Venlafaxine treatment of cocaine
abusers with depressive disorders

McDowell DM, Levin FR, Seracini AM, Nunes EV
New York State Psychiatric Institute,
New York, USA.
Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse 2000 Feb; 26(1):25-31


OBJECTIVE: There appears to be a link between depression and cocaine that is both complex and elusive. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of venlafaxine, a broad spectrum antidepressant, in the treatment of 13 patients who were diagnosed with cocaine dependence and comorbid major depressive disorder (MDD). METHOD: The majority of the patients in the study were part of a larger double-blind trial using desipramine. This subgroup consisted of people who had failed to respond to desipramine or could not tolerate its side effects. Thirteen patients were enrolled, 10 men and 3 women. Of the patients, 11 completed the 12-week study. All of the patients had a Hamilton Depression (HAM-D) score greater than 14 at baseline, and each had used at least $20 worth of cocaine per week in the 4 weeks prior to entering the study. In addition, all of the patients received weekly relapse prevention therapy throughout the study. The median dose of venlafaxine was 150 mg/day. RESULTS: The 11 patients who completed the study had significant reductions in mood symptoms by the end of the study. The average total HAM-D score at baseline was 18.0 +/- 3.2; at Week 2, it was 1.9 +/- 0.94; and at the end of the study, it was 1.4 +/- 1.8. The majority of patients reported reductions of cocaine use short of abstinence. All subjects reported a greater than 75% reduction in cocaine use compared to baseline. There were no serious side effects. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this small study indicate that venlafaxine may be a safe, well-tolerated, rapidly acting, and effective treatment for patients with a dual diagnosis of depression and cocaine dependence.

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