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Could Gene Therapy End Meth Addiction?


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Nearly 5,000 people. That was the meth death toll in 2015. This number has risen dramatically since 2010. In fact, between 2010 and 2014, it doubled.

897,000 people. That’s the estimated number of individuals who used methamphetamine in 2015.

With thousands dying every year from this deadly substance abuse—and millions more affected by it—we are in desperate need of effective treatment options and scientists may have discovered one.

Recent research involves an anti-meth virus that may prevent the ability to get high from meth. Here’s how it works:

The Research

The group of scientists at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is working to develop this treatment using gene therapy which works by manipulating the body on a genetic level. Scientists have already discovered potential treatments using gene therapy in the areas of blindness, brain disease, bone fractures, and cancer. Now, they have turned this focus to addiction and recovery.

The Process

Researchers have coded a gene with anti-meth antibodies and have packaged this gene into a virus. Injected into the body, this virus causes the body to create antibodies against meth. These “meth-fighters” search out and trap any meth molecules traveling through the bloodstream preventing the meth from reaching the brain and creating the traditional high achieved by using meth.

Applied to mice, this treatment showed effectiveness for over 8 months. It reduced the amount of meth in the brain and effectively dulled the stimulant effects normally experienced by using the drug.

The Hope

Researchers do not expect this virus to be a miracle cure that instantly rids the body of addiction. However, the hope is to further develop this treatment into a tool that can be used alongside behavior therapy for those addicted to meth. Since the drug will no longer provide a pleasurable effect, users should be less likely to abuse the drug. By eliminating this physical draw, treatment providers can remove one of the hurdles patients face in recovery. This will hopefully make recovery easier and other aspects of treatment more effective.

The Future

Scientists admit more research is needed to discover whether this gene therapy/virus treatment will be effective for humans. Previous stimulant research has fallen short when scientists attempted to generate the same success in humans they saw in animal testing.

Still, the field of gene therapy has come a long way, and researchers are working hard to create addiction applications. If this method proves effective, thousands of families torn by meth addiction could have a new hope for better treatment.

  • https://www.technologyreview.com/s/609479/gene-therapy-could-help-people-overcome-meth-addiction/, https://www.ktoo.org/2017/05/19/new-meth-surge-gathers-momentum-across-u-s/, https://futurism.com/one-way-end-meth-addiction-alter-dna-addicts-using-gene-therapy/, https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2015/NSDUH-FFR1-2015/NSDUH-FFR1-2015.pdf, https://futurism.com/the-first-gene-therapy-that-fixes-hereditary-blindness-may-finally-get-fda-approval/, https://futurism.com/a-new-gene-therapy-could-literally-end-fatal-brain-disease/, https://futurism.com/the-u-s-fda-just-approved-a-treatment-that-reprograms-cells-to-fight-cancer/

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