Mechanistic Link Between ADHD-Prescribed Medications and Cocaine Abuse Is Monthly Publication Highlight

Dec 13, 2013

Treating adolescents diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with atomoxetine rather than gold standard stimulant treatments, such as methylphenidate, may help prevent cocaine abuse in those individuals. A publication in the Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology which reported findings from a series of studies using animal models to evaluate this problem has been named the UK College of Pharmacy Research Publication Highlight for December.

The article is entitled “Adolescent Atomoxetine Treatment in a Rodent Model of ADHD: Effects on Cocaine Self-Administration and Dopamine Transporters in Frontostriatal Regions” and was published by a graduate student, Sucharita S. Somkuwar, and Linda P. Dwoskin, Associate Dean for Research and Professor in the College’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. The Dwoskin Laboratory partnered with Professor Kathleen M. Kantak and graduate student Chloe J. Jordan at Boston University’s Department of Psychology on this study.

Cocaine abuse and ADHD are comorbid. Clinical research shows that treating adolescents with methylphenidate, a stimulant ADHD medication, enhances a patient’s vulnerability to cocaine abuse as an adult. The current study showed this effect of methylphenidate in an animal model, and moreover, showed that atomoxetine treatment during adolescence was not associated with enhanced liability for cocaine abuse. Further, underlying neurochemical mechanisms associated with these behavioral outcomes were identified. This research suggests that atomoxetine may be better suited to treat adolescents diagnosed with ADHD, particularly for those patients that are at high risk for abusing cocaine.

However, this research also highlights the importance of properly diagnosing ADHD prior to treating with atomoxetine. Misdiagnosis of ADHD and subsequent atomoxetine treatment could result in an augmentation of the development of cocaine abuse in adulthood.

“The findings in this publication represent a component of both Sucharita and Chloe’s thesis research. I am so proud of their efforts to increase our understanding of ADHD treatment outcomes, which will ultimately lead to the discovery of safer and more effective ADHD therapeutics” said Dr. Dwoskin. Of note, this project reignited Drs. Dwoskin and Kantak research collaboration, which began at Syracuse University when they were undergraduate and graduate students, respectively.

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