Many substance abuse rehabilitation professionals agree that there is currently no effective therapeutic drug treatment available for cocaine addiction. For opiate users, rehabs often taper usage and use maintenance medications like Subutex and Suboxone to help people move past their addictions. Behavioral therapy has been essentially the only viable approach in treating an addiction to cocaine. Cocaine use is still widespread in the USA. The US National Institute on Drug Abuse’s latest estimation comes to just under one and a half million Americans suffering from cocaine addiction. Any potential solutions beyond group and individual therapy with addiction specialists and psychologists have thus far remained unexplored and untapped.
Recently, a group of researchers conducting their work in Europe and the US have produced results in a study which theorizes that cocaine addiction can be eased with a treatment referred to as repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS). In basic terms, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation involves stimulating target areas of the brain with a magnetic pulse, which amounts to around the same strength level of a MRI scan. These low frequency pulses have been found to reduce activity in the targeted areas of the brain. This concept can be tailored to target the area of the brain that craves cocaine.
The implications of the study are exciting considering the lack of physiological treatment options for addiction to cocaine. The main field study, which was conducted at the University of Padova Medical School in Italy under a Dr. Luigi Gallimberti’s team of top scientists involved 32 patients who had sought help for cocaine addictions. These patients were randomly split into two different groups. One group received the standard symptom relieving medications. The other group received the experimental repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation treatment.
The results were impressive. The patients in the rTMS group recieved eight treatments over 29 days. These participants reported less cravings than those receiving the traditional symptom relieving medications. Over time, 69 percent of the participants in the experimental rTMS group showed no relapse to cocaine use. In the control group this figure was only 19 percent.
rTMS is non-invasive and the study indicated it is benign to patients for application in treating cocaine addiction. The method has been used in the past to treat mental disorders like depression and neurological ailments such as neuropathy. Moving forward, researchers involved in this study are optimistic about this new approach to treating the addicted brain using repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to treat cocaine addiction.