Are Antibodies the Key to Help Meth Addicts Stay Clean?

aapsIf there was a pill that could help your patients kick a methamphetamine addiction, would you prescribe it? Medications and immune therapies that would blunt, or even block, an addict’s high are promising ideas. According to the paper presented Tuesday at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists’ annual meeting, the science and theories behind such a medication could be actualized sooner rather than later.

A new approach would in essence vaccinate addicts against the euphoric effects of methamphetamine, making it nearly impossible to get high. Users would be blocked of the high, the rush of dopamine to the brain. They would get none of the “rewards” of using. This approach would deliver genes into a meth addict’s cells piggybacking a dismembered virus, prompting those cells to begin making antibodies for methamphetamines.

Eric Peterson, molecular biologist at the University of Arkansas, described his experiment using meth-addicted mice, presenting evidence that this strategy would work. The mice receiving antibody therapy blocked methamphetamine from reaching their brains for up to 50 days after receiving the dosage. The meth-antibodies trapped the drug in the bloodstream of the mice, until it was filtered out.

“If the approach can be proved to work safely with humans,” Peterson said, “it could protect recovering addicts from relapsing.”

If weeks or months down the road the urge to use wins out over attempts to stay sober, he said, there’s a safety net of antibodies providing a wall of protection preventing the drug from reaching the patient’s brain. Addicts in recovery who slip, with the aid of anti-meth antibodies, would get another chance to stay clean without dropping back into the cycle of addiction.

The project was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to integrate antibody engineering and gene therapy technology to create long term treatment options for those who are battling methamphetamine addiction.