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Vexen Crabtree 2015


Vexen Crabtree's Live Journal

Sociology, Theology, Anti-Religion and Exploration: Forcing Humanity Forwards

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Vexen Crabtree 2015

Heroin addiction gene identified and blocked

I am excited about this one...:


"Scientists have not only identified a critical gene involved in heroin addiction relapse, but they have also successfully blocked it, eliminating cravings for the drug. [...]

“Many people try to stop taking heroin, but in a few months almost all of them go back to using the drug,” said Ivan Diamond, at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center in California, US, and one of the research team. [...]

Previous research has indicated that a section of the midbrain called the nucleus accumbens plays a central role in the “mental reward circuitry” of animals, such as rats and humans. This circuitry generates feelings of pleasure in response to drugs, as well as in response to other things, including food, sex and, in humans, work accomplishments.

Drugs like heroin, however, seem to over-stimulate the normal reward process to the point where users value their next fix more highly than food, water and other essentials. In 2004, a study revealed that cocaine causes a gene in the nucleus accumbens, called AGS3, to rapidly encode masses of proteins that are involved in the cravings and pleasure associated with the drug. [...]

An AGS3 blocker was then created from a herpes virus. This [...] blocks the cravings-pleasure cycle until the virus “washes out” of the body a few weeks later. [...]

Diamond told New Scientist that a related treatment could become available to humans within the next couple of years."

The amount of problems heroin addiction causes in the West is massive; people in my job sometimes get involved in gunfights with land drug traffickers and cultivators. The violence and crime, fuelled by money and profit, would be dealt a severe blow if heroin addiction became easily curable. Cure would rapidly become part of the routine for the detention of such drug addicts and prisoners, etc. People might actually self-administer the cure and a healthy cycle of escape could become socially acceptable amongst users! Hopefully the trade in cure will make some money and become an export to heroin-producing countries!

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Thanks to Tom 2.0 for the link to the article by the way, that I saw on his LJ.


The big problem with this (as the report itself says) is making it into a safe treatment in humans. From the sounds of it, the rats were injected directly into their brain which obviously isn't entirely suitable for humans. If you try a general injection though, you may end up knocking the gene out elsewhere, and the side-effects for that are unknonw. Similarly, it's possible that long-term knock-out of this protein could have some relatvely major side effects, though whether or not they'd be worse than being addicted to heroin is interesting.

I also wonder what oter drugs this might reduce cravings for, or if it would even act to reduce cravings for non-drug incuded highs. The animal studies on these rats should certainly be interesting reading!

Those are all good concerns! I miss having your brain around to pick :-)

Yeah long-term knockout could conceivably have some drastic behavioural affects - imagine a person with reduced desire for the very basics in life! But yeah you point it out... if Heroin addicts get by; wouldn't they also get by whilst on this inhibitor, too?

I wonder how small doses could be - if you could get a partial-cure that works along with willpower, thereby keeping healthy levels of natural opiate receptors active?

Imagine people with absolutely no job satisfaction because they're chemically deprived of that feeling! (But it probably wouldn't be that different from living with my work colleagues anyway...)

I dunno man. As much as heroin destroys lives, this sets off alarms with me. For a start people assume that the effects of a drug are discrete and specific to the substance; in reality reactions to drugs are closely tied to the mind and brain's reactions to the world in general. It's difficult to imagine a cure as effective as this which wouldn't also effect someone's mind in other ways, in which case I probably couldn't with good conscience support it. Plus, reducing the physical cravings is only a part - some might say a small part - of rehabilitation from addiction. In other words, Heroin addicts generally have a lot of mental pain that they need killed, and that isn't cured solely by tackling metabolic addiction.

Secondly, this may sound reactionary, but compulsory modification of genes also sets off alarms for obvious slippery-slope type reasons. Plus, conceivably this route might eventually lead to some kind of (essentially) mandatory 'immunity shot' against the effects of all drugs. Even leaving aside the possible broader neurological side-effects of that, I would oppose it.

Dresen, I agree with you on all counts.
Though I would also point out that "gunfights with land drug traffickers and cultivators. The violence and crime, fuelled by money and profit" and all the other PROBLEMS with heroin addiction in society are caused by prohibition not the drug itself. Pure heroine was invented as a cure for the common cold from morphine, a child birth drug.
Most outlawed opiates are actually some of the most mild, though addictive, pain relief substances on earth. That really is not the point though. The point is that what people choose to do with their own bodies should not be regulated by law esspecialy not punishable by death or anything else.

To "cure" the addiction would work the same way as Prozac "cures" depression - it would numb all other emotive functions of that section of the brain. Genetics and the brain are far more complicated than the new religion (science) really understands, as yet.
"Oh we can make you stop wanting heroine but you won't want sex either and maybe not food" come on! The religious right will probably be even more pleased by the cure for sex! Addiction is a natural function designed to make sure we eat and breath, you're addicted to breathing and water did you know that? Very suspect and simplified science. Though New Scientist is good like that, dumbing it down to the point it no longer makes contextual sense!

People's brains, at least, must be their own property not that of the state. Talk about 1984.

Prohibition of heroin and cocaine causes problems; but it is prohibited because of the nature of the drugs themselves. Children who learn to smoke do not understand the long term consequences - to themselves, to those who love them, to society as a whole through NHS costs and passive smoking, etc, and heroin is much worse than that, more addictive and with severe withdrawl costs. It is insiduous, it destroys families, it renders it's users largely dysfunctional... THAT is why it is outlawed: Because very few people understand what is happening to them until it's way too late. It's not only a personal choice that affects the individual: It's a choice that affects everyone.

Some things SHOULD be outlawed; you can have all the free will you want but once your personal self-destruction becomes a mass social problem, it's no longer just *your* lifestyle in question, it's everyones.

Do you deny that there is a large problem in inner cities with drug addiction to heroin caused by THE DRUG, and not by prohibition? (Which most users obviously find a way around?).

Do you agree that many heroin addicts would WANT this cure, especially ONCE they've been cured? Once withdrawl phase has passed, the cure is only needed during retrogression; ex-users could easily self-administer it THROUGH CHOICE. Do you agree this is a valuable, immensely good solution?

There are genuinely bad people in the world, and many of those people are made much worse through heroin addiction. With these people, don't you agree with making their lives better through a cure for their addiction? Even if it's not what they think is good for them; they really deeply DO NOT KNOW what's good for them. That's the problem! It really is true that sometimes people do not know what is best for themselves, our knowledge can help them. It might not sit well with an anarchic idea of absolute free will; but a normal society never does.

To compare to 1984 is extremist.

Heroin degrades a persons' wish for such things as you mention; food, water, sex... this cure degrades them, too, but seemingly much less and is much more controllable. The receptors in question are very specific; neurotransmitters are mostly very specific.

And finally...

Science isn't a religion, it's a method. It does replace some need for religion, and sometimes it serves similiar psychological ends as religion does (like any interest, hobby or activity), but it itself is not a religion.

Your concerns are valid; the side-affects of the cure will themselves be negative. But as far as cures go, for a serious problem it is less bad than the side affects of heroin itself.

If people want the cure; it is a magical cure that has been long-awaited but hardly anticipated

If people need the cure but aren't really in a fit mental state to think about their lives coherently, it is also invaluable

I personally would take it further and consider compulsory cures for all offenders, and compulsory addiction testing for many who are arrested; but I would also not expect society to accept my own level of enforced improvement.

It is not compulsory modification of genes; it is only the removal of an addiction. The person can still choose to take heroin; but they are no longer physically addicted to the drug. In that sense, it gives people MORE choice; previously choosing to come of the drug was hardly an option; all the willpower in the world could not prevent the physical and mental pain.

You can't "oppose" a cure than people choose to take, and more than you can "oppose" the creation of heroin in the first place. It's something people choose. To "oppose" the cure is hypocritical if you do it in the name of free will!

You could rightly oppose an enforced cure for anyone who is of sound mind; for those of unsound mind it's a big grey area where *we*, as the responsible, have to look after those who can no longer look after themselves.

I would sneak up to a delinquent, hopeless tramp and force the cure on them. It sounds like you wouldn't. Hopefully we can both see why we'd act in our respective ways; we both think we're being more moral. Do you understand my reasoning?

Adam and eve is in the bible so it's true. I'm a Christian so who cares there are alot of people who belive in god in this world

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