This is the first in a series of NIDA Notes articles that will follow a team of researchers seeking a medication for methamphetamine addiction. This installment describes the early promise of the compound lobeline and the new directions the team discovered in studying it.
Methamphetamine use and HIV infection raise the risk for functional dependence, or the need for assistance with everyday tasks. People who use methamphetamine and are HIV positive showed the highest levels of functional dependence in most domains of daily life.
Almost one-third (32 percent) of the roughly 42,000 Monitoring the Future survey respondents reported having used marijuana during their lifetime. However, abuse of many other drugs—methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and some prescription medications—declined.
Methamphetamine alters brain structures involved in decision-making and impairs the ability to suppress habitual behaviors that have become useless or counterproductive. The two effects were correlated, indicating that the structural change underlies the decline in mental flexibility.
Teen mothers on three American Indian reservations improved on several measures of parenting after participating in Family Spirit, a home-visiting intervention developed with NIDA support. At 12 months postpartum, the women’s children exhibited reduced rates of emotional difficulties predicting later drug abuse and other behavioral problems. Infants at highest risk—those whose mothers had histories of drug abuse—benefited the most.
Ketoprofen, an anti-inflammatory agent commonly prescribed to treat arthritis, reduces neuronal damage in rats that have been exposed to chronic stress and methamphetamine. If this finding of a recent NIDA-supported study extrapolates to humans, anti-inflammatory medications may gain a place in the treatment of methamphetamine addiction.
Dr. Marilyn Huestis of NIDA’s Intramural Research Program talks about conducting research on drug effects with human subjects, developing tests to help law enforcement identify drugged drivers, and an assay to help identify children whose prenatal exposure to anti-HIV drugs may put them at risk for adverse developmental outcomes.
Dr. Thomas Kosten of Baylor College of Medicine and Dr. Peter Burkhard of the University of Connecticut are the recipients of NIDA’s 2011 Avant-Garde Awards for Innovative Medication Development Research. Dr. Kosten is developing a vaccine against methamphetamine abuse and Dr. Burkhard is developing a vaccine to counter nicotine addiction.