Medication can help prevent relapse in cocaine-dependent males

Science Spotlight

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Science Spotlight

Relapse rates are similar for drug addiction & other chronic illnesses This image compares relapse rates for drug-addicted patients with those suffering from diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. Relapse is common and similar across these illnesses (as is adherence to medication). Thus, drug addiction should be treated like any other chronic illness, with relapse serving as a trigger for renewed intervention.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the NIH, has released the results of a new study showing that the medication baclofen can help prevent relapse in cocaine-dependent males.  Drug cues, even subliminal ones, can trigger people with drug addiction to seek and participate in drug use.  The drug baclofen, which is commonly used to prevent spasms in patients with spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders, interferes with the brain’s early response to these subliminal drug cues and can stunt the internal processing of drug-related cues that can lead to relapse.

In the study, males who received baclofen had significantly reduced responses to drug cues than those in the control group.  As a comparison between the two groups, there were no significant differences when other images were seen, showing that baclofen works exclusively by blocking the effects of drug cues.  These new findings suggest that baclofen can be used to help people with drug addiction avoid triggers and potential relapse.

For a copy of the study abstract (published online April 2), go to:

For a copy of the press release from the University of Pennsylvania, go to:

For more information about cocaine and triggers, go to:

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at or 301-443-6245.