Cocaine dependence is a severe disorder for which no medication has been approved. Like opioids for heroin dependence, replacement therapy with psychostimulants could be an effective therapy for treatment.
To assess the effects of psychostimulants for cocaine abuse and dependence. Specific outcomes include sustained cocaine abstinence and retention in treatment. We also studied the influence of type of drug and comorbid disorders on psychostimulant efficacy.
This is an update of the review previously published in 2010. For this updated review, we searched the Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group Trials Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase and PsycINFO up to 15 February 2016. We handsearched references of obtained articles and consulted experts in the field.
We included randomised parallel group controlled clinical trials comparing the efficacy of a psychostimulant drug versus placebo.
We used standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane.
We included 26 studies involving 2366 participants. The included studies assessed nine drugs: bupropion, dexamphetamine, lisdexamfetamine, methylphenidate, modafinil, mazindol, methamphetamine, mixed amphetamine salts and selegiline. We did not consider any study to be at low risk of bias for all domains included in the Cochrane 'Risk of bias' tool. Attrition bias was the most frequently suspected potential source of bias of the included studies. We found very low quality evidence that psychostimulants improved sustained cocaine abstinence (risk ratio (RR) 1.36, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.05 to 1.77, P = 0.02), but they did not reduce cocaine use (standardised mean difference (SMD) 0.16, 95% CI -0.02 to 0.33) among participants who continued to use it. Furthermore, we found moderate quality evidence that psychostimulants did not improve retention in treatment (RR 1.00, 95% CI 0.93 to 1.06). The proportion of adverse event-induced dropouts and cardiovascular adverse event-induced dropouts was similar for psychostimulants and placebo (RD 0.00, 95% CI -0.01 to 0.01; RD 0.00, 95% CI -0.02 to 0.01, respectively). When we included the type of drug as a moderating variable, the proportion of patients achieving sustained cocaine abstinence was higher with bupropion and dexamphetamine than with placebo. Psychostimulants also appeared to increase the proportion of patients achieving sustained cocaine and heroin abstinence amongst methadone-maintained, dual heroin-cocaine addicts. Retention to treatment was low, though, so our results may be compromised by attrition bias. We found no evidence of publication bias.
This review found mixed results. Psychostimulants improved cocaine abstinence compared to placebo in some analyses but did not improve treatment retention. Since treatment dropout was high, we cannot rule out the possibility that these results were influenced by attrition bias. Existing evidence does not clearly demonstrate the efficacy of any pharmacological treatment for cocaine dependence, but substitution treatment with psychostimulants appears promising and deserves further investigation.