Tagged With opioid crisis

Who you are is the result of a complicated interplay between your environment, your genes, and probably a few other factors science has yet to uncover. Genetics influence somewhere around half of a person's "vulnerability to addiction," according to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse. Now, as opioid addiction has reached epidemic levels in the US, researchers have shed light on the role one specific gene plays in influencing the risk of opioid addiction.

Starting in 2015, doctors in Massachusetts began noticing a wave of typically young patients coming down with unexplained, sometimes permanent short-term memory loss. The only connection found between these patients was a history of recreational drugs; either heroin or cocaine. But these drugs almost never cause the kind of brain damage that results in amnesia, leading the doctors to believe something else had to explain why so many people were losing their memories at the same time.

One of the white whales of vaccine research - a cure for addiction - is a very small step closer to reality. Last week, researchers working at the Walter Reed Army Center published a study showing that their experimental vaccine was able to block the euphoria-inducing effects of heroin and other commonly abused opioids in mice and rats. Almost as importantly, the vaccine didn't dampen the effects of other related drugs like methadone, which are used (controversially) to wean people off opioid addiction.