Women with cocaine addiction who quit during pregnancy may have an easier time achieving long-term abstinence with the help of progesterone supplementation, according to a new study at Yale University.
The study involved 50 pregnant women with cocaine use problems. Of all the women who stopped using cocaine during pregnancy, those who took exogenous progesterone were more likely to remain abstinent after they gave birth than women who received a placebo.
“In our prior work it was striking how committed women were to maintaining abstinence in pregnancy and even after they deliver and then how difficult it was to maintain abstinence,” said Yale researcher Dr. Kimberly Ann Yonkers, who was the study’s lead author.
“There must be something going on biologically that makes it harder for them [to abstain] after they deliver.”
“Women often stop using drugs during pregnancy for the sake of their child,” Yonkers said. But this abstinence is short-lived as 80 percent of these women relapse a year after they deliver, said study author Dr. Ariadna Forray, a psychiatry professor.
With the help of progesterone, however, Forray said she sees the possibility of women staying abstinent not just through the pregnancy, but long after birth.
In the study, half of the women were given progesterone post-pregnancy, and half were given a placebo. In total, 12 of the 50 women relapsed within a three-month period. Of the 12, nine were from the placebo control group and only three were from the progesterone group.
Previous studies on animals have found that progesterone has an anti-craving effect, Yonkers said, adding that her research is the first of its kind because few studies have been done on human patients.
“Nonsynthetic progesterone, a hormone produced in women and one of two main hormones involved in pregnancy and menstruation, is a substance that primary care doctors and obstetricians can prescribe, making it a drug readily available to most women,” Forray said.
Forray added that the women in this study were noticeably committed to the mission of the research
“Women who abuse substances in pregnancy often don’t get treated very nicely because people see them as substance users and not as pregnant women,” Forray said.
Forray is currently conducting a similar study, but with postpartum tobacco users. More women smoke during pregnancy than use cocaine, Forray said, and she hopes to prevent postpartum with the use of progesterone.
“I think that this should be replicated in a larger sample size of postpartum women who attained abstinence,” said Yonkers.
Source: Yale University