A cocaine addiction can ruin the life of the user and the people around them. It can also leave the person’s finances in ruin owing to the high cost of sustaining the habit. One of the challenges in treating cocaine addiction so far has been the lack of medication that can be used to effectively aid the process. For heroin addicts, drugs such as methadone have been used effectively to counter the effects of the drug and help in combating cravings. For cocaine, it seems there is finally hope of a similar drug coming into play.
A team of scientists from the University of Copenhagen have discovered a protein that can be used to help in future treatment of addiction. The protein in question is a dopamine transporter and the scientists are hoping that it can be used to develop a treatment that will prevent cocaine from having any pleasurable effect when taken. This is similar to the effect methadone has on recovering heroin addicts. Without the promise of a ‘high’, the patients have less motivation to use the drug. However, there is a lot of work that first needs to be done before a treatment is ready.
One of the researchers attached to the project has stated that they are hoping to gain a better understanding of how the protein transports dopamine so they are able to devise the treatment against cocaine. The researcher also stated that although they believe this would help in treating addiction to cocaine, the patient will still need to go into rehabilitation and receive other forms of treatment.
Cocaine works by blocking off dopamine receptors in the brain, preventing the brain chemical from being recycled and leading to an accumulation. The new protein has been described as a vacuum cleaner that clears up the released dopamine. Without the accumulation of dopamine, the euphoric effects that come with it will not be present.
Despite the potential of the drug to change the way cocaine addiction is treated, one of the researchers involved in the project, Claus Juul Loland, has stated that they don’t consider it a ‘wonder drug’ since it will be doing for cocaine what methadone is already doing in the treatment of heroin addiction. The protein is effective because cocaine acts as an inhibitor to it. The scientists have stated that they’ve found other inhibitors that bind to the protein just like cocaine but it’s only with cocaine that the stimulatory response is inhibited.
Cocaine is one of the oldest known and most addictive drugs in the world. There are millions of people addicted to the drug throughout the world and treatment isn’t always effective. This is because of the lack of medication to help with the withdrawal symptoms which normally include strong cravings. Thanks to the strong psychological withdrawal symptoms, many people who attempt to kick the habit end up relapsing just to ease the discomfort. A drug that could help to combat the cravings may be the key to more effective forms of treatment.