Promising Research

This section will present promising new research on treatments that are close to being available or have just begun to be used in people with substance use disorders. These may offer new avenues of treatment to supplement current therapies or provide new therapies for addictions that have previously had no effective treatment options available.

Magnetic Brain Stimulation

Stimulating part of the brain with magnetic pulses may offer a new and safe treatment for cocaine addiction.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (or rTMS) uses a magnet to stimulate nerve cells in a specific targeted site in the brain, in this case the brain's dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain involved in controlling impulsive behavior. rTMS has been studied and used since the 1980’s to treat symptoms of depression when other treatments have not been effective.

Now the first study using rTMS in humans who are addicted to cocaine has been published. While a small study of 32 long-time cocaine users, patients reported significant reduction in cocaine use and fewer cravings for the drug after undergoing eight sessions of rTMS treatment over a month. This study supports the safety and effectiveness of rTMS and paves the way for larger studies to build on these promising findings.

The findings were published in the Dec. 3, 2015 European Neuropsychopharmacology journal issue.

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)

tDCS is a brain stimulation technique. It provides a low intensity electrical current through a battery-operated device to the surface of the head. It has been used for pain, stroke and Parkinson’s Disease as well as for depression. In studies on use for addiction it was found to decrease cravings and lessen anxiety and depression. Treatment protocols for addiction are now being determined including the number of sessions needed and the best length for each session.

The findings were published in the Annals of Neuroscience, October 2016.

Updated May 17, 2018