Is There Now a Cure for Meth Addiction?
Meth isn’t an opioid. Won’t ever be one either. No matter how much fentanyl the Cartels add to it. Even a grade school kid can tell you that. So it only stands to reason that a cure for meth addiction would differ from a cure for opioid addiction. Yet for umpteen years both were either treated the same or not at all. The result? More and more meth addicts, of course.
But while meth addicts and treatment providers were banging their heads against rehab walls some geniuses from the University of Washington were quietly working to save us from the same old nothing. In fact, if current test results are any indication, these Great Northwest brainiacs have actually come up with what we’ve been seeking all along – a bona fide antidote for those addicted to methamphetamine.
That’s right, an antidote. Or, in COVID nomenclature, a vaccine. A single, solitary something that not only goes above and beyond what we’ve got for opioid addiction, but one that does so in a mere sliver of the time. To say this single thing will be a real game changer though would be wrong. Way wrong. Because up until now we’ve barely even been in the meth addiction treatment game. Not to any fathomable degree anyway. No, this new new thing will almost be like creating the game from scratch.
Meth Be Not Proud
Meth seems to have become opioid’s evil little step brother. When the dirty-faced kid’s not forgotten, it’s neglected. And vice versa. In fact, few people even think of the bad lad until it steps up and starts wildly misbehaving again. Yet even when meth isn’t yelling and kicking and screaming, it’s still an unfortunate presence. It’s also a formidable foe. And, as the data indicates, we’ve ignored it at our peril.
The good folks at Pew Trusts found that meth possession arrests increased 59% from 2015 to 2019. They also found that the number of U.S. residents with a methamphetamine-related substance use disorder (SUD) jumped 37% over the same period. And yes, as you might suspect, meth-related overdose deaths ticked way up too. In fact, they more than doubled.
Since 2019 was the most recent year Pew could collect fully reliable data, we still don’t know how much worse the post-Covid numbers will be.
We may have some idea though. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) though tells us that among people aged 12 or older, 0.9% (or about 2.6 million people) reported using methamphetamine in 2020, and that an estimated 0.6% (or about 1.5 million people) had a methamphetamine use disorder over the same period. The revered Agency also tells us that the year saw approximately 23,837 people die from non-cocaine psychostimulant overdose, and, yes, meth was the primary drug of choice.
Unfortunately, there’s no reason to believe the numbers for 2022 will be anything but worse. Much, much worse.
A Cure for Meth Addiction
If a certain keen team has its way however, 2023 will be a whole lot different.
The team of which we speak is being led by one the University of Washington’s Dr. Marco Pravetoni, and it comprises ops from both UW and Columbia. The Ivory Tower ops are being aided and abetted by a crack squad from the Providence Regional Medical Center, in Everett, Washington. That’s where all the action takes place.
And boy, do we mean action. So far 10 patients have been treated with the meth vaccine, and each and every one of them has already flipped the proverbial script. How do we know? Providence Everett ER Doc Tom Robey told KING5 reporter Eric Wilkinson all about it.
The research study treats meth addicts with monoclonal antibodies, writes Wilkinson. It’s the same technique used to treat COVID-19.
“It’s like a switch,” Dr. Robey told the reporter. “Patients feel better within minutes of getting the treatment. It’s like an antidote to a snake bite.”
Antibodies cling to the meth, writes Wilkinson, sucking it from the brain. The drug is then naturally flushed from the body.
The vaccine prevents the patient from getting high, adds Wilkinson, keeping them clean while they begin to get their lives straight. It also gives them the clarity and impetus to seek appropriate long-term care, for substance abuse as well as any potential co-occurring disorders.
It gets even better. Researchers say the most promising aspect of this new treatment is that a single IV shot can last more than a month.
Hear that? One shot. One month. Maybe even longer.
The Good Doctor Pravetoni
Dr. Pravetoni has certainly not wasted one second since arriving from the University of Minnesota Medical School. If anything, the good doctor seems to have found a way to cram even more minutes into his first year at the UW. Then again, over-achievement was likely anticipated when Dr. Pravetoni was recruited to take the inaugural Rick L. Seaver Endowed Professorship for Brain Wellness. The position, which is funded by the Garvey Institute for Brain Health Solutions, melds nicely with the doctor’s other day job – the director of the Center for Medication Development for Substance Use Disorders.
The substance abuse specialist is certainly up to the tasks though. At UMN’s Medical School, he was an Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine, as well as a member of both its Center for Immunology and the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction. As such, the good doctor got up close and personal with all sides of the addiction treatment equation. In fact, before making the move, he and his team had initiated Phase I Clinical Trials for the first in-human oxycodone vaccine.
At Providence Everett, Dr, Pravetoni and team will first be concentrating on meth, which makes sense considering the continuing rise of meth-related overdoses in King County. So eager is everyone to effectively attack the issue, that he and his team have also partnered with Columbia University in the hopes that the meth vaccine could be fast-tracked ala COVID. Unfortunately, says KING5’s Wilkinson, even if the cure were fast-tracked it could take as long as five years to come to market. At even 10 overdose deaths per annum, a five-year wait would be tragic; at tens of thousands per it would be absolutely catastrophic.
Healing Properties Salutes a Cure for Meth Addiction
Healing Properties salutes Dr. Pravetoni and his Udub team, as well as Dr. Robey and the staff at Providence Everett, who seem as eager as they are accomplished. We also salute the patients who’ve signed up for this bold, new treatment. Then again, we’re betting those being treated are at least as eager as the doctors. After all, a year ago a cure for meth addiction wasn’t even a consideration, let alone an opportunity.
Speaking of which, this could be the opportunity of a lifetime, for many many lives. Why it would take five years to pass muster is a real abomination. It’s especially abominable considering the meth overdose death rate. Oh, it’s not just tens of thousands of lives being lost. (Though there is that.) Of the tens of thousands of families being crushed by loss. (Though there is that too.) It’s what it says about our country. We’ve already allowed hundreds of thousands to die, and hundreds of thousands of families to suffer. How much more must we endure?
Hopefully not very much. In fact, if you’ve got meth issues and you’re up in the Seattle area, you may not have to endure much more at all. Why? Because there’s still an opening or three in the study. All you’ve gotta do is contact Katie Sanders at 425-261-4069. Everyone else, anywhere else, please call us. We’ll gladly help you get sorted.