A novel treatment for cocaine use disorders



Cocaine use disorders afflict an estimated one million Americans, resulting in approximately 5,000 deaths from cocaine overdose each year. There is currently no treatment approved to address the neurobiology of this devastating disease.


IRP researchers led by Antonello Bonci, M.D., examined the neurobiological underpinnings of cocaine consumption in rodents using a technology called optogenetics, which allows researchers to control neurons using light. Optogenetically stimulating frontal regions of the brain in rodents reduced cocaine consumption and relapse rate. Further, a pilot study in patients with cocaine use disorders showed that modulating activity in a region of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in humans using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) had similarly beneficial effects.


These findings provide evidence that doctors could use TMS to treat cocaine use disorders. The researchers have further assessed the promising approach in clinical trials and are now in the process of submitting their results to the FDA to begin the approval process for this novel treatment.


Chen BT, Yau HJ, Hatch C, Kusumoto-Yoshida I, Cho SL, Hopf FW, Bonci A. (2013). Rescuing cocaine-induced prefrontal cortex hypoactivity prevents compulsive cocaine seeking. Nature. Apr 18;496(7445):359-62. doi: 10.1038/nature12024. Epub 2013 Apr 3.

Terraneo A, Leggio L, Saladini M, Ermani M, Bonci A, Gallimberti L. (2016). Transcranial magnetic stimulation of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex reduces cocaine use: A pilot study. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. Jan;26(1):37-44. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2015.11.011. Epub 2015 Dec 4.

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, June 13, 2023