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Ritalin May Help In Treating Addiction

A single dose of Ritalin (methylphenidate) may help improve brain function in people addicted to cocaine, an imaging study carried out by scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai showed. The study has been published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Ritalin was found to modify connectivity in some of the brain circuits associated with craving and self-control among individuals addicted to cocaine.

Previous studies had demonstrated how oral methylphenidate could help cocaine users in resolving a cognitive conflict or ignoring emotionally distracting words.

Methylphenidate raises dopamine and norepinephrine activity in the brain, so does cocaine. However, as Ritalin is taken orally, it takes longer to reach peak effect, which reduces the risk of abuse. Ritalin extends dopamine's action, and thus improves signaling which leads to better cognitive functions, including attention and information processing.

Study leader, Rita Goldstein, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai, said:

"Orally administered methylphenidate increases dopamine in the brain, similar to cocaine, but without the strong addictive properties. We wanted to determine whether such substitutive properties, which are helpful in other replacement therapies such as using nicotine gum instead of smoking cigarettes or methadone instead of heroin, would play a role in enhancing brain connectivity between regions of potential importance for intervention in cocaine addiction."

First author, Anna Konova, added "Using fMRI, we found that methylphenidate did indeed have a beneficial impact on the connectivity between several brain centers associated with addiction."

The study included 18 individuals, all of them addicted to cocaine. They were randomly selected into two groups: The oral dose of methylphenidate group The oral dose of placebo group Dr. Goldstein and colleagues used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) to see how strong the connections were in parts of the brain known to be associated with addiction.

Imaging scans were carried out before and during the peak drug effects. They also assessed each participant to determine their addiction severity - the aim being to see whether this might have a bearing on the results.

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