Disulfiram treatment for cocaine dependence in methadone-maintained opioid addicts.

(Petrakis IL, Carroll KM, Nich C, Gordon LT, McCance-Katz EF, Frankforter T, Rounsaville BJ.)
Department of Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.

AIMS: Cocaine use by patients on methadone maintenance treatment is a widespread problem and is associated with a poorer prognosis. Recent studies have evaluated disulfiram as a treatment for individuals with comorbid alcohol and cocaine abuse. We evaluated the efficacy of disulfiram for cocaine dependence, both with and without co-morbid alcohol abuse, in a group of methadone-maintained opioid addicts. DESIGN: Randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. SETTING: Urban methadone maintenance clinic. PARTICIPANTS: Sixty-seven cocaine-dependent, methadone-maintained, opioid-dependent subjects (52% female; 51% Caucasian). INTERVENTION: Study medication, either disulfiram or placebo, was placed directly in the methadone to ensure compliance for 12 weeks. MEASUREMENTS: Primary outcome measures included weekly assessments of the frequency and quantity of drug and alcohol use, weekly urine toxicology screens and breathalyzer readings. FINDINGS: Disulfiram treated subjects decreased the quantity and frequency of cocaine use significantly more than those treated with placebo. Alcohol use was minimal for all subjects regardless of the medication. CONCLUSIONS: Disulfiram may be an effective pharmacotherapy for cocaine abuse among methadone-maintained opioid addicts, even in those individuals without co-morbid alcohol abuse. Disulfiram inhibits dopamine beta-hydroxylase resulting in an excess of dopamine and decreased synthesis of norepinephrine. Since cocaine is a potent catecholamine re-uptake inhibitor, disulfiram may blunt cocaine craving or alter the "high", resulting in a decreased desire to use cocaine.