Zapping cocaine addiction

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  08 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6355, pp. 960-963
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6355.960

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution


Among the major addictions, cocaine is the only one without a therapy approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is a wicked habit to kick without help, as some 1 million people who are dependent on the drug in the United States can attest. A noninvasive method now being tested in clinical trials by a small cadre of researchers may at last offer help. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), applied by running electric current through a coil held near the scalp, is thought to tweak the out-of-whack brain circuits that define cocaine addiction. TMS is already approved for treating depression. But the researchers testing TMS today in people addicted to cocaine are aiming to strengthen impulse control and to restore to normality a reward circuit that is abnormally active when users are presented with cues like photos of cocaine. Although the therapy has been used in an uncontrolled setting on hundreds of cocaine users in Italy, the trials now underway will provide the first rigorous, blinded tests of whether it works.