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Cocaine, Stimulants, and MDMA. dr shabeel pn. ASAM’s 2008 Review Course in Addiction Medicine. ACCME required disclosure of relevant commercial relationships : Dr. Drexler has nothing to disclose. Objectives. The participant will be able to understand:

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Asam s 2008 review course in addiction medicine

ASAM’s 2008 Review Course in Addiction Medicine

ACCME required disclosure of

relevant commercial relationships:

Dr. Drexler has nothing to disclose.


  • The participant will be able to understand:

  • How chemical structure of stimulants influences pharmacology

  • Basic neurobiology of stimulant dependence

  • How to recognize and manage acute stimulant intoxication and withdrawal


  • Background

  • Stimulant- structure and pharmacology

  • Neurobiology of stimulant addiction

  • Management of acute intoxication and withdrawal

  • Relapse Prevention


  • Stimulants have been used by humans for thousands of years to increase energy.

  • Plant-derived stimulants have been refined and new drugs developed to increase potency and duration.

  • As potency increases negative effects become apparent.

History of stimulant use
History of Stimulant Use

  • 3000 B.C. – Ma-Huang

  • 0 A.D. – Coca leaf chewing and coca tea

  • 1860 – Cocaine isolated

  • 1887 – Amphetamine synthesized

  • 1914 – Harrison Narcotic Act

    • MDMA

  • 1919 – Methamphetamine

  • 1930s – Benzedrine inhaler

  • 1959 – Benzedrine banned

  • 1980s – Crack

  • Epidemiology

    • Cocaine

      • 2nd most widely used illicit drug in U.S.

      • Most frequent illicit drug in ED visits

      • In 2004 (NHSDA and DAWN)

        • 11.2% lifetime use; 1.5% past year; 0.8% past month

        • 2.7% lifetime prevalence of dependence

        • 19% of drug-related ER visits

        • 39% of drug-related deaths


    • Synthetic Stimulants

      • Non-prescription use peaked at 1.3% in 1985

      • In 2004 (NHSDA)

        • 6.6% lifetime non-prescription use

        • 1.7% lifetime prevalence of dependence

        • Methamphetamine

          • Most commonly used synthetic stimulant

          • In 2004, 59% of users had a use disorder

            • Up from 27.5 % in 2002.

    Club drugs epidemiology dawn july 2001
    Club Drugs Epidemiology DAWN, July 2001


    • Background

    • Stimulant- structure and pharmacology

    • Neurobiology of stimulant addiction

    • Management of acute intoxication and withdrawal

    Structure and pharmacology
    Structure and Pharmacology

    • All stimulant drugs share a common basic phenylalkylamine structure.

      • Additions to the phenyl group tend to increase hallucinogenic properties.

      • Additions of a methyl group to the nitrogen atom tend to increase the stimulant properties.




    Stimulant drugs















    MDA / MDMA*

    Stimulant Drugs

    Cocaine chemical properties

    Cocaine HCl

    High melting point (195°C)

    Pyrolysis destroys most of the drug

    Soluble in water (EtOH:H2O = 1:8)

    Easily dissolved for injection or absorption across mucous membranes

    Crack or Freebase

    Low melting point (98°C)

    Easy to smoke

    Insoluble in water (EtOH:H2O = 100:1)

    Difficult to dissolve for injection

    Cocaine Chemical Properties

    Stimulant chemical properties
    Stimulant Chemical Properties

    • Most variations on phenylethylamine

    • Phenylisopropylamine stimulants have stereoisomers

      • D-isomers - 3 – 5 times more CNS activity

        • D-methamphetamine – potent stimulant

        • L-methamphetamine- OTC decongestant




    Mdma properties
    MDMA Properties

    • 3,4- Methylenedioxymethamphetamine

    • Stimulant, hallucinogenic, empathogenic

    • Taken orally as a pill

      • 50 mg to 250 mg

      • “Stacking” with other drugs (LSD, DM, ephedra)

    • Non-linear kinetics

      • Saturation of high-affinity enzymes

      • Large increase in response to small dose increase

    Clinical uses of stimulants1

    Prescription cocaine

    Local anesthetic

    Prescription stimulants



    Weight loss


    Depression, pain*

    Parenteral phenylephrine

    Spinal anesthesia


    Terminate SVT

    OTC stimulants



    None for MDMA

    Clinical Uses of Stimulants


    • Brand name: Desoxyn

    • ADHD: 20 – 25 mg / day

    • Obesity: 15 mg / day

    • Binge: 125 mg – 1000 mg/dose

    • Toxic doses*:

      • 4- 6 mg/kg q2h (>3 gm/day)

      • 37% loss of dopamine

    *Segal et al: 2003; Neuropsychopharmacology


    Smoking and IV

    Reaches brain in 6 – 8 seconds

    Onset of action and peak occur in minutes

    Rapid decline in effect

    Rapid onset of withdrawal symptoms and craving

    Intranasal and oral

    Slower absorption and peak effect (30 – 45 minutes)

    Longer peak effect and gradual decline

    Peak intensity less than smoking or IV

    Alkalinization enhances absorption





    Metabolism and elimination


    Hydrolysis of ester bonds

    Ecgonine methylester


    Cytochrome P450

    Eliminated in urine

    Benzoylecgonine detectable for ~3 days

    Acidifying s excretion


    To metabolites

    Deamination- inactive

    Oxidation- active

    Parahydroxylation- active

    Eliminated in urine-

    Increased by lower pH

    Metabolism and Elimination

    Drug interactions
    Drug Interactions

    • Other stimulants-  sympathetic activity

      • Cardiac arrhythmia

      • Hypertension

      • Seizure

      • Death

  • MAOIs- inhibit metabolism of stimulants

  • Tricyclics- may block presynaptic uptake

  • Cocaine + EtOH = cocaethylene

    •  cardiac toxicity due to longer half-life

  • Stimulant effects
    Stimulant Effects

    • Range of effects vary depending on

      • Structure

      • Dose

      • Route of administration

      • Duration and intensity of use

    • Typical initial doses for desired effects:

      • 5 to 20 mg of oral amphetamine, methylphenidate

      • 100 to 200 mg of oral cocaine

      • 15 to 20 mg of smoked cocaine

      • 50 to 250 mg of MDMA

    Acute stimulant effects


    Euphoria (low dose)

     energy, alertness

     sociability

     appetite

    Dysphoria (high dose)

    Anxiety, panic attacks

    Irritability, agitation



    Movement disorders



     HR, BP, vascular resistance, temperature

    Acute myocardial infarction (AMI), ischemia, arrhythmia



    Shortness of breath


    Pulmonary edema

    Acute Stimulant Effects

    Acute stimulant effects cont




    Acute renal failure secondary to myoglobinuria


    Ketoacidosis in diabetics

    Activation of HPA

    Sexual function

    Increased arousal

    Prolonged erections

    Head and neck

    Chronic rhinitis, nasal septal perforation



    Fetal effects

    Most Category C

    Acute Stimulant Effects (cont)

    Mechanisms of action
    Mechanisms of Action

    • All stimulants enhance monoamine activity

      • Inhibition of presynaptic monoamine transporters

        • Dopamine – reward, psychosis

        • Norephinephrine – physiological arousal

        • Sertonin – mood elevation, psychosis

      • OTC stimulants bind to and activate norepinephrine receptors

    Mesocorticolimbic pathway
    Mesocorticolimbic Pathway

    Anterior cingulate

    Prefrontal cortex

    Nucleus accumbens

    Ventral tegmental area

    Dopamine da
    Dopamine (DA)

    • Stimulants acutely enhance dopamine activity

      • Cocaine, methylphenidate- transporter blockers

      • Amphetamines- false substrates

    • Stimulants chronically deplete dopamine

    • DA activity key in mediating addictive potential

      • Fluctuations in mesolimbic DA parallel cocaine self-administration

      • Stimulant potency correlates with potency for binding at DA transporter

    Cocaine microdialysis in awake squirrel monkeys
    CocaineMicrodialysis in Awake Squirrel Monkeys

    Norepinephrine ne
    Norepinephrine (NE)

    • Stimulants acutely block NE transporter

      •  plasma NE and epinephine

      • NE release correlates with subjective and physiological stimulant effects

    • Ephedrine related compounds stimulate alpha-adrenergic NE receptors

    Serotonin 5 ht
    Serotonin (5-HT)

    • All stimulants acutely enhance 5-HT activity by blocking serotonin transporter

      • MDMA s 5-HT by blocking transporters

      • Cocaine acutely s firing in mesolimbic serotonergic neurons, but s firing in dorsal raphe nucleus

    • Serotonin appears to play a permissive, but not obligatory role in reward

    Other neurotransmitters
    Other Neurotransmitters

    • Endogenous opioid activity

      • No direct stimulant effect

      • Cocaine indirectly s

    • Mesolimbic glutamate

      • Cocaine s

      • Amphetamine s

    • Acetylcholine

      • Cocaine s

    • Sodium channel blockade (cocaine only)


    • Background

    • Stimulant- structure and pharmacology

    • Neurobiology of stimulant addiction

    • Management of acute intoxication and withdrawal

    Dsm iv substance dependence
    DSM-IV Substance Dependence

    • >/= 3of the following over a 12-month period:

      • Tolerance

      • Characteristic withdrawal

      • Larger amountsthan intended

      • Persistent efforts to cut down or control use

      • A great deal of time spent gettingthe substance, taking it, or recovering

      • Important activitiesgiven up or reduced

      • Continued use despite psychological or physical problem caused by or exacerbated by use

    Neurobiology of dependence
    Neurobiology of Dependence

    • Sensitization of incentive salience

      • Drug

      • Conditioned cues

    • Impairment of inhibition of urges to use

    • Chronic effects of drug

      • Signal transduction

      • Gene transcription

    Mesocorticolimbic pathway1
    Mesocorticolimbic Pathway

    Anterior cingulate

    Prefrontal cortex

    Nucleus accumbens

    Ventral tegmental area

    Amygdala limbic connections
    Amygdala – Limbic Connections

    Nucleus accumbens


    Prefrontal limbic inhibition
    Prefrontal - Limbic Inhibition

    Orbitofrontal cortex

    Nucleus accumbens

    Cocaine craving-related neural activations: Men

    drug use - neutral




    -34 mm

    +34 mm




    -19 mm

    +19 mm

    -9 mm

    +9 mm







    • Background

    • Stimulant- structure and pharmacology

    • Neurobiology of stimulant addiction

    • Management of acute intoxication and withdrawal

    Initial evaluation of stimulant intoxication
    Initial Evaluation of Stimulant Intoxication

    • Drug history

    • Physical examination

    • Laboratory examination

    • Manage basic life support functions

      • T> 102°F – Cooling blanket

      • T> 106°F – Cool saline hydration, ice water lavage

    • Remove drug from GI tract

      • Activated charcoal or gastric lavage

      • If within one hour of ingestion

    Management of severe agitation
    Management of Severe Agitation

    • Benzodiazepines- first line

      • Protect against CNS and cardiovascular toxicity

      • Lorazepam 2 – 4 mg PO or IV q 15 min until sedate

      • Repeat every 1 – 3 hours

    • Antipsychotics- second line

      • May prevent heat dissipation, lower seizure threshold, prolong QTc, increase dyskinesias

      • Haloperidol 2 to 10 mg PO, IM or IV q 6 – 24 hours

    • Avoid physical restraints

    Cardiovascular effects of stimulants
    Cardiovascular Effects of Stimulants

    • Myocardial ischemia is common.

      • Vasoconstriction

      • Increased myocardial workload

      • Increased platelet aggregation

        • Differential - AMI, aortic dissection, pneumothorax, endocarditis, or pneumonia

    • Arrhythmias

      • Due to ischemia, catecholamines, or sodium channel blockade

    Management of chest pain
    Management of Chest Pain

    • Observe for 12 – 24 hours

    • ECG-

      • Low sensitivity (36%)

      • Low predictive value (18%)

    • Cardiac enzymes:

      • Serial CPK- MB or troponin

    • ~ 15% of patients with stimulant-induced chest pain will have AMI.

    Management of arrhythmias
    Management of Arrhythmias

    • Treat underlying conditions

      • AMI

      • Electrolyte and acid-base abnormalities

      • Hypoxia

    • Many will resolve without treatment

    • Avoid Class I antiarrhythic drugs

    • Follow ACLS guidelines

    Management of seizures
    Management of Seizures

    • Benzodiazepines

      • Lorazepam 2 to 10 mg IV over 2 minutes

      • Diazepam 5 to 10 mg IV over 2 minutes

      • Repeat as needed

      • Monitor respirations, intubation available

    Management of rhabdomyolysis
    Management of Rhabdomyolysis

    • Diagnosis requires high suspicion

      • Muscle swelling and myalgia often absent

      • Plasma CK > 5 times normal

      • Urinalysis positive for heme without RBCs

    • IV hydration – urine output 2 ml/kg/hour

    • Urine pH > 5.6 – sodium bicarbonate

    Management of hypertension
    Management of Hypertension

    • Benzodiazepines first line

      • Lower myocardial oxygen demand

      • Lower seizure risk*

    • If severe hypertension persists

      • Alpha-adrenergic blocker

        • Phentolamine 2 to 20 mg IV over 10 min

      • No beta-adrenergic blockers

        • Unopposed alpha stimulation s vasoconstriction

    Dsm iv cocaine withdrawal
    DSM-IV Cocaine Withdrawal

    • A. Cessation of (or reduction in) cocaine use that has been heavy and prolonged.

    • B. Dysphoric mood and two (or more) :

      • Fatigue

      • Vivid, unpleasant dreams

      • Insomnia or hypersomnia

      • Increased appetite

      • Psychomotor retardation or agitation

    Management of withdrawal
    Management of Withdrawal

    • Most symptoms resolve within 2 weeks without treatment

    • Hospitalization for suicidality or psychosis

    • Pharmacologic treatment not necessary

    Relapse prevention

    Psychosocial treatment

    Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

    Contingency management (MIEDAR)

    12-step facilitation- ?

    Motivation Enhancement Therapy- ?

    MATRIX model

    Treat comorbidities


    No FDA approved medications


    Dopaminergic agents


    Anticonvulsants (GVG, topiramate)

    Relapse Prevention


    • Stimulants are common causes of drug-related morbidity and mortality.

    • Chemical structure of stimulants relates to the pharmacologic properties.

    • Neurobiology of stimulant addiction is related to blockade of monoamine transporters.

    • Management of acute intoxication and withdrawal is symptom driven.

    • Relapse prevention is based on comprehensive biopsychosocial treatment.