Cocaine Overdose Treatment Shows Promise in Animal Study

A potential cocaine overdose treatment has shown promise in a study of mice, according to the Los Angeles Times. The researchers said the findings could lead to human clinical trials.

“This would be the first specific antidote for cocaine toxicity,” researcher Kim Janda, PhD, of The Scripps Research Institute, in La Jolla, California, said in a news release. Dr. Janda is also working on vaccines to treat addiction. These vaccines prompt the immune system to produce antibodies to block a drug before it can affect the body or brain. They would be given after a person already has an addiction.

There are no effective treatments for cocaine overdose, which can be deadly, the article notes. Dr. Janda’s new treatment is a passive vaccine. The scientists used synthetically produced antibodies to bind cocaine and remove it from circulation. They found the antibody produced a large reduction in mouse deaths when injected either before giving them cocaine, or shortly afterwards. The article notes mice metabolize cocaine in a fashion similar to that of humans.

The scientists are now trying to find ways to produce their cocaine antidote in large quantities, in an economical way. “If we can do that, then there would be no reason not to push it into clinical trials,” Dr. Janda said.

He said the drug could be used not only to treat overdoses, but also to prevent near-term relapses. “A lot of people that overdose end up going back to the drug rather quickly, but this antibody would stay in their circulation for a few weeks at least, and during that time the drug wouldn’t have an effect on them.” He added the drug also could be given to patients in addiction recovery or detox programs in addition to other treatments, such as antidepressants, and counseling.

The findings are published in Molecular Pharmaceutics.