Rationale: Current evidence and literature reviews provide a strong justification for examining the orexin receptor (OXR) system as a therapeutic target in substance use disorders, including cocaine and other psychostimulants.
Objectives: In this preliminary, proof-of-concept examination of orexin modulation in humans with cocaine use disorder, we measured changes in domains tied to relapse: stress, sleep, cue reactivity, and inhibitory control. Additionally, mood symptoms (anxiety, depression), medication compliance, and side effects were assessed.
Methods: Twenty non-treatment seeking subjects with cocaine use disorder (CUD) received either the OX1R / OX2R antagonist suvorexant PO or placebo at 10 PM daily for two weeks (10 mg week 1, 20 mg week 2). Using psychometrics, smart-watch actigraphy, a cold-pressor stress challenge, and eye-tracking technology, the following domains were examined: sleep, stress/anxiety, cue-reactivity (attentional bias, craving), and inhibitory control. Psychometric data were collected every M/W/F (7 time points). Laboratory data were collected weekly (3 time points).
Results: Bayesian and frequentist generalized linear models were employed in parallel to examine the effects of suvorexant compared to placebo, with a Bayesian posterior probability threshold >80% as evidence of a signal for suvorexant. Notable results favoring suvorexant over placebo included fewer total anti-saccade errors, improved sleep actigraphy (sleep/awake periods), pre/post cold-pressor change in heart rate and salivary cortisol (all posterior probabilities >94%), and craving (posterior probability >87%).
Conclusions: Initial but restricted evidence is provided supporting the orexin system as a modulator of relapse-related processes in cocaine use disorder. Baseline differences in the main outcome variables were not experimentally controlled and differences in craving were observed at baseline. This, in combination with a limited sample size, constrain the nature of the project. The results may serve to inform more comprehensive future research.
Keywords: Cocaine use disorder; Cue reactivity; Inhibitory control; Orexin; Sleep; Suvorexant.
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