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You've Heard Of Narcan, But What About An Overdose Drug For Cocaine?

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Josh James
/
WUKY

A team of University of Kentucky professors has been awarded $6 million from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to investigate treatments for cocaine users.

While the state expands access to heroin anti-overdose drug Naloxone, also known as Narcan, no FDA-approved drug exists that can reverse cocaine overdoses. UK Professor Chang-Guo Zhan and a crew of university researchers want to change that.

But cocaine presents more challenges than heroin. While Narcan targets opiod receptors, blocking the reaction that produce the high, Zhan’s experiments aim to produce an enzyme that dissipates cocaine in the blood stream without affecting heart and other normal body functions.

"This compound or this biological treatment actually tears the cocaine up, so it doesn't have any effects at any of the sites because it's just not there, so kind of like a cleaner," says UK Associate Dean for Research Linda Dwoskin.

Researchers say the enzyme has shown promise in animal trials – both as an overdose drug and a potential treatment for long-term cocaine addiction.

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