Potential Cocaine Addiction Treatment Receives NIDA Grant

Temple Receives Over $1 Million in Grant Money

Thanks to a $1.7 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) have a chance to revolutionize cocaine addiction treatment. Their program seeks to explore the use of clavulanic acid in treatment for cocaine use disorder. This acid is a part of an existing therapy called Augmentin, which has been used since the 1980s to resolve bacterial infections.

Clavulanic Acid Shows Potential for Clinical Application

Work carried out in the lab of LKSOM professor Scott Rawls, PhD, indicates that clavulanic acid could serve as an effective therapy for cocaine use disorder. “Much of the research in my laboratory centers on an excitatory signaling molecule in the brain called glutamate, transmission of which is significantly altered by cocaine use,” said Dr. Rawls. “Our research has shown that increased glutamate transmission in the brain is associated with addictive-like behaviors.” Therefore, researchers theorized that drugs regulating glutamate transmission may be effectual in reducing cocaine cravings and relapse.

In preclinical animal trials carried out at LKSOM, clavulanic acid enhanced glutamate uptake in the brain’s astrocytes. This works by increasing the expression of a glutamate transport molecule (GLT-1). Research also indicated that the acid reduced cocaine-induced activation of the brain’s reward pathways: the processes by which users engage in drug-seeking behavior.

Funded by NIDA, the full-scale human study will make use of functional magnetic response imaging technology (fMRI) to examine brain changes in people with cocaine use disorders. This enables researchers to monitor changes in cocaine cravings in real time.

The Current Approach to Cocaine Treatment

Unlike many other substance use disorders, such as alcoholism and opioid use disorder, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is rarely used for those addicted to cocaine. The goal of MAT is to stabilize the brain and body, which keeps the patient from experiencing a high and also reduces cravings during the early phases of recovery. Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications for the treatment of cocaine addiction, which is why Temple’s research is so exciting.

However, there is still a proven, evidence-based path to recovery for those addicted to stimulants. People with a cocaine addiction can experience holistic, effective healing through inpatient programming at an accredited addiction treatment center. One’s stay will last an average of 30 days, during which patients will benefit from a variety of therapies.

Cocaine treatment involves…

  • Group process meetings
  • Individual therapy sessions
  • Relapse prevention education
  • Experiential therapies (adventure therapy, art therapy)
  • Mindfulness trainings
  • Aftercare planning
  • 12-step meetings

Signs of Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction is a particularly devastating disorder. This drug is not only highly addictive, but it can also carry severe health risks. This drug constricts blood vessels, increases blood pressure, and can lead to seizures. Overdose and heart failure are perhaps the most salient concerns. Long-term physical side effects include damage to the brain, heart, lungs, nasal cavity, and gastrointestinal system. Individuals who abuse cocaine also experience harmful psychological side effects.

If you suspect that a loved one may be addicted to cocaine, recognizing the signs can help you to seek help before it’s too late. Common symptoms of a cocaine use disorder include:

  • Overexcitement
  • Paranoia
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Ignoring responsibilities
  • Dilated pupils
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Sniffling or runny nose
  • Nosebleeds
  • White powder or paraphernalia
  • Overconfidence and euphoria
  • Worsened physical appearance
  • Weight loss
  • Aggression
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Poor decision making
  • Disappearing while out (frequent bathroom trips)
  • Legal or financial issues
  • No appetite
  • Worsened work performance
  • Disrupted sleep schedule

In short, individuals with a cocaine use disorder will experience long periods of wakefulness, loss of appetite, nosebleeds, and bloodshot or dilated eyes. Mental symptoms include anxiety, aggressiveness, overconfidence, and euphoria. In daily life, they may rack up debt, begin stealing to support their addiction, or encounter trouble with the law. If you suspect that your loved one may have a problem, we recommend that you reach out to a licensed treatment center today.

Cutting-Edge Addiction Treatment

At Cumberland Heights, we stay up to date on emerging therapies and research in the field of addiction treatment. We incorporate evidence-based, FDA-approved modalities into our programming at our accredited treatment facilities in Tennessee. With locations all around Middle Tennessee, we’re always standing by to support you in your journey to recovery. To learn more about our cocaine treatment services for yourself or a loved one, contact Cumberland Heights today.

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Your gift to Cumberland Heights through our annual and capital initiates gives immediate support to patients and their families. To make a longer term impact a gift to the endowment fund will provide patient assistance funding for years to come.

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