A study that was recently published in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics has documented the potential effectiveness of a “vaccine” designed to prevent cocaine users from dying due to cocaine overdose.

The study, which was conducted by researchers with The Scripps Research, involved injecting a genetically modified anti-cocaine antibody (GNCgzk) into laboratory mice. The researchers, who have been working on “vaccines” for a variety of oft-abused substances, were testing the ability of GNCgzk to rapidly remove cocaine molecules from the bloodstream, before they can reach the brain and cause irreversible damage.

An April 18 ScienceDaily post provided the following details about the cocaine vaccine study:

In a preliminary test, the scientists showed an injection of GNCgzk antibodies 30 minutes before an injection of a lethal cocaine dose greatly reduced the signs of overdose — such as awkward movements and seizures — and kept all treated mice alive.

By contrast, about half of untreated mice and 15 percent of GNC92H2-treated mice died. [GNC92H2 is a similar antibody, which was tested by this same research team in 2005.]

In a test that better simulated a real-life emergency situation, mice were first given a cocaine overdose, and three minutes later were infused with GNCgzk. About half of untreated mice were killed by such a dose.

While GNC92H2 reduced that rate to about 28 percent, the new GNCgzk antibodies reduced the mortality rate further, to 20 percent.

Because a cocaine high typically lasts only an hour or so, individuals who abuse or are addicted to cocaine often go on cocaine “binges,”  which involves taking multiple doses in a short period of time. Thus cocaine abusers commonly put themselves at risk for overdose.

While vaccines such as the one tested by the Scripps team do not lessen an addicted individual’s cravings for cocaine, they do show promise in keeping cocaine addicts and abusers alive by preventing the irreversible damage that can result from a cocaine overdose.

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Photo at the top of this post by Flickr user adronicusmax, licensed for use with attribution via Creative Commons.