Man talking with clinician at a table

Researchers Pinpoint When Cocaine-Addicted Individuals Are Most Vulnerable To Relapse


NEW YORK, New York (Sept. 8, 2016) – New research from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai using electroencephalography indicates that adults addicted to cocaine may be increasingly vulnerable to relapse from day two to one month of abstinence, and most vulnerable between one and six months. The findings suggest that the most intense periods of craving for illicit substances often coincide with patients’ release from addiction treatment programs and facilities.


“It is clear that cue-induced craving, elicited by the exposure to cues previously associated with drug use, plays a major role in relapse,” reads the study. “Until now, studies have used self-reported measures to assess cue-induced craving.”


In this study and in contrast to the EEG measures, self-reported craving showed a gradual decline with increasing abstinence during the duration, underscoring a potential disconnect between the physiological response to drug-related cues in addicted individuals and their perception of this response.


“Our results are important because they identify an objectively ascertained period of high vulnerability to relapse,” says Dr. Muhammad Parvas, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and the study’s lead author. “Unfortunately, this period of vulnerability coincides with the window of discharge from most treatment programs, perhaps increasing a person’s propensity to relapse.”


Over five and a half years, the research team collected data from EEG recordings in 76 adults addicted to cocaine with varying durations of abstinence (2 days, one week, one month, 6 months, and one year).


“Results of this study are alarming in that they suggest that many people struggling with drug addiction are being released from treatment programs at the time they need the most support,” said Rita Goldstein, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine and Principal Investigator of the study. “Our results could help guide the implementation of alternative, individually tailored and optimally timed intervention, prevention, and treatment strategies.”


Vertava Health has long advocated for going beyond the 30-day model of treatment to create a program tailored to that individual. It is unknown to us at what point 30 days was heralded as the standard for rehabilitation from addiction, but in many of our cases, it’s just not enough time. We advocate keeping the person longer in a program that’s right for them.


Cocaine is not just making headlines in the recent medical news. Just last week, a 48-year-old Australian man smuggling 1.1 kilograms (2.4lbs.) of it admitted to police at Sydney Airport that he was carrying it in his digestive tract. 92 kilos of cocaine were confiscated Saturday by agents with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, Cleveland Police and the Ohio State Highway Patrol in one of the largest busts in Cleveland in the last decade. Police and customs officials in Spain intercepted nearly 2,000 lbs. Of cocaine hidden in a shipment of bananas Sunday. Officials say this is a common practice in North America as well because the smell of fruits and fresh foods can often mask the odor of drugs.


Distributors have even gone so far as to use surgical procedures to transport cocaine. A Colombian woman was stopped in Berlin in March and was found to be carrying 2.2 lbs. of cocaine in her breasts.


A new experiential therapy developed by researchers at Cardiff University Is working to wipe clean the memories associated with taking cocaine. The drug produces a buildup of the neurochemical dopamine, which causes euphoria. It can have a strong impact on the limbic system, which is the area of the brain responsible for pleasure. Researchers have harnessed a molecule called PD325901, which essentially blocks the pathway in the brain to pleasure derived from drug use.


“We collected all available molecules which block this pathway, awaiting clinical trial, and we tested them in animal models for cocaine addiction,” Professor Riccardo Brambilla told Business Insider. “We found one molecule which actually does the job very nicely.”


Eric Clapton sang in the lyrics to his song “Cocaine”, written by J.J. Cole “She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie, cocaine.” One thing that actually doesn’t lie are the numbers. It has now been scientifically proven that more treatment is needed than 30 days for the average person suffering from cocaine addiction, and more help is needed. We can all start by dropping 30 days as the standard for treatment coverage, and allowing insurance companies, therapists and clients to make the health care decisions that are right for them.


Whether 15 days, 30 days, or six months, take the time you need to heal. There’s a place for you at Vertava Health.