Putting Mutated Enzymes In The Water Could Prevent Cocaine Addiction

Illustration for article titled Putting Mutated Enzymes In The Water Could Prevent Cocaine Addiction

If you could slip a harmless substance into your town's drinking water that would prevent people from getting high on cocaine, would you do it? A new discovery means this is no longer a hypothetical question.


Researchers have discovered a mutated version of a common bacterial enzyme called cocaine esterase can prevent cocaine addiction by breaking down the drug before it gets you high. Published in Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics last week, the study showed that coke-addicted rats given "double mutated cocaine esterase" (DM CocE) no longer pressed the buttons in their cages that normally dispensed a dose of coke.

Given how many problems coke and crack addiction cause - putting strains on health and human services, as well as ruining lives - is there an argument to be made that governments should start putting DM CocE in the water? Enhancing staple foods with healthy substances is nothing new. Bread companies add vitamins to their loaves, and in America, salt manufacturers often spike their wares with iodine because people here don't get enough iodine in their diets.


The DM CocE only works on cocaine, and it didn't prevent rats in the studies from getting addicted to other substances. Also, if somebody on DM CocE takes an extremely large amount of coke, they can still get high. But DM CocE, slipped into our water or McDonalds burgers, could cure thousands of crack cocaine addicts tomorrow. Would the social benefits be worth it?

via Faculty of 1000 Medicine

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Josh Wimmer

I'm going with no, we shouldn't. I've never used coke, because (1) my mom scared me with the Len Bias story when I was about nine, and (2) I am fucking lame, but instinctively, the idea offends the libertarian in me. And you don't want to offend him, because he will shoot you, and then he will wait until some sort of privately operated corpse-collection service picks up your body, none of this 911 shit.

But more important than the philosophical principles involved is that, generally speaking, cocaine and crack addiction are not problems per se, but rather symptoms of a problem. Yeah, people do drugs because they're fun. But also and I would guess more commonly, people do drugs because they are trying to deal (or not to deal) with something, be it a physical (like poverty) or, more often, psychological issue (like depression) or some combination of both.

And while, yeah, it's helpful to get the drugs out of the way to work on the underlying issues, unless there's some kind of plan to treat those underlying issues, dosing the water with these enzymes is just gonna drive people to find other drugs or other ways to fill the metaphorical hole inside them. So it seems more like a way to brush the problem off than to fix it.