A brain-scanning study at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, conducted with collaborators from Stony Brook University, reveals that an oral dose of methylphenidate, commonly known as Ritalin, improves impaired brain function and enhances cognitive performance in people who are addicted to cocaine. The study - to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of September 6, 2010 - suggests that methylphenidate, combined with cognitive interventions, may have a role in facilitating recovery from drug addiction.
"Previous studies have shown that methylphenidate does not decrease cocaine use or prevent relapse in addicted individuals, so it wouldn't work to treat cocaine addiction directly, the way methadone works to treat heroin abuse," said Rita Z. Goldstein, a psychologist who leads the neuropsychoimaging group at Brookhaven Lab. "But other studies show that methylphenidate does decrease behaviors such as risk taking and impulsivity and improves brain function and cognitive performance in a range of other conditions that also affect the brain's prefrontal cortex, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), some forms of dementia, and certain kinds of brain injury. If it also has these positive effects in cocaine-addicted individuals, then it could be a useful component of a treatment strategy that helps increase recovering addicts' impulse control."
Read more: Ritalin Improves Brain Function, Task Performance in Cocaine Abusers