Butyrylcholinesterase: an enzyme antidote for cocaine intoxication


Kenneth L. Dretchen PhD, Department of Pharmacology, Georgetown University Medical Center, 3900 Reservoir Road, NW, Washington, DC 20007, USA. Tel: + 1 (202) 687 7007; fax: + 1 (202) 687 2585; e-mail: dretchenk@odrge.odr.georgetown.edu


Cocaine-associated toxicity is the result of effects on the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. Since the primary route of cocaine inactivation is enzymatic degradation by butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), we sought to determine if the administration of purified human enzyme would ameliorate the lethal effects of cocaine. While the cardiovascular, autonomic or central nervous systems were unaffected by BChE, the enzyme reduced the adverse effects of cocaine including hypertension, hyperactivity and convulsions. BChE decreased both the brain and blood levels of cocaine and shifted the metabolites towards the production of the inactive product ecgonine methyl ester and away from the physiologically active metabolites, norcocaine and benzoylecgonine. We conclude that BChE would appear to be an ideal antidote in the treatment of cocaine intoxication and has potential therapeutic application.