Grant awarded for research into a new treatment for methamphetamine addiction

Dr. Keith Flower - a research physician at the Addiction Pharmacology & Research Laboratory in San Francisco, CA - has been awarded a grant to investigate a new medication treatment for methamphetamine addiction. This grant has been awarded to California Pacific Medical Center's Research Institute through President Obama's AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT OF 2009.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that goes by the street names of crank, crystal meth, and speed. It can cause heart disease, brain damage, memory problems, distorted thinking, paranoia, aggression, and violent behavior. Methamphetamine use puts people at increased risk for infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

Methamphetamine abuse continues at epidemic levels in the San Francisco Bay Area. It costs the U.S. more than $20 billion each year and presents significant challenges to public health, law enforcement, and families. The National Institutes of Health - working with research labs like the Addiction Pharmacology & Research Laboratory - is urgently seeking improved treatments for this growing problem.

One of the emerging medications for treating methamphetamine addiction is naltrexone, an FDA-approved treatment for heroin and alcohol dependence. Dr. Flower's goal is to learn whether naltrexone is safe and effective as a treatment for methamphetamine addiction.

Genetic research has given rise to the hope of personalized medicine - the idea that each person's genes can reveal the best treatment for them. Naltrexone may be one of the first examples of this approach. Naltrexone works by blocking opiate receptors in the brain. Blocking opiate receptors blocks craving. There are different genetic versions of these receptors. Two versions are A118A and A118G. Alcoholics who have the A118G version are helped more by naltrexone; so might methamphetamine users.

Dr. Flower explains, "We know that methamphetamine exerts powerful effects on the brain's reward pathways. Although methamphetamine can feel good when people start using it, they may lose control and begin a downward spiral that they cannot be able to pull out of without help. Counseling works but is sometimes not enough, so we look for medications that will break this cycle."

"Naltrexone decreases the pleasurable, rewarding effects of alcohol. We know that alcoholics with the A118G version of the opiate receptor are helped more by naltrexone, and we also know that naltrexone blocks the effects of amphetamine and helps amphetamine users quit. Our goal is to put these facts together to see if naltrexone will help methamphetamine users who have the A118G version of the opiate receptor."

SOURCE California Pacific Medical Center

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