Health & Wellbeing

New therapy to help addicts put memories of meth use behind them

A compound called blebbistatin has been shown to block drug-associated memories in animal models
A compound called blebbistatin has been shown to block drug-associated memories in animal models
View 1 Image
A compound called blebbistatin has been shown to block drug-associated memories in animal models
1/1
A compound called blebbistatin has been shown to block drug-associated memories in animal models

Even after a lengthy period of abstinence, putting lingering memories of methamphetamine use to rest is a difficult and often impossible task for former users. Therapies are available to help people stay clean, but for many the lure remains irresistible with incredibly high relapse rates of more than 90 percent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. But a research team is hoping to help addicts stay away from the devastating drug for good by developing a way to safely erase drug-associated memories.

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute made an exciting breakthrough in 2013. They found that by inhibiting a protein called actin they could selectively delete memories associated with drug use, while leaving other long term memories, such as fear or food reward intact. But there was a slight problem. Because actin also happens to be critical for a functioning human body, even one dose of a drug that generally inhibited its activity would most likely prove fatal.

Through a new study, the same researchers have now identified an approach they say can selectively target actin in the brain of animals, without posing a danger to the rest of the body. It involves a molecular motor called nonmuscle myosin II (NMII) that supports memory formation. The team found by using a compound called blebbistatin, which inhibits NMII, they were able to affect the long-term storage of drug-associated memories.

More specifically, the team found that treating meth-addicted animals with a single injection of blebbistatin, meth-associated memories were disrupted and it blocked relapse for at least 30 days. Importantly, the drug was found to exclusively affect drug-associated memories and still left the animals capable of forming new ones.

Previous research efforts around the world have turned up some promising results in this area, with scientists looking to erase memories for a variety of reasons. In 2009, Dutch psychologists uncovered a mostly harmless beta-blocking drug that appeared effective in separating the panic emotion from the factual elements of memory, promising improved treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We've seen similar research carried out in Canada and the US, with the latter even raising the possibility of restoring long-term memory.

Armed with its promising results, The Scripps Research Institute team will now push for the development of small molecule inhibitors of NMII as a means of decreasing the rate of relapse in meth addicts.

"We now have a viable target and by blocking that target, we can disrupt, and potentially erase, drug memories, leaving other memories intact," says Associate Professor Courtney Miller. "The hope is that, when combined with traditional rehabilitation and abstinence therapies, we can reduce or eliminate relapse for meth users after a single treatment by taking away the power of an individual’s triggers."

The research was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Source: The Scripps Research Institute

5 comments
DemonDuck
The number of "Meth Addicts" in the U.S. is so small that it would make sense to give pharmaceutical grade meth away for free just to take the crime out of meth use -- and reduce the prison population at the same time. Stop trying to save people from themselves. http://www.drugpolicy.org/drug-facts/methamphetamine-facts
POOL PUMPREAPAIR guy longwood
Wow @ DemonDuck Thats an idea, but, it just might backfire. with a huge death toll, but that's what it might take to get people to wise up. I could only wonder what it might do to the population, would the death toll be so great to actually significantly drop the population ? last I heard they are trying to legalise all drugs in Mexico. i wonder how that is going ? Some drugs are just too powerful and need regulation, Marijuana is not one of them.
Threesixty
Drug induced selective memory erasure...what a powerful tool waiting to be abused. We just need human trials; meth addicts sound like perfect subjects. Soon we will be able to deal with pesky witnesses in a more humane manner, and oppressive governments will be buying truckloads of this new drug. We will also be able to self-erase incriminating evidence!
ScottLoddesol
If it works for methamphetamine it should work for any psychological addiction. Methamphetamine is the the same as ritalin which js prescribed to many millions of children and adults for ADD( it may not be right but it is a legitimate use) but the dosage to treat once the proper dose is found never increases. With addiction the dosage to create the same physical effect increases over time with the added physical withdrawal added in. Methamphetamine causes the bodies catecholamines to deplete (which are hormones produced with stress excitement etc.) When you stop taking meth you fall asleep , which isn't one usual withdrawal reactions to drug withdrawal. My kids were both on ritalin which was stopped without problems to start them on a non stimulant ADD med which did require them to be weaned off without rebound effects, and I told their doctor I had weaned them off over a Christmas break and didn't tell tell their respective schools to prevent a false negative no one noticed has nothing to do with the subject at hand just that I don't believe in drugs for drugs sake
YukonJack
It is obvious that none of you work for the guv'ment since all of you have healthy attitudes towards a solution to this problem.