New research using animals indicates that a combination of the medications buprenorphine and naltrexone might serve as an effective treatment for cocaine addiction without increasing the risk of opioid addiction in the treated population.
Published in the August 2012 issue of Science Translational Medicine, the study found that using low doses of naltrexone in combination with buprenorphine in a rat population decreased compulsive self-administration of cocaine without producing the opioid withdrawal seen in rats that receive buprenorphine alone.
Previous research has indicated that naltrexone, approved in the U.S. for both opioid and alcohol dependence, blocks the actions of buprenorphine at receptors associated with drug reward but allows buprenorphine to act at other receptor sites associated with compulsive cocaine use.
Results of the study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), could help allay concerns about prescribing buprenorphine to cocaine-addicted individuals who do not have a history of opioid use. No medications currently have federal approval for the treatment of cocaine addiction, but researchers believe these research results could offer clues for future medication development.