Diuretic may help increase brain blood flow in cocaine addicts

August 24, 2003

A study in the August issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence*, appearing in print on 20 August 2003, reports that a diuretic commonly used to treat hypertension and congestive heart failure may improve brain blood flow in cocaine addicts.

Chronic cocaine use is associated with decreases in blood flow to the brain, but the mechanism for this decrease is not fully understood. Researchers theorize cocaine-induced constriction of the arteries in the brain and/or increased blood clotting may be involved.

The problems associated with decreased brain blood flow in some cocaine abusers are the results of major stokes such as paralysis, loss of ability to speak, severe cognitive impairment and in the worst cases death. The patients in these studies with reduced blood flow to their brain had significant impairment in thinking, concentrating, reading and remembering things. They also had significant depressive symptoms that may be related to these deficiencies in brain functioning due to lack of sufficient blood flow to the neurons. Thus, increasing blood flow back to normal can reverse these cognitive impairments and make these patients more responsive to our behavioral treatments which require learning of new skills to refuse drugs. These improvements in cognition can also enable these patients to return to productive employment and be active members of society.

To gauge the effects of the diuretic amiloride on cocaine dependent subjects, Thomas Kosten, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, and colleagues administered amiloride, aspirin or placebo to 49 patients for one month while they resided on a research unit. Blood flow in the brain was measured on admission to the unit and at the end of treatment.

At the time they were enrolled in the study, cocaine-dependent subjects showed decreased cerebral blood flow compared to 18 control subjects. After four weeks of treatment the researchers found that the amiloride, but not aspirin or placebo, improved blood flow in the brain. None of the treatments affected blood clotting.

The authors speculate that the improvement by amiloride may be due to the medication's ability to dilate the arteries in the brain. The authors also pointed out that amiloride may be used in combination with other medications that also increase cerebral blood flow to treat cocaine dependent patients.

Co-authors included Christopher Gottschalk, Karen Tucker, Christine Rinder, M.D., Holly Dey, and Henry Rinder, M.D.
*Drug and Alcohol Dependence is the official journal of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (www.cpdd.org), the largest and oldest organization for the scientific study of drug dependence. Drug and Alcohol Dependence (www.elsevier.com/locate/drugalcdep) is a peer-reviewed journal published by Elsevier, a leading publisher of scientific, technical, and medical journals, books, and reference works. Elsevier is a member of the Reed Elsevier PLC group (www.reedelsevier.com), a leading publishing and information business.

The information contained in Drug and Alcohol Dependence is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment, and the Journal recommends consultation with your physician or healthcare professional.


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