Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
A Promising Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
Cocaine addiction affects about 1.5 million Americans and represents a significant health condition. Chronic cocaine use ultimately damages the brain, causing brain volume reduction, impairment in functioning, and permanent damage to blood vessels in the brain. As dopamine neurons become weakened, they cease to function at the normal levels, increasing the addict’s cravings and compulsive behavior associated with the drug.
Until recent years, no reliable treatment has been available to treat cocaine addiction beyond psychotherapy, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). However, deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) has demonstrated promising results for treating cocaine addiction in a collection of small studies undertaken mostly in Italy over the past four years.
Although dTMS has been primarily utilized as an alternative therapy for treating major depressive disorder that is medication-resistant, more and more evidence is indicating its efficacy in treating substance use disorders, especially cocaine. It had been known that compulsive cocaine-seeking behavior was associated with reduced activity in the prelimbic cortex.
What is Deep TMS?
Deep TMS is a non-invasive therapeutic method that stimulates the brain by electromagnetic induction. Using technology that is similar to an MRI machine, it uses a highly focused pulsed magnetic field. The pulses are delivered through the scalp via a coil inside a helmet worn by the patient. The coils are designed to target the prefrontal cortex, penetrating up to 6 cm into the skull where the resulting electrical currents stimulate brain cells.
No anesthesia is required, and the patient can return to their normal activities following each treatment session. Few, if any, side effects have been reported. The ones that have been noted are headache and scalp discomfort.
A cluster of recent studies conducted primarily in Italy, and one at Columbia University Health Center in New York, have shown great promise in the treatment of cocaine addiction using dTMS. In early 2015, Dr. Antonello Bonci, Scientific Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) discovered that cocaine-addicted rats would continue to compulsively seek the drug even after experiencing electric shocks to their feet for their drug-seeking behaviors. However, when Dr. Bonci and his associates used a technique called optogenetics to artificially stimulate brain activity in the rat’s prelimbic cortex, the rats suddenly lost all interest in the cocaine.
It had been discovered recently that, in addicts, certain areas of the prefrontal cortex would light up with neural activity, and then go dark in the absence of the drug. This state is called hypoactive, meaning inhibited or reduced brain activity, which impacts decision-making. This helps explain why both human addicts and lab rats continue to seek the dangerous drug even when aware of the negative consequences.
The studies on the effects of TMS on cocaine addicts are based upon the thesis that magnetic force applied to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex will stimulate brain cells and lead to reduced desire for the drug.
Results of one such study, also led by Dr. Bonci at the University of Padova (Padua), were published in the European journal, Neuropsychopharmacology, November 2015. Although the sampling was small (32 study participants), the findings were encouraging. Bonci states, “We consider this study promising but preliminary. We need to replicate the work in a bigger group of patients using sham-TMS as the control condition.” Dr. Bonci continues, “As far as we know, this work represents the first clinical report indicating that TMS treatment results in significant reduction in cocaine use.”
The study group received 5 daily TMS treatments per week for tree weeks. The control group received pharmacological treatment for symptoms related to their cocaine addiction, such as sleep disturbance, depression, and anxiety). The results showed significantly less craving for cocaine and a significantly higher number of clean urine drug tests among the study group versus the control group. Also, 69% of the study group did not relapse back into cocaine use, where only 19% of the control group abstained from using the drug following the study.
Achieve TMS is Premier Provider of dTMS
Achieve TMS is Southern California’s leading provider of dTMS technology with several convenient locations to serve you. Call our friendly and knowledgeable staff to get answers to any questions you might have about dTMS therapy. Contact us today at (877) 447-6503.