Published in the Dec. 15 edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the randomized, double-blind study found that baclofen used in conjunction with substance abuse counseling significantly reduced cocaine use in recovering addicts compared to placebo coupled with counseling. The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse as part of a project to screen medications with potential for treating cocaine dependence.
"The research shows for the first time, using scientifically rigorous methods, that Baclofen can help people reduce their cocaine use when they are in drug abuse counseling," said Steven Shoptaw, the study's principal investigator and a clinical psychologist at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. "Our findings give us a strong starting place to conduct more definite studies on whether this medication can help cocaine addicts when used outside controlled research clinics. This offers new hope to hundreds of thousands of cocaine abusers who struggle with addiction."
According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, cocaine addiction affects 1.7 million American adults. In Los Angeles County, cocaine abuse ranks second only to alcohol as the most frequent cause for substance abuse treatment.
Baclofen has been approved and prescribed for years to treat spasticity, particularly in muscular sclerosis patients. Major side effects include fatigue and headache. Baclofen may help cocaine addicts by inhibiting the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, undercutting the "high" caused by cocaine.