Introduction: Magnesium influences the nervous system via its actions on the release and metabolism of neurotransmitters, and abnormal magnesium metabolism has been implicated in several neuropsychiatric disorders with prominent mood symptoms. The aim of this study was to compare the serum levels of magnesium of cocaine addicts to those of heroin addicts and normal controls. We also attempted to clarify the relationship between the pathophysiology of cocaine abuse and magnesium levels by investigating their association with various clinical dimensions. Methods: Eighty-five consecutive subjects with a history of cocaine or opiate use disorders were recruited, evaluated and compared with 100 controls. The cocaine and heroin abusers were assessed with a 10-cm Visual Analogue Scale, the Symptom Check List-90 Revised, the Brown-Goodwin Scale, and the Barrat Impulsiveness Scale. Results: Magnesium levels were higher in the cocaine group compared to the opiate group and control. Male subjects had lower magnesium levels than the females of all three groups. Scores of impulsiveness, aggressiveness, craving and psychiatric symptomatology were not significantly different between the opiate and cocaine addicts. Discussion: This is the first study evaluating the magnesium level in cocaine addicts. Cocaine addicts showed higher total plasma magnesium levels than opiate addicts and normal controls, even though they remained in the normal range. The roles of the psychiatric comorbidity, of a pharmacokinetic association and of a pharmacodynamic interaction are discussed. Further prospective studies comparing serum levels of cocaine at different times are needed.

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