Can Coffee Help Cocaine Addicts Stay Clean?
In the most recent edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of Caffeine Research, an article was published on research that looked into the effects of caffeine on the brains of cocaine addicts and found that caffeine consumption can counteract cravings associated with cocaine addiction by regulating women’s menstrual cycles.
Excessive cocaine use can cause the menstrual cycle to go haywire, creating high levels of the hormone oestrogen and leaving a woman more vulnerable to cocaine cravings. The biology of the oestrogen-cocaine connection is somewhat murky, but women who use cocaine regularly may be doing serious damage to their reproductive systems—and the alterations in their menstrual functioning apparently make their yearning for cocaine even worse, setting up a vicious cycle that could ultimately endanger their very survival.
But caffeine might dampen this effect, negating menstrual variations related to cocaine abuse and returning oestrogen levels to normal. The study discussed in the Journal of Caffeine Research was carried out using animals, so the data collected may or may not be transferrable to humans. More research into the question will need to be done, but the discovery could represent “critical knowledge relevant to women’s reproductive health.” These are the words of Patricia Broderick, the study’s lead author.
The fact that caffeine can apparently help reduce the likelihood of reproductive malfunctioning in women who abuse cocaine is noteworthy. But caffeine also helps cancel the biological effects of cocaine abuse in another important way. A key factor in cocaine’s intoxicating and addictive capacities is its ability to stimulate the brain to produce greater quantities of the hormone dopamine, which is associated with feelings of pleasure and a release from stress and anxiety. Dopamine is responsible for the rush of euphoria a cocaine user experiences shortly after consuming the drug, and when the production process switches into hyperdrive, it provides the essential nutrients a cocaine addiction needs to blossom and grow.
Caffeine, however, can act as an antidote to the body’s overproduction of dopamine. It does so by stimulating the activity of the brain’s adenosine receptors, which moderate sleeping patterns and have the capacity to absorb excess amounts of dopamine. Caffeine taken simultaneously with or shortly after cocaine can help keep dopamine levels in balance, sabotaging the attempts of cocaine to create insatiable cravings that will keep the addict coming back again and again.
With Coffee and Cocaine, Caution Is Called For
It is premature to see caffeine as a remedy for cocaine cravings. In fact, any attempts to self-medicate by using caffeine products to cancel out the effects of cocaine intoxication could very well end in disaster, since caffeine itself is a nervous system stimulant that can be addictive if taken too frequently.
Nevertheless, the chemical disruptions in the body and the brain caused by cocaine abuse are many and myriad, and anything that might be done to alleviate at least some of this havoc would be welcome. Caffeine is already used quite frequently—and effectively—as a booster in pain medications, so its curative properties have already been established in at least one other context.