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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) And The Fight To Get On Top Of Cocaine Addiction

TMS Brain image

Addiction treatment has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. Specialty treatments, like TMS, are allowing people to receive new treatments that, alongside intensive psychotherapy, can help tackle the battles of cocaine addiction.

rTMS is an innovative approach to treating the cravings of cocaine addiction. It’s a non-invasive therapy that uses repetitive magnetic pulses to calm the areas of the brain that cause cravings and reset the chemical levels within the brain that had been upset by the use of cocaine. In other words the rTMS machine emits high frequency magnetic pulses to the area of the brain known to cause the condition, this treatment stimulates the brain and causes ‘neuroplasticity’ – which is the brain’s ability to mend and build connections between the nerve cells.

What Medical Treatment Is Available To Deal With Cocaine Use?

There is no NICE approved medical treatment for cocaine to date. Several different types of medication have been used in the past such as Risperidone (antipsychotic medication), Topiramate (an anticonvulsant), Disulfiram (used to treat alcoholism) and Modanifil (a stimulant used to treat narcolepsy). However, none of these medications have yet been established as an effective treatment and they have their own side effects.

Unlike alcohol withdrawal, cocaine withdrawal is not physically dangerous. It usually consists of symptoms such as agitated thinking and irritability, depression, fatigue, paranoia, unpleasant dreams and sleep issues. Withdrawal can last several weeks depending on how much someone is using, how often and the purity. The usual timeline for withdrawal is as follows:

First 1-3 hours- Symptoms emerge as soon as usage stops. Users start to feel irritable, anxious, and exhausted. Sometimes paranoia sets in and sleep can be a real problem.
Week 1 – Intense cocaine cravings arise. Users feel exhausted but have trouble falling asleep. Vivid, unpleasant dreams are common, as well as depressive mood swings and increased agitated thinking and irritability.
Weeks 2-4 – Depression and strong cocaine cravings continue. Most people at this stage find it hard to concentrate or stay on an “even keel” emotionally. Irritability and agitation also continue.

Evidence Of The Effectiveness Of rTMS

A number of studies have shown that rTMS is effective in reducing craving and consumption in Cocaine using individuals. rTMS resets the Dopamine levels in the brain to those levels, which were present before the use of the Cocaine.

Camprodon (2007) investigated the effect of rTMS on Cocaine craving. In this randomised, crossover study, 6 patients with Cocaine dependence underwent 2 session of rTMS. The authors found a transient effect of one session of TMS with a significant reduction in craving for Cocaine. This research provided the first evidence that one session of high intensity rTMS transiently reduced craving in chronic Cocaine abusers.

Politi (2008) then explored the potential of TMS in reducing Cocaine craving by applying it for 10 daily sessions in 36 cocaine addicts and found a reduction in craving level. These two studies suggested that TMS reduced Cocaine craving. They demonstrated the central role of the pre-frontal cortex in modulating craving.

Terraneo (2016) studied the effects of rTMS on Cocaine intake and craving. This study included a control group who were treated with medication. A total of 32 cocaine addicts were randomly assigned to the experimental group with TMS or the control group. They found a higher number of Cocaine-free urine samples in the TMS group. The average Cocaine craving score was significantly lower score in the TMS group. At the end of the study, the 10 subjects in the control group switched to the TMS group and displayed significant improvement, comparable to those of the original TMS group.

Smart TMS, a UK provider, tested a series of 16 patients who we treated for cocaine addiction with TMS and found that the average reduction in craving was 83%. 11/16 patients (60%) had a craving score of 0 at the end of treatment, and 13/16 (81%) had a negative urine test at the end of treatment.

rTMS is not a Magic Pill

As indicated rTMS has been shown to have a significant effect on reducing or eliminating the cravings for using cocaine but on its own it is not the solution to long term abstinence

Dealing with cravings is just one part of the issue when trying to get on top of a drug problem, be that cocaine, alcohol, or a variety of other drugs. Unless the underlying reasons for the use are addressed then relapse is virtually guaranteed.

There are always 101 reasons not to give up or do something about your cocaine use. You may say, ‘Life under COVID is too stressful to be drug-free’, or ‘Things are not going well at home or work’ or ‘I’ll do it after Xmas’.

Whatever reason you come up with to delay getting help should be carefully examined. Is it possible things at home and work might improve if you weren’t taking drugs? Is your using causing tension with friends or family? While there are many reasons for things not going well – and they may have little to do with drugs – it’s certain that taking loads of cocaine is not going to help in the long term. It’s best to get to the root of the problem and work on solving it, rather than resorting to taking loads of cocaine to mask your issues.

Moreover, you don’t need to go through this alone, we’re here to offer help, support and treatment. We are here to help you identify and handle your triggers and other challenges. We are here to help you identify and deal with the underlying reasons for your use, be that stress, trauma, self-esteem, depression, or anxiety.

New methods of drug and alcohol treatment are changing. If you or someone you care about is struggling with cocaine use, there are options. Help Me Stop’s intensive non-residential 6-week face to face Dayhab programme is effective and accessible. With treatment options in the mornings or afternoons and an inclusive aftercare and family support options to minimize the risk of relapse and to maximize the support of friends and loved ones – it is a real alternative to residential treatment.

Alternatively, our 6-week online drug and alcohol treatment programme is an excellent choice for adults who are working and can’t access face to face services in the day or get to our centre in West London due to COVID restrictions or other reasons. With morning or evening programmes its ideal to fit around work and at more than 50% less than the cost of the face to face programme its real value for money. The online programme is delivered by the same therapists that deliver the face to face programme so whatever your choice you know you are in safe, experienced hands.

If you would like to know more then call us now on 0208 191 9191 or jump onto Live Chat or e-mail us directly

If you would like to know more about rTMS then click on the link here

Chris Cordell is Help Me Stop’s General Manager and is a senior associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, Certified International Recovery Specialist, member of the International Society of Addiction Medicine and a member of the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals.

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