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New treatment effective in counteracting cocaine-induced symptoms

DALLAS Aug. 13, 2007 UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have discovered a treatment that counteracts the effects of cocaine on the human cardiovascular system, including lowering the elevated heart rate and blood pressure often found in cocaine users.

We have found that cocaines effects on the cardiovascular system can be reversed by the use of a drug called dexmedetomidine, which is currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for anesthetic purposes in operating rooms or intensive care units, said Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin, associate professor of internal medicine and senior author of a study appearing in the Aug. 14 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Researchers used dexmedetomidine to test whether cocaines effect on the cardiovascular system could be muted. They found that the drug was effective in reversing the actions of cocaine on heart rate, blood pressure and vascular resistance in the skin by interfering with the ability of cocaine to increase nerve activity.

Typically, patients with cocaine overdoses in the emergency room are treated with nitroglycerin, sedatives such as Valium, and some blood-pressure medications such as calcium channel blockers and some beta blockers, Dr. Vongpatanasin said. However, the standard treatments dont alleviate all of the adverse effects of cocaine on the heart, blood pressure and central nervous system.

The study examined results from 22 healthy adults who reported to have never used cocaine. The investigators administered a small, medically approved dose of cocaine nose drops to the study participants, which doubled their sympathetic nerve activity, part of the bodys automatic response system that becomes more active during times of stress. Participants experienced increases in several cardiovascular parameters including heart rate, blood pressure and resistance to blood flow in the skin.

Microelectrodes, similar to acupuncture needles, were used
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Contact: Katherine Morales
katherine.morales@utsouthwestern.edu
214-638-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
13-Aug-2007


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