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A Randomized, Controlled, Pilot Trial of Methylphenidate and Cognitive-Behavioral Group Therapy for Cocaine Dependence in Heroin Prescription

Dürsteler-MacFarland, Kenneth M. MA*†; Farronato, Nadine S. MSc*; Strasser, Johannes Dr med*; Boss, Jakob MSc*; Kuntze, Marcus F. Dr med*‡; Petitjean, Sylvie A. PhD*; Bürki, Christoph Dr med§; Wiesbeck, Gerhard A. Dr med*

Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology: February 2013 - Volume 33 - Issue 1 - p 104–108
doi: 10.1097/JCP.0b013e31827bfff4
Brief Reports

Cocaine dependence has proved difficult to treat, whether it occurs alone or in combination with opiate dependence. No intervention has been demonstrated to be uniquely effective. Patients might benefit most from combined pharmacotherapeutic and psychotherapeutic interventions. The present study sought to evaluate the feasibility, tolerability, and efficacy of methylphenidate (MP) and cognitive-behavioral group therapy (CBGT) for cocaine dependence in diacetylmorphine-maintained patients. Sixty-two cocaine-dependent diacetylmorphine-maintained patients participated in a dual-site, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot trial with 4 treatment conditions. The participants were randomly assigned to receive MP or a placebo each combined with either CBGT or treatment as usual for 12 weeks. Methylphenidate 30 mg and a placebo in identical capsules were administered onsite twice daily under supervision in a fixed-dose regimen without titration. Manual-guided CBGT consisted of 12 weekly sessions. Participation in the CBGT sessions was voluntary. Primary outcome measures were retention in pharmacologic treatment, cocaine-free urine samples, self-reported cocaine use, and adverse effects. Urine screens were performed thrice weekly. Seventy-one percent of the participants completed the study protocol. Methylphenidate was well tolerated with similar retention rates compared with the placebo. No serious adverse effects occurred. No difference in cocaine-free urine screens was found across the 4 treatment groups. Self-reported cocaine use was reduced in all 4 study groups. Methylphenidate and CBGT did not provide an advantage over a placebo or treatment as usual in reducing cocaine use. There were no signs of additive benefits of MP and CBGT. Because of the small sample size, the results are preliminary.

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From the *Division of Substance Use Disorders, Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel, Basel; †Division of Substance Use Disorders, Psychiatric University Hospital of Zürich, Zürich; ‡Cura Bern, Private Practice; and §Psychiatric Services of the University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.

Received August 31, 2011; accepted after revision May 9, 2012.

Reprints: Kenneth M. Dürsteler-MacFarland, MA, Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel, Wilhelm Klein-Strasse 27, 4012 Basel, Switzerland (e-mail:

This study was supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (SFOPH grant no. 01.001522/2.24.02-138). The interpretations and conclusions stated in this work do not necessarily represent the position of the SFOPH.

Supplemental digital contents are available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s Web site (

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.