For years cocaine overdose was something that could only be managed. Medications and care could treat the symptoms but other than managing altered mental status, heart rate and preventing seizures, little could be done until the drug wore off. Now though scientists have found an enzyme that could offer fast acting treatment for cocaine overdose.
The new treatment is an enzyme that was actually discovered around the roots of coca plants. This naturally occurring substance processes the active cocaine and, for lack of a better word, eats it.
This enzyme was found years ago but until now it had one flaw that made it useless for treating cocaine overdose. The problem was the enzyme had a half-life of about 12 minutes at human body temperature. That means the heat of the body destroyed the enzyme before it ever had a chance to help a patient.
To solve this problem, a team of scientists built a computer model of the enzyme and simulated the effects high temperature had on it. They were able to use this data to understand the enzymes weaknesses and make it better.
Once the changes were made to the enzyme, it could not only stand up to human body temperatures. It was also 150 percent more efficient at destroying cocaine.
The new enzyme can survive for more than 100 days in the body and process huge amounts of cocaine. This means it can be used as an emergency treatment for overdose but also as a vaccine to block cocaine’s effects if someone uses in the future.
Research in mice shows that the new enzyme protected mice from lethal doses of cocaine for 3 days. The success has also convinced researchers that this typed of enzyme manipulation could be used to treat other drug overdoses.
While there is still a great deal of research to be done before these enzymes come onto the market, they could provide a great way to treat both overdose and long term addiction. It might also open a new door to treat chronic cocaine users.
Once they have been treated with the enzyme, there will be a window of time in which they cannot get high. This may be used to offer other therapies and treatments to lower the overall number of cocaine users.
To learn more about cocaine addiction, check out Life Works Knowledge Centre.