I guess we can't say that recreational drugs don't have some medical benefits. According to this article in the New York Times. Researchers at Lilly have come up with a new schizophrenia drug that does not work on dopamine pathways. Moreover, the drug seems effective in early trials and potentially has fewer side effects. How did they come upon this drug?
For decades, psychiatrists have known that users of PCP, a street
drug sometimes called angel dust, have symptoms nearly identical to
those of people with schizophrenia. By the 1980s, scientists had
discovered that PCP blocked brain receptors that are triggered by an
amino acid called glutamate. This led some companies and scientists to
study ways to stimulate glutamate receptors as a treatment for
schizophrenia. But the brain has many different kinds of
glutamate receptors, and figuring out how to stimulate or block them in
medically beneficial ways has proved complicated. Instead of focusing
on the receptors blocked by PCP, Dr. Schoepp concentrated on modulating
the action of glutamate receptors in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, an
area responsible for personality and learning.“This is a system that is so fundamental to the function of your brain that it is quite powerful,” said Dr. Schoepp.
Existing drugs are reasonably good at treating the hallucinations and
delusions of schizophrenia. But they are far less effective at treating
the so-called negative symptoms of the disease — the lack of motivation
and emotion that leave many patients unable to work or have normal
social relationships. The side effects of existing medicines, which
affect nearly all patients, are also severe. Older drugs like Thorazine
often cause tics and movement disorders, while newer medicines
typically have fewer effects on movement but can cause weight gain and
other metabolic changes. In the clinical trial whose results
were reported yesterday, LY2140023 had none of those side effects and
appeared to work about as well as Zyprexa at reducing symptoms.
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