Researchers Find "Vaccine" for Cocaine


In emergency rooms across the United States, a miraculous drug for opiate overdose is used almost daily. Narcan is used to treat the respiratory depression seen in opioid overdose – heroin and morphine. This drug can almost immediately block the effects of opioid narcotics and it is used to save lives in overdose situations. It has even been suggested that the drug be given away to heroin users so it can be administered by addicts themselves. Until now, no such drug existed for cocaine overdose.

Researchers have been investigating possible antibody style drugs to block cocaine’s effects. The technology uses the same principle as vaccines for diseases like polio or measles. The idea has been to treat drug addiction by generating an immune response to the illegal substance – in effect, priming the body to fight off the drug itself. If successful, these vaccines would be used in drug treatment so that patients, even if they did get their drug, wouldn’t get the expected effects and it would help them maintain abstinence.

A spin off from this research, demonstrated in mice, is an immediate acting injection that can directly block cocaine. If it works in humans, it will give doctors a way to treat cocaine overdoses in a fashion similar to what is being done for opiates.

To mimic an overdose situation, scientists gave mice a lethal dose of cocaine and followed up with the antibodies. This reduced mortality to about a fifth of expected. They also found a “stripped down” version of the same antibody was able to save all of the mice who were overdosed. According to reports, “There was a reversal of the signs of cocaine toxicity within seconds of the injection.”

The antibodies wont’ be approved for use in humans until further testing, however, since the drug would be such a boon, it may fall under the FDA fast track program. If it is, the drug could be approved in a matter of months rather than years.


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