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The ADHD Drug Ritalin May Help Cocaine Addicts Resist Cravings

Researchers at Yale University say that the ADHD medication Ritalin (methylphenidate) may help cocaine addicts resist urges to use the illegal drug.

Yale University researchers gave 10 cocaine addicted study subjects Ritalin and then gave these subjects a computer test that measures impulse control – subjects had to press a button quickly after seeing the word ‘go’ on a computer screen, and resist the urge to press that button when the word ‘stop’ occasionally flashed on the screen. While being tested, each subject also received an MRI brain scan.

Two days later, each subject once again performed the same test of impulse control, this time without first taking Ritalin (they received a placebo).

The Results

  • The researchers say that Ritalin helped these cocaine addicted people control their impulses during the computer test. The MRI scans revealed that Ritalin caused changes in the functioning of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain known to regulate impulse and behavioral control.

Describing the implications of their results, the Yale researchers concluded that "the ventromedial prefrontal activation suggests a neural process whereby self-control might be improved,” and suggested that medications like Ritalin that can improve self control deficits may be useful in the treatment of cocaine addiction.

The full results of the study can be read in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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