Possible Treatment For Cocaine Overdose Found

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Tests of a modified enzyme show it can break down cocaine nearly 1,000 times faster than the human body does on its own.

The Study

Researchers from several universities have teamed up to study the effects of cocaine esterase (CocE) on cocaine toxicity. CocE breaks down cocaine into the same metabolites as the human body does on its own, but works almost 1,000 times faster. CocE has potential for clinical use, treating cocaine overdoses by quickly eliminating cocaine from the body.

CocE is unstable at normal body temperature, so researchers have had to modify the enzyme in order to make it suitable for human use. This study found that the modified enzyme effectively degraded cocaine and two of its active metabolites. It appears also to work when cocaine has been taken in combination with other drugs like alcohol, nicotine, and morphine.

Why Is This Important?

There is currently no FDA-approved medication to treat cocaine toxicity, meaning that what doctors can do to treat cocaine overdoses is very limited. More than half a million ER visits every year are a result of cocaine toxicity from a drug overdose, but patients can only be treated for symptoms while doctors wait for the drug to leave the body naturally. As they wait for this to happen, cocaine and its by-products continue to damage the brain, cardiovascular system, and liver. This new enzyme may help mitigate the damaging effects of cocaine overdose.

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