Can Coffee Reduce Symptoms of Cocaine Addiction?

By McCarton Ackerman 11/25/14

Researchers found that caffeine can potentially block changes in the brain caused by cocaine, particularly in women.

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A new study published in the Journal of Caffeine Research claims that coffee could help reduce the symptoms of cocaine addiction and could be particularly helpful for women.

Researchers for the project noted that caffeine can serve as a neuroprotective block against some of the brain changes associated with drug use. They also discovered that while cocaine shifts the menstrual cycle and creates high levels of oestrogen, which can spark susceptibility to cocaine abuse and addiction, caffeine actually blocks these changes.

Cocaine triggers the release of the “happy hormone” in the brain known as dopamine, but caffeine stimulates adenosine receptors in the brain that regulate dopamine levels. Using vaginal smears from rats before and after they took cocaine and caffeine, the findings showed that while cocaine induced random changes in the animals’ menstrual cycle, these changes did not take place if the rats were given caffeine 30 minutes after cocaine use.

Patricia A. Broderick, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Caffeine Research and lead author of the study, called the findings “cutting-edge work that has never been shown before. It is critical knowledge relevant to women's reproductive health.”

However, some scientists have argued that coffee is actually similar to cocaine in that regular use can produce a strong dependency. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported last year that emergency room visits attributed to energy drinks more than doubled from 10,068 in 2007 to 20,783 in 2011. UK native John Jackson actually died from a caffeine overdose in October 2013 after reportedly eating over 300 Hero Instant Energy Mints, or about triple the amount of caffeine considered to be safe.

Some beverages even skip caffeine and go straight for the cocaine. Coca leaf tea has been consumed in many South American countries for thousands of years, but also includes a small amount of cocaine that is enough to act as a stimulant similar to caffeine. Locals also say it provides a less “jittery” effect than caffeine.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.