldstein theorized methylphenidate may have boosted the brain's control over the automatic, impaired responses that may lead a user to compulsively seek a drug."

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, about 800,000 Americans older than 12 are dependent on cocaine. About 1,800 people try cocaine for the first time every day; 25 percent of them were under the age of 18.

While not the most widely abused illicit drug (marijuana is the most, followed by pain relievers), cocaine ranks as one of the most dangerous. Nearly 423,000 emergency room visits in 2009 were related to cocaine use, according to SAMHSA -- more than marijuana, heroin, and other stimulants and illicit drugs.

Cocaine is a powerful and addictive stimulant drug made from coca plant leaves found in South America. The powdered, white form of cocaine is either snorted through the nostrils, where it absorbs into the system through the nasal tissue, or is dissolved in water and injected straight into the bloodstream.

The initial effects of cocaine are euphoria, talkativeness and a burst of energy. It also increases a person's heart rate and blood pressure. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cocaine works by causing dopamine, a feel-good chemical in our brains, to flood our brain circuits. Normally, neurons release dopamine in response to "potential rewards," like smelling good food. The brain then dumps the dopamine back into the system. Cocaine stops the recycle process from happening.

Cocaine's effects on the body depend on the method of use. Frequent, chronic users can become malnourished and experience rapid weight loss, because of the drug's tendency to curb appetite. There can also be heart problems and stomach issues associated with cocaine use.

People who use the drug occasionally but tend to binge on it, can become irritable, restless and anxious. Cocaine is also cited as a drug that can lead to risky behavior, like unprotected sex.

Read more from iScience Times:

Pizza Man Cocaine Delivery: How Did Papa John's Employee Ramon Rodriguez Get Caught Selling Drugs?

Anti-Cocaine Vaccine May Be Cure For Addicts; How Does It Prevent The Drug From Reaching The Brain?

Fake Nuns Cocaine: 5 Other Bold Disguises In Drug Smuggling History

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