Antidote to Overdoses: A Universal Treatment

New Compound Fights Both Fentanyl and Meth in Bloodstream

A frequent lifesaver during opioid overdoses—naloxone, marketed as Narcan—can’t help when the victim has abused methamphetamine or another non-opioid drug.

UMD scientists aiming for a universal treatment to counteract a rising tide of overdose deaths—106,699 in 2021 alone—have created a new chemical compound shaping up as a promising antidote for both meth and the opioid fentanyl. The team led by Lyle Isaacs, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, reported in the journal Chem that its new compound, Pillar[6]MaxQ, also binds strongly to drugs like PCP, ecstasy and mephedrone.

Unlike naloxone, which stops narcotics from binding to receptors in the brain, the UMD team’s “molecular container” targets drugs circulating through the body.

“Our compound soaks up the drug in the bloodstream and, we believe, helps promote its excretion in the urine,” Isaacs says. “This is known as a pharmacokinetic process, where we’re trying to minimize the concentration of free drug that’s present in the body.”


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