Cocaine abuse and its treatment

Pharmacotherapy. 1990;10(1):47-65.


Widespread use and abuse of cocaine have increased the frequency with which health professionals must manage acute and chronic intoxication and the complications stemming from drug ingestion. Acute intoxication from catecholamine excess progresses through three stages, affecting the cardiovascular, respiratory, and central nervous systems. Management is to support or return these systems to normal with sedation, beta blockade, and antiarrhythmics. Casual cocaine use is no longer considered benign, and numerous related medical complications are now recognized. Dopaminergic systems are the principal sites of reward and participate in abstinence symptomatology, putatively through depletion of dopamine and changes in receptor sensitivity and responsiveness. Long-term treatment approaches have focused on psychologic strategies of behavior modification and supportive psychotherapy. Pharmacotherapy with desipramine, amantadine, and bromocriptine was shown in preliminary studies to minimize the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal when used adjunctively with psychotherapy. The response to treatment may depend on the patient's premorbid psychiatric status.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Cocaine* / adverse effects
  • Cocaine* / history
  • Cocaine* / pharmacokinetics
  • Cocaine* / toxicity
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Mesencephalon / metabolism*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome
  • Substance-Related Disorders / metabolism
  • Substance-Related Disorders / physiopathology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*


  • Cocaine
  • Dopamine