The largest-ever study of cocaine users who suffered heart-related effects from taking the drug finds that a specially designed plan of emergency-room care for such patients can save both lives and money. Such plans have been in place for traditional chest pain patients for years, and many hospitals set aside part of their ERs to hold them for observation. But doctors have lacked criteria to help them decide how long to hold patients whose chest pain was caused by cocaine – even as millions of Americans are using the drug.
New understanding of the changes in brain chemistry caused by chronic cocaine use has suggested a novel treatment that could reduce the intense craving that forms the core of cocaine addiction. “Our studies show that administration of an existing drug ? n-acetyl cysteine, which is used to treat cystic fibrosis and several other disorders ? reverses the changes in brain chemistry that appear to cause cocaine craving,” said David A. Baker, a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Peter W. Kalivas at the Medical University of South Carolina.