LOCAL NEWS

Everett drug trial potential ‘game changer’ for meth addiction

Aug 26, 2022, 2:30 PM | Updated: 3:07 pm
meth...
(Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

For years the focus has been on the opioid crisis, with the rise in use and overdose deaths linked to fentanyl, but in recent years methamphetamine has made a comeback and is also linked to rising overdose deaths. But unlike fentanyl and other highly addictive opiates, which have Methadone and Sub Oxone as treatment options, there has never really been a good option to treat meth addiction.

Dr. Thomas Robey – an emergency room physician at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett – has high hopes a new drug trial he’s working on can change that.

Inflation Reduction Act will lower prescription drug prices for 1.4 million people in WA, says Sen. Murray

“This treatment is an innovative way to try to buy people some time away from the effects of methamphetamine,” said Robey.

“It’s an antidote that binds up the meth that’s circulating in the bloodstream. It pulls it away from the brain, in the locations where it causes anxiety and kind of the chaos of the meth intoxication, and it helps shuttle that meth to the kidney and the liver to help the body do its job of getting the poison out of the system,” he explained.

Robey is referring to monoclonal antibody treatments, which may sound familiar given all the headlines it got related to COVID-19 treatment, but it has also been used to treat cancer patients. Robey says the way it works is that it’s an antibody that is very specific to amphetamines – like an antidote.

“It works in the same way that we might treat snake bites, or other sorts of toxic congestions,” said Robey.

But it’s the potentially long-lasting impact that has Robey excited.

“This antibody stays in the bloodstream for a long time. The half-life is 19 days, which means that in 19 days, half of the drug is still present in the bloodstream. And that results in a long term effectiveness that could stretch out for more than a month,” explained Robey.

The potential benefit of that is huge.

“I’m super excited about this particular agent because methamphetamine addiction is a disease of chaos. And so many of my patients don’t want to be on meth. But when you take meth, it often gets you stuck in a cycle, and this is a way to break that cycle,” Robey said.

If the medication works the way Robey thinks it will, it would give addicted patients a reprieve.

“It can give them a chance to get an ID to get some of their social services lined up, maybe even get some housing, because the folks who I see in the emergency department are not just suffering from meth addiction, they’re addicted to other drugs, they may be homeless, they may have other medical needs that aren’t being addressed. And being able to get a reprieve from the effects of methamphetamine for a month might just be the key to getting people on the right path,” he said.

Everett was selected for the trial because of its high level of methamphetamine use – something Robey sees the effects of every day.

“Most people don’t come to the ER with sniffles, just like most meth users don’t come to the ER because they’re high. What I see in the emergency department is people whose lives have been destroyed by methamphetamine, who are coming in with injuries, who are coming in with unmet medical needs, and who are coming in so agitated and out of control that the police get involved,” Robey said.

“There doesn’t go a day where someone needs to be sedated because they’re psychotic because of methamphetamine in our emergency department in Everett,” he added.

Robey says the reality is many of the people addicted to meth he meets want to be clean but the only real treatment right now is ongoing cognitive therapy and that’s not only hard to stick to, it’s hard to pay for.

“Because insurers won’t pay for long-term cognitive therapy, and if we had an agent as we do for some of the other drugs that we have treatment for, that could help jumpstart that process, then I see a lot of people who want to get their lives back together, being able to use this,” said Robey.

The treatment would not work like Suboxone or methadone do with opioid addition.

“The way it’s similar is that it’s a way to get your brain back and your behavior back and it helps stabilize you in the process of getting clean. The way it’s different is that it basically just removes the drug from the system, rather than binding to those receptors that the drug would otherwise bind to. So this is kind of like an antibody that pulls out the drug, whereas methadone and suboxone replaced the drug,” he explained.

The study is small – just 40 people nationally about a dozen so far here in Everett. The downside is this is not anything that’s expected to be on the market wide anytime soon.

“I don’t expect this agent to be available widespread for four to six years. We are in the early stages of an FDA trial. So we’re in the process of recruiting 40 people nationally for phase two of a trial, which is super early in the FDA approval process. And so once we get that data, we can move on to … the phase three trials, which are what is needed to really assure the government and the regulatory agencies that this is a safe and effective drug for this application,” he explained.

“I’m hopeful that this makes it through the approval process. Because to have an agent like this is a game changer.” said Robey.

Others in the field are less enthusiastic but say it is worth exploring.

Dr. Caleb Banta-Greene with the University Of Washington School Of Medicine and Acting Professor at the Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute believes when it comes to treatment those addicted to meth, there are larger issues to tackle before getting to the actual meth addiction.

“The percentage of people who use meth who want to stop/reduce their use is much lower than for opioids as it is serving, often, multiple functional roles in their life- after those drivers of use are addressed (e.g. mental health, relationships, work needs, housing) then they start to address their meth use,” explained Banta-Greene.

The biggest thing he believes we need to do for those addicted to meth right now is to ensure they have access to harm reduction supplies and services to reduce the chances of dying and getting infectious diseases as well as to engage with a caring person who can be supportive and engaging and hopefully, over time, refer them to other services such as primary care, mental health, treatment, and, the number one priority – supportive housing.

Find out more on treating stimulant addiction.

Follow Hanna Scott on Twitter or email her here

Local News

Bates Technical College...
Bill Kaczaraba

Tacoma’s Bates Technical College grabs attention of White House

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will have her first stop at Bates Technical High School and College in Tacoma.
1 day ago
mariners...
Sam Campbell and Darren Dedo

Mariners’ fandom at an all-time high ahead of playoff appearance

The return of (meaningful) October baseball has led to a busy day for shoppers at the Mariners Team Shop at T-Mobile Park.
1 day ago
travel, touchless...
Nicole Jennings

Sea-Tac Airport expects rush of travelers this autumn

Summer may be over, but don't expect the crowds to be gone at Sea-Tac Airport if you're jetting off on vacation this month.
1 day ago
mariners flag...
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

Mariners flag flies atop Space Needle celebrating playoff berth

The Mariners are celebrating their first playoff in 21 years for all to see, with former catcher and Ms icon Dan Wilson hoisting the team flag on the Space Needle.
1 day ago
(Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)...
Niku Kazori, KIRO 7 News

‘It’s going to be busy’: Snohomish’s Craven Farm celebrates 40th year of pumpkin patches

It’s officially fall, which brings pumpkin patches and fall festivals! For many Seattleites, that means heading out of the city to farms.
1 day ago
teens...
Darren Dedo

Cops investigating after two teens shot in Seattle’s Pioneer Square

Seattle Police Department (SPD) detectives are investigating after an 18-year-old man and a 13-year-old boy were shot
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Everett drug trial potential ‘game changer’ for meth addiction