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A drug prescribed for both epilepsy and weight loss may help reduce cocaine use in people addicted to cocaine and alcohol, a new study suggests.

The drug, topiramate, has been shown in previous studies to help reduce alcohol dependence and to reduce relapse to cocaine. This is the first study to look at its effectiveness in people dependent on both alcohol and cocaine, Newswise reports.

Researchers in the Department of Psychiatry at Penn Medicine studied 170 people who were dependent on alcohol and cocaine. They were randomly assigned to receive either topiramate or a placebo. The study found topiramate reduced alcohol cravings, but not drinking. It also did not reduce cocaine cravings. However, people taking topiramate were more likely than those taking the placebo to stay in treatment and abstain from cocaine during the last three weeks of the study. People with more severe cocaine withdrawal symptoms, such as depressed mood, agitation and restless behavior, appeared to have benefited most from the drug.

The study is published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“Cocaine dependence continues to be a significant public health concern in the United States and Europe. Drug counseling remains the treatment of choice, but many patients do not respond completely to it, so developing effective medications for treatment is a research priority,” first author Kyle M. Kampman, MD said in a news release. “Based on the study’s results, this drug, plus cognitive behavioral therapy, may be a good option for people addicted to both alcohol and cocaine to help reduce their cocaine use.”

Dr. Kampman said future studies are planned that will combine topiramate with other medications for the treatment of cocaine dependence.

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