Scientists Develop a Methadone for Cokeheads
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Scientists Develop a Methadone for Cokeheads


So far, there hasn’t been any real version of methadone for coke addicts. While heroin fiends can take methadone to help abate their addiction, coke addicts have had to get by on detox, rehab and 12-step programs alone. Of course, whether methadone does its job and whether it leads to new addictions to the drug itself is a subject of much debate. Regardless, scientists in Denmark just completed some research that might help coke fiends get a grip.

A Big Buzz Killer

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen decided to do some research that might help develop an antidote to cocaine addiction. What they discovered was that a protein—a dopamine transporter—was responsible for the pleasurable effect the drug shoots through users’ brains. They want to 86 that protein. Yeah, a real buzz killer.

Cocaine acts as an inhibitor of the dopamine transporter, so when you snort a fat line, you flood your brain with dopamine and it stays there, overloading your brain with feelings of euphoria. Dopamine is already in our brains—it’s one of those feel-good chemicals that floods your system when a craving (for work success, male attention, what have you) is met. But it ain’t all good; dopamine also plays a central role addiction. Because cocaine overruns your brain with dopamine, kind of like cigarettes and amphetamines, it’s really easy to go back for more. And more and more and more.

Now that scientists have discovered this protein and isolated it, they want to block it by developing a drug that will act as a “vacuum cleaner” to remove any dopamine released by cocaine. Essentially, all the drug does is stop the pleasurable sensation, but that requires the addict to choose to take the drug in the first place. In this respect, it’s a little more like Antabuse, without the barfing.

False Advertising

Associate professor in the department of neuroscience and pharmacology Claus Juul Loland went on record that the drug won’t be a cure-all “miracle drug” but it might work “like methadone to treat heroin addiction.”

“It would aid in the treatment of cocaine addiction, but the patient would have to be willing to go to rehab and other actions have to be taken in addition to this,” he said. “Our objective here is that cocaine will not then work anymore as the antidote will inhibit the stimulatory response of taking this drug.

The truth is the proposed antidote to cocaine addiction bears no resemblance to the effect of methadone on a heroin addict’s brain. Methadone is used to help with withdrawals and to inhibit the physical pain that comes with kicking smack, but a drug designed solely to remove the positive effects of snorting a line is something totally different.

As with any kind of treatment, this drug will only help an addict who really wants to get off the blow. But in the end, is there really a difference between stopping cocaine altogether and taking the drug? After all, the main reason Antabuse is ineffective is that its non-compliance rates are up at 80%. The coke heads are going to be different?

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About Author

Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Master's in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.