There are no medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat a cocaine addiction. Currently, researchers are exploring the effects of cocaine on the brain’s neurotransmitters. Based on the results, they hope that they will come up with a variety of pharmacological treatments for cocaine addiction.
Several medications marketed for other diseases show promise in reducing cocaine use in controlled clinical trials. Among these, disulfiram (used in alcoholism treatment) is the most promising one. Scientists do not know exactly how disulfiram reduces cocaine use and they believe that disulfiram has an ability to inhibit an enzyme that converts dopamine to norepinephrine.
Scientists are also currently working on a cocaine vaccine that could help reduce the chances of a relapse. The vaccine stimulates the immune system into creating cocaine-specific antibodies that could bind to cocaine, preventing it from getting into the brain.
Whether it serves as the primary mode of care or as a result of hospitalization, a comprehensive outpatient program should include a range of treatment strategies. These include supportive counseling, drug education, peer support groups, and family meetings. Exercise therapy may also prove to be helpful.
Caregivers should monitor the patient’s daily activities. Severe depression may require psychotherapy and perhaps the use of medications. Regular telephone support should continue for several months. Many treatment centers offer ongoing group therapy sessions for patients and their families for a period of years following discharge.
During treatment, the goal is to achieve abstinence from mood-altering chemicals, including alcohol. There is no hope for effective treatment as long as the patient continues to use drugs.
Personality problems, emotional difficulties, and psychiatric disorders should be addressed as they arise, but the chances of success are virtually nil unless the patient is drug free.
Another crucial element of long-term treatment is participation in a 12-step recovery program. In recent years, the medical and psychiatric professions have come to recognize the significant contributions that AA and similar programs can make to the lives of substance abusers. Members draw strength and security from meeting with others who understand and share their concerns and can offer practical strategies for surviving one day at a time.
Although cognitive behavioral approaches are effective in the treatment of affective and anxiety disorders, pharmacotherapy dominates the clinical management of these mental issues. In contrast to the treatment of affective and anxiety disorders, when it comes to substance use disorders, pharmacotherapy plays a relatively minor role and support groups like a 12-step program plays a greater role in long term recovery.