dopamineEarlier this week, we wrote about a vaccine for heroin addiction, which researchers continue to look for funding to continue their cause. Scientists around the world are studying the potential of new methods for treating other forms of addiction as well, such as cocaine. At the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, researchers believe that they are moving closer to an antidote for cocaine addiction, focusing on a mechanism behind a protein dopamine transporter, Medical News Today reports.

After marijuana, cocaine is the second most commonly used illegal drug in Europe, according to the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction.

“If we have a better understanding of the dopamine transporter function we will become more proficient in developing an antidote against cocaine addiction,” says Associate Professor Claus Juul Loland from the department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology.

Cocaine acts as an inhibitor of the dopamine transporter, but there are other inhibitors that bind to the dopamine transporter that did not cause the same stimulatory response when administered to rats, according to the researchers. The goal is determine, on a molecular level why the inhibitors act differently. If they can develop non-stimulatory inhibitors that will block the subsequent binding of cocaine, it will stop cocaine users from getting high, the article reports.

“Our objective here is that cocaine will not then work anymore as the antidote will inhibit the stimulatory response of taking this drug,” concludes Loland.

Cocaine is highly addictive due to the euphoric feeling the drug produces in the brain. The drug blocks dopamine transporter sites in the terminal buttons of neurons, essentially trapping high levels of dopamine in the synapse for longer than normal durations, according to the article. The extended period of time the dopamine lingers produces the initial euphoria and reward commonly reported by cocaine abusers.

The results have been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.