Welcome to the Good Stuff. I'm one of the lucky ones who loves her job--the kind of job that makes you feel good about what you're doing for yourself, for communities across the country, and best of all, for the environment.
And one cool thing I get to do is learn about a lot of good work people do to reduce waste and be kind to the environment--really good stuff--that's worth passing along. Sure, you might find a post or two about my chickens or my dogs (can't resist), but I hope you find this a positive, motivating place to visit to get inspired in some way to think differently or maybe do even more good stuff than you're already doing.
So here’s something going on right here in Durham that also rocks, but very differently from the way Jack and Mick do. A long post, I know.
Right now I’m doing contract work for Duke, writing for a few websites across the organization. One of my favorite parts is contacting Duke researchers, usually those connected with translational research, learn what they’re up to, and then write about their work in a way that the rest of us can understand. When I took this position, I didn’t think it’d be nearly as interesting as it’s turning out to be—or as chalk full of genuine goodness. Here’s an example of what I mean.
Dr. Tong Lee is a super-interesting and surprisingly laid-back guy who works at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences - picture below. I visited him recently in his lab (located in a building that smells suspiciously like hay and mouse poop) to learn more about the research he’s doing to help addicts beat their meth and cocaine addiction. Cool already, huh?
I didn’t know (did you?) that there’s a drug combination out there that, if given to coke or meth addicts in two separate doses over a couple-week period, will literally—and I mean literally—erase the memory of how bad it feels when a high wears off (which is what inspires the cravings addicts have for more meth or coke; not necessarily to feel good, but to avoid feeling really really bad). It’s true. If you give a coke or meth addict a dose of the generic equivalent of Ritalin, it gives them a soft-core high similar to, but not nearly as intense as what they’d normally get from coke (or meth). Those effects will last for about 3.5 hours, after which time they’re given the generic equivalent of Zofran (an anti-vomiting drug usually administered to those in chemo). This second dose slips in as the high’s wearing off to “chip away” at that mountain of memory that houses the pain and dis-ease that happens when a coke/meth buzz wears off. And if you give these people this dual dose once a day for a couple weeks—the cravings go away! Their brain has literally been altered, and their physical memories of the after-effects of coke/meth are gone.
Now, as cool as this is, it’s not ideal, particularly because drug addicts aren’t notorious for complying with treatment. Get ‘em sortta high and the chance that they’ll take round two 3.5 hours later is pretty slim. And treatment clinics don’t want to be responsible for making sure they do – they have their hands full already.
So here’s where Dr. Lee and his team comes in. They’ve actually worked with two pharmaceutical companies to make a drug that combines both the Ritalin/Zofran equivalents into one pill; a pill that delivers the Ritalin/high effects immediately, and then, 3.5 hours later, the Zofran/memory-erasing part. A beautiful and necessary efficiency. No need for addicts to remember their second dose; no need for drug clinics to babysit addicts for 3.5-hour stretches of time.
And Durham addicts will be the first to try it out. Any minute now Dr. Lee’s team will get the green light from the FDA to move forward, and when they do (anticipated in the next couple weeks), they’ll take this combo drug treatment to the Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers (TROSA), a comprehensive, long-term, residential substance abuse recovery program right here in Durham, NC. There, volunteers will get the single-dose treatment for two weeks, and my friends the researchers have every reason to believe that this affordable and easy-to-administer drug will do the trick and leave these folks free from the “need” they feel to use coke or meth.
Now, obviously it’s more complicated than all this, and one question I had for Dr. Lee was, how are they going to know that those who have gone through treatment won’t someday get back out there and do these drugs? Well, we won’t know. There’s no guarantee. But what we will know is that that drive they had to do it will be gone, which is more than half the battle in folks who want to get clean. And as Dr. Lee explained, “You go get a flu vaccine and you don’t get the flu this year. That’s no guarantee that you won’t ever get the flu again, but at least we know you’re so much less susceptible now than you were before.” I bought that.
I’ll post the link to my actual story about this research as soon as my editor releases it. You’ll find it on the home page of the Duke Translational Medicine Institute, where some of my other stuff is, too. (Not that you’d know which pieces are mine; my editor won’t publish bylines. Don’t even get me started…) Would love to hear your thoughts. Oh, and here’s a picture of Dr. Lee. Great guy.