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Recreational use of HIV antiretroviral drug linked to its psychoactivity
Date:4/21/2013

ribed how pills used to treat HIV were being crushed and the powder smoked for its psychoactive effects. Though there were no scientific studies on the topic, Dr. Schetz was aware of studies describing neuropsychiatric side effects in HIV patients taking the medication as prescribed, as well as case reports of sudden onset adverse psychiatric events in patients with no history of mental illness. However, research study results suggested that the later patient population were genetically predisposed because they have less effective variants of the enzyme primarily responsible for metabolizing efavirenz, leading to much slower than expected breakdown of efavirenz, and consequently higher than expected levels of drug in the body. Dr. Schetz initiated his investigation with molecular profiling of the receptor pharmacology of efavirenz which lead to the pinpointing of interactions with multiple established sites of action for other known drugs of abuse. He and a number of his colleagues worked together to achieve a pre-clinical understanding of the psychoactivity induced by efavirenz that may help explain reports both of its adverse neuropsychiatric side effects in HIV patients and of its diversion for recreational use.

Dr. Schetz's work is the first ever study of the mechanisms of efavirenz's psychopharmacology and these new findings will help stimulate interest to support additional research related to the mechanism of ARV side effects and abuse potential. This would help translate the pre-clinical findings into preventative measures addressing HIV medication-induced adverse side effects in patients living with HIV. Additionally, preventative strategies would improve patient adherence and quality of life, reduce the potential risk for the emergence of HIV drug resistant strains, and could prevent diversion of HIV medication for illicit use."

His findings will be presented April 21, 2012 during Experimental Biology 2013 in Boston, MA.


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Contact: Jim Bernstein
jbernstein@aspet.org
301-646-3259
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Source:Eurekalert

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