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Research using EEG pinpoints vulnerability to cocaine relapse

September 12, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Research published online last week in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that cocaine addicts' vulnerability to relapse might be strongest around the time when they are being released from a treatment program. The research was groundbreaking in that it confirmed subjects' self-report of cue-induced craving with electroencephalography (EEG) readings.

The study, conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, gathered EEG data for 76 cocaine-addicted adults with varying durations of abstinence. The researchers found that the individuals appeared to be most vulnerable to relapse between month one and month six of abstinence.

They also found that patient self-reports of a decline in drug craving over time often did not match up with what the EEG readings showed. Study participants undergoing EEG were shown pictures of cocaine and of individuals preparing and using the drug.

“Results of this study are alarming in that they suggest that many people struggling with drug addiction are being released from treatment programs at the time they need the most support,” said Rita Goldstein, PhD, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the medical school and principal investigator of the study. “Our results could help guide the implementation of alternative, individually tailored and optimally timed intervention, prevention and treatment strategies.”