Can Caffeine Counteract Cocaine Addiction?

Results from a new study show that caffeine can block against the changes in the brain associated with cocaine use, specifically in women. This is because cocaine disrupts the menstrual cycle, heightening the probability of addiction, but researchers discovered in the new study that caffeine can block the changes.

Previous research has shown when estrogen levels are high, women are more susceptible to cocaine addiction. It is already known that women are more sensitive to the effects of the drug in general, and show a response to the drug at a much lower dose than men. Because of this, women are much more susceptible to cocaine abuse and addiction than men.

However, the researchers discovered caffeine blocks the changes in a woman’s body, restoring the female cycle, and easing the symptoms of addiction.

As part of the study, researchers examined samples from rats to determine which stage of their estrus cycle they were at. The estrus cycle is the name given to animals' menstrual cycle. These samples were taken immediately before and after the rats had taken cocaine, caffeine, or both at the same time. 

Cocaine induced what seemed to be random changes in the estrus cycle, the researchers found. The random changes were not seen if the rats were given caffeine 30 minutes after cocaine. Furthermore, a combination of cocaine and caffeine did not alter the rats' estrus cycle. Researchers concluded that caffeine blocks the changes to the brain induced by cocaine, adding to earlier research findings that caffeine can help with cocaine addiction.

Professor Patricia Broderick, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Caffeine Research and lead author of the study, said, “This is cutting-edge work that has never been shown before.”

Users experience a high after using cocaine because it stimulates the release of the happy hormone dopamine in the brain. Dopamine creates a euphoric feeling of reward, and can lead to addiction. Caffeine has counteractive properties to the dopamine high because it affects the adenosine system. Adenosine receptors, when stimulated, promote sleep and waking cycles. Adenosine regulates dopamine levels in the brain, decreasing the symptoms of addiction.