Suboxone Treatment for Cocaine Addiction: What You Need to Know

October 10, 2022

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Suboxone may possibly help treat cocaine addiction, but there isn’t enough evidence to currently support it as a valid treatment option alone. It’s possible future research may confirm it can be used for this purpose, but some experts are skeptical.

Is Suboxone Used To Treat Cocaine Use Disorder?

At this time, no. At present, Suboxone generally isn’t used for the treatment of cocaine use disorder. It’s not approved for this purpose by the FDA, nor is any other medication at this time. 

Efficacy of Suboxone for Cocaine Addiction

Suboxone is an opioid medication used to treat opioid use disorder (OUD).

One 2016 study did show some promising results when patients being treated for cocaine addiction used a 16 mg daily dose of Suboxone.[1] They showed statistically better outcomes compared to those in the control group, at least when Suboxone was also combined with cognitive behavioral therapy.

One study isn’t enough to make conclusive judgments on the efficacy of a drug treatment. The 2016 study discussed above was relatively small, with about 300 participants, 100 of whom were on the 16 mg Suboxone treatment and another who took a 4 mg treatment. Because of the lack of research, we can’t yet make a judgment on the overall efficacy of Suboxone for cocaine addiction. Mechanistically, cocaine and opioids are different drugs and therefore the likelihood that Suboxone will curb cravings for cocaine in the same way that it curbs cravings for opioids is unlikely. 

What About in Patients Who Are Using Both Cocaine and Opioids?

ON THE OTHER HAND, if patients are using opioids as well as cocaine, Suboxone works extremely well to prevent opioid misuse. Many patients tend to use opioids and cocaine at the same time. Therefore, if they are using less or no opioids, they may also use less cocaine. In this way, using Suboxone might also help to decrease cocaine use in patients who are also using opioids. 

Alternatives to Suboxone for Cocaine Addiction Treatment

Unfortunately, there aren’t currently any medications approved to treat cocaine use disorder. This has been an area of research for some time that hasn’t produced very much in the way of promising results.

One of the more interesting developments has been a cocaine vaccine, which can stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies that bind to cocaine and stop it from getting to the brain, reducing a person’s risk of relapse.[3] This is still in the development stage, but it holds promise.

At present, the standard approach to treating a cocaine addiction is through the same behavioral interventions used to treat most types of substance use disorders. Common behavioral treatments include individual, group, and family therapy. [ 3]

Ultimately, if you are struggling with cocaine use, you should seek help at a professional addiction treatment center. Treatment professionals, including medical staff members, will be able to advise you on the best course of treatment for your particular situation. With the right treatment and support, you can work toward discontinuing cocaine use.

Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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Citations

  1. Buprenorphine + Naloxone Plus Naltrexone for the Treatment of Cocaine Dependence: The Cocaine Use Reduction With Buprenorphine (CURB) Study. Addiction. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26948856/. August 2016. Accessed August 2022.
  2. Naltrexone Plus Buprenorphine for Cocaine Use In People With Opioid Dependence. Boston University. https://www.bu.edu/aodhealth/2016/07/01/naltrexone-plus-buprenorphine-for-cocaine-use-in-people-with-opioid-dependence/. July 2016. Accessed August 2022.
  3. How Is Cocaine Addiction Treated? National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-treatments-are-effective-cocaine-abusers. May 2016. Accessed August 2022.

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