Cocaine’s Potential as an Antidepressant

Sherlock Holmes injected it as a 7 percent solution. Coca Cola originally contained 9 milligrams per bottle. Casey Jones got high on it before going to his job as a train conductor. It seems that cocaine has been with us forever, or at least as far back as anyone reading this can remember. 

Native to South America, the leaves of the cocoa scrub bush are concocted into a powder. Once in this powder form, chemistry is applied and the end result is a substance that has been the darling of the drug world since the late 19th century.

Cocaine interferes with the dopamine receptors in your brain, causing an onslaught of exhilaration and euphoria that lasts as long as you stay ahead of the comedown.

In spite of all this, there is some anecdotal evidence that suggests cocaine could be an effective tool against depression.

First, Some History

Cocaine's Potential as an Antidepressant

Cocaine was commonly used by physicians in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a remedy for everything from fatigue to asthma to pain, but its most common use was in the treatment of melancholia, or what today would be called depression. In 1863, French chemist Angelo Mariani wrote that supplementing wine with cocaine was able to bolster the mood of even the most miserable person, and a medical handbook published in 1885 suggested, “the best results yet obtained from the administration of the drug have been in conditions of mental depression.” 

In research introduced to the American Neurological Society that same year, a doctor explained how he injected cocaine into patients who were undergoing “profound grief to great success.” 

Modern Medicine

Today’s antidepressants do not have the same immediate impact as cocaine, which makes them less effective, but also less addictive. Both, however, affect the brain in comparable ways, specifically by leveling out the monoamine neurotransmitters, which are widely thought to be the chemical link to depression. 

While cocaine is only tangentially comparable to today’s antidepressants, there is one pharmaceutical drug from which it is nearly indistinguishable. The prescription drug methylphenidate, which you will know by its brand name, Ritalin. Ritalin and cocaine work in extremely similar ways. Both drugs increase dopamine levels in the brain by barring the reuptake of the same neurotransmitters. 

Ritalin is a frequently prescribed medicine for people who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is also occasionally used to combat treatment-resistant depression, the name given to instances of depression where conventional methods of treatment have yielded no results.

Thus far, there are only a few empirical studies researching the “efficacy of dopaminergic stimulant use in patients with mood disorders.” In the small-scale experiments that have already been printed, the outcomes have been emphatic. As a 2013 review of previous research pointed out, sadly, the likelihood of developing a cocaine addiction basically negates its effectiveness as a treatment of any kind. The review goes on to say that, for those patients who have no documented history of substance abuse, and for whom the more socially acceptable drugs have proven ineffective, dopaminergic stimulants “may provide enough improvement in functional outcome to justify their use.” 

If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, contact a local Treatment & Rehab alternative in Tennessee. You might be interested in Discovery Place’s own treatment center alternatives, such as our 30 Day Residential Addiction Alternative Recovery Program or our Long Term Alternative Recovery Program in Burns, Tennessee. Call us for a free consultation at 1-800-725-0922.

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