Ritalin Could Help Improve Brain Function in Cocaine Addicts
The study, led by Rita Z. Goldstein, a psychologist at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, used brain scans to find out whether methylphenidate (Ritalin) could positively effect brain function and cognitive performance in cocaine addicts. Previous studies have shown than methylphenidate helps decrease risk-taking behaviors and impulsivity among people with ADHD, some forms of dementia, and some types of brain injury.
Goldstein and colleagues performed brain scans on 13 cocaine addicts and 14 non-addicts. After being given a low dose of methylphenidate or a placebo, both groups were asked to perform a cognitive task, which involved pushing a button to identify the color of a printed word. Some words were related to drug use and others were neutral. Correct answers were awarded with money.
The researchers found that cocaine addicts who were given methylphenidate had improved brain function and were less likely to press the button incorrectly or prematurely, which is a measure of impulsivity, than addicts who were given a placebo. Addicts who were given a placebo showed reduced function in the prefrontal cortex regions that help regulate emotion, cognition, and stimuli response. Previous research has found that these areas of the prefrontal cortex are impaired in cocaine addicts.
The researchers also found that the greater the improvement in accuracy with methylphenidate, the greater the activity in the prefrontal cortex areas, showing that the improvements in brain function were directly related to the improvements in cognitive performance.
Goldstein noted that more research needs to be done, but that their results suggest that methylphenidate could help people who are recovering from drug addiction through enhanced prefrontal cortex function and decreased impulsivity.
Source: Science Daily, Ritalin Improves Brain Function, Task Performance in Cocaine Abusers, Study Finds, September 7, 2010