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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
Cocaine weaning drug created
Cocaine use can lead to heart problem
Cocaine use can lead to heart problems
Scientists have developed a drug which may help addicts wean themselves off cocaine in the same way methadone helps heroin addicts.

Nocaine has been developed by US researchers.

Tests on animals showed it provided some of cocaine's effects, but at a much lower level.

Researchers at Washington DC's Georgetown University Medical Center's Drug Discovery Program say it appears to blunt the effects of withdrawal.


Different forms of treatment suit different individuals, there is no panacea to dependence

Roger Howard, DrugScope
Safety trials are expected to begin in humans early next year.

Experts warn cocaine use can cause heart problems, chest pain and respiratory failure; strokes, seizure, and headaches; and abdominal pain and nausea,

Less toxic

In their study, the US researchers found that animals worked harder to get doses of Nocaine than to receive a saline solution, but less hard than they did to obtain doses of cocaine.

They said this indicates Nocaine is a "weak reinforcer", meaning that it provides some of cocaine's effects, but at a much lower level.

Weak reinforcers are less likely to be abused than strong reinforcers such as heroin or cocaine, and therefore less likely to have toxic effects on the body.

Other studies have shown it acts to reverse the effects on the brain associated with withdrawal from cocaine, and that it blocks cocaine's stimulant effect.

Nocaine has a similar structure to the antidepressant paroxetine, although it acts on different messenger molecules in the brain.

Alan Kozikowski, professor of neurology at the university and director of Georgetown's Drug Discovery Program, said: "Our studies have shown that Nocaine would likely blunt the aversive effects associated with cocaine abstinence, enabling addicts to gradually and safely withdraw from the drug."

Range of treatments

Roger Howard, chief executive of UK charity DrugScope, said: "We welcome the development of any treatment which may assist crack users break their dependence.

"It is essential however, that the development of such a drug does not reduce the range of alternative treatment options available.

"Different forms of treatment suit different individuals, there is no panacea to dependence."

The research will be published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

See also:

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