Researchers Identify Stages of Cocaine Addiction and Targeted Treatment

Over the years addiction treatment has undergone an evolution. Not too long ago addiction was an extremely taboo topic and those who suffered had a hard time finding accessible care. Addiction was looked at as a problem of the lower class or of somehow lesser people. It was a problem that inflicted the weak and in order to overcome it you needed to have enough willpower to not use the drug or alcohol that was ruining your life. Times have certainly changed and now researches are looking into the medical reasons behind the causes in order to develop effective treatment options.

The problem that researchers are trying to solve is that medications for abuse such as, antidepressants, anti-anxiety, opiate blockers or alcohol blockers are all prescribed without really looking at the cause of the addiction in most cases. These medications can be more like a Band-Aid than an actual treatment.

According to researchers, addiction is broken down into stages. The first stage is called strategic drug-seeking. This stage is where the person makes a decision to try the drug because they want to feel the high. In contrast, the second stage of addiction is called habitual drug-seeking. This stage is when a person no longer does the drug because they want to - they do the drug because they have to in order to feel ok. Scientists are looking into attacking addiction by addressing the different phases the addict goes through.

This is important when it comes to cocaine addiction. Cocaine addiction is not something that is widely studied when it comes to the medical community, especially not in the form of pharmacotherapy. Researchers have found ways to help combat heroin and opiate abuse and alcohol abuse. However, cocaine addiction is not being heavily addressed when it comes to combating the disease medically.

By focusing on the different stages a cocaine addict goes through in their dependency, researchers believe they have found a medical way to help a person get over their addiction to cocaine. In the beginning stages of a cocaine addiction, a person’s brain will become sensitive to medicine that blocks the dopamine receptors. Dopamine receptors allow the addict to feel a euphoric sensation. By blocking the receptors, the person will have less of a desire to get high on cocaine.

"The notion that particular brain mechanisms are engaged only at particular phases of the addiction process strikes me as an important insight that has yet to be harnessed in developing new medications for addiction treatment," said Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "This study highlights that dopamine receptor blockers might play a role, but only at particular phases of the addiction process."