Curbing Cocaine Cravings with a Pill

Doxazosin may reduce cocaine addiction

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A drug frequently prescribed for issues of the heart and prostate may be able to help cocaine addicts curb their need, a new report suggests.

Investigators from Baylor College of Medicine experimented with doxazosin, sold under the brand name Cardura.

This medication is often prescribed for high blood pressure and benign prostatic hypertrophy), a pharmaceutical created to relax bladder and prostate muscles, on people both addicted and dependent on cocaine.

While the medicine’s soothing properties have been effective in reducing unhealthy blood pressure levels, in this study they calmed the “high” obtained from ingesting cocaine.

"Ask your doctor about the use of doxazosin to fight cocaine addiction"

“Medications that block noradrenergic α1 receptors, such as doxazosin, may be useful as treatments for cocaine dependence and should be evaluated further,” explains head author on the study, Thomas Newton, M.D., a doctor at the Menninger Psychiatric and Behavioral Healthcare Clinic in Houston.

Studies into both the impact of drugs and genes previously suggested that noradrenergic mechanisms help mediate cocaine’s relationship to the body, and Dr. Newton and colleagues hoped to test these skills of mediation with doxazosin.

The team recruited cocaine-dependent volunteers who had not yet sought treatment for their addiction. Meeting sufficient DSM-IV criteria for dependence, doctors and psychiatrists assessed thirteen individuals between the ages of 18 and 55.

About half of the patients were given doxazosin while the others received a placebo. The participants took one-milligram pills of doxazosin several times throughout the day until they reached four milligrams a day, occuring on day ten.

At this point, the doctors administered 20-40 milligrams of cocaine to the addicted volunteers at three points throughout the day, twice in the morning and once in the late afternoon, and assessed the patients thereafter.

The Beck Depression Inventory analyzed mood while their reaction to cocaine was measured using scales that characterized the subjective effects of the drug. Ratings were obtained for their level of high, symptoms of cocaine, stimulation level, positive sensations, negative side effects, anxiety levels, affection for cocaine, and likeliness to use again if given access.

Doctors made their assessments before cocaine dosing and in five minute intervals thereafter until reaching fifty-five minutes after dosing. During these times, the clinicians gathered heart rate and blood pressure measures as well.

“Doxazosin treatment significantly [weakened] several of the positive subjective effects produced by cocaine, including ratings of ‘stimulated’ and ‘like cocaine’” notes Newton. “Doxazosin also [weakened] ratings of ‘likely to use,’ an index of craving.”

The doctors mentioned that the treatment was very well tolerated with no negative outward symptoms. However, Newton and his colleagues suggest that these results be “interpreted with caution” due to the small sample size used within the study.

Grants from the National Institute of Health supported this study, published through the journal PLoS one on February 3, 2012. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 6, 2012
Last Updated:
February 7, 2012