Recent studies by others have documented the drug's apparent ability to suppress the immune system, making abusers more vulnerable to diseases such as HIV. The new study is the first to suggest that the drug can engage the body's defense system to attack methamphetamine in such a way that makes users inclined to use more of the drug, the researchers say. Their study, which paints a clearer picture of the drug's effect on the immune system and its potential for abuse, was described today at the 229th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
"Test animals injected with methamphetamine actually developed antibodies to the drug, which is highly unique for a molecule of its relatively small size," says study co-leader Kim Janda, Ph.D., a chemist at Scripps in La Jolla, Calif. Developing antibodies to the body's invaders, such as viruses and bacteria, is normally a good thing and forms the basis of modern vaccines, he explains. But ironically, people who abuse methamphetamine may build up antibodies to the drug itself, so they require increasing amounts to get high, resulting in binging behavior, he says.
"Without knowing it, they're essentially vaccinating themselves against the drug, and that's not a good thing as it requires more of the drug to get high," says Janda. His findings were first reported in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the Society's peer-reviewed journal.
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