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Biotech Science

Snortable Drug 'Replaces' Sleep For Monkeys In Trials 236

sporkme writes "A DARPA-funded research project at UCLA has wrapped up a set of animal trials testing the effects of inhalation of the brain chemical orexin A, a deficiency of which is a characteristic of narcolepsy. Monkeys were deprived of sleep, and then given a shot of the compound. 'The study ... found orexin A not only restored monkeys' cognitive abilities but made their brains look "awake" in PET scans. Siegel said that orexin A is unique in that it only had an impact on sleepy monkeys, not alert ones, and that it is 'specific in reversing the effects of sleepiness' without other impacts on the brain.' Researchers seem cautious to bill the treatment as a replacement for sleep, as it is not clear that adjusting brain chemistry could have the same physical benefits of real sleep in the long run. The drug is aimed at replacing amphetamines used by drowsy long-haul military pilots, but there would no doubt be large demand for such a remedy thanks to its apparent lack of side-effects."
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Snortable Drug 'Replaces' Sleep For Monkeys In Trials

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  • Re:2 am post (Score:3, Informative)

    by RealGrouchy ( 943109 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @04:05AM (#21846776)

    A 2 am post about a drug to replace sleep, now isn't that ironic!
    No, it isn't:

    ironic [] (comparative more ironic, superlative most ironic)
          1. Both coincidental and contradictory in a humorous or poignant and extremely improbable way.

    - RG>
  • Re:Pilots on meth? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2007 @04:11AM (#21846796)
    Amphetamine != Methamphetamine.

    Not all amphetamine has a methyl group attached to it. Most pilots that require drugs like this use Dexedrine (dextro-amphetamine).
  • Re:Pilots on meth? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2007 @05:01AM (#21846934)

    The amphetamines used by pilots are very slow-acting (by amphetamine standards) so they don't produce quite as much of the "jittery high" that is usually associated with their more common forms. 8+ hours later when the amphetamine pill finally wears off and the pilot is capable of sleeping again he will, if by no other means than running out of fuel, have ended the mission and found a safer place to catch up on the missed sleep. Potent stimulants have been used by combat troops since WWII so various world militaries have presumably become the reigning experts by now on their effects when used in extreme moderation.

    The aforementioned controls notwithstanding, I'd much rather have pilots with nukes alert at the end of a 20-hr flight than dozing off. I'll put this into context for my fellow geeks: If you've ever been sleep-deprived at a LAN Party I'm sure you realize how much microsleep can throw off your aim and timing. Now double that no-sleep time, add in stress from the real threat of being shot down, and replace your mouse with the targeting mechanism for a 10-ton precision bomb that really shouldn't end up in the preschool next door (collateral damage?) ;)

    Long-haul truckers, on the other hand, have a jittery high from the no-doze and a pretty debilitating crash on its way long before the end of their route. That being said, I like to make the generalization that awake people are universally safer than sleeping people when it comes to controlling large masses of fast-moving metal and even more so when you add combustible/hazardous materials.

  • Re:Pilots on meth? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2007 @05:08AM (#21846958)
    To be perfectly honest, yes many USAF pilots use a derivative of methamphetamines commonly referred to as "Go-Pills". When you're making a 16 hour flight just ---to--- your bombing target, it helps to stay awake and alert. Especially if you expect resistance when you arrive. They're only legal if you're on flight status, monitored intensely by a physician, and get off them as soon as mission allows.
  • Re:Speculation (Score:2, Informative)

    by martinussen ( 986404 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @09:02AM (#21847814)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29, 2007 @09:32AM (#21847990)
    The FAA and military medical examiners are extremely conservative. Until a drug has been used for a long time in a large group of people with no adverse side affects, it won't be approved for flight. Even after that, it's not approved until ground testing on the specific pilot is done. For example, Allegra was approved 10 years after it was approved by the FDA, but I still had to take it for 2 weeks before I could fly with it. A stupid allergy drug, yup, 2 weeks without work. Drugs being used off label, no chance. The go pills (amphetamines) have a similar ground test, and at least for military pilots, are counted by the docs to make sure that you can't use more then so many in a certain time, with a couple of sliding windows. IIRC (don't quote me on this) but it's something like no more then 2 times a week, and no more then 5 times a month.

    And for the retard who says "airplanes are on autopilot most of the time, the pilot can take a nap". No, you're just fucking stupid. One pilot must always be awake, in the seat, paying attention to the systems, navigation and radios. If there are 2 pilots, then one can go piss, but if one's napping, the other can't go piss. So, no, you can't really "Take a nap" except on C-17 sized aircraft, with an augmented crew. Fighter pilots have to use go pills; they don't really have an option for a long sortie.
  • Wow! It's not cheap (Score:4, Informative)

    by inicom ( 81356 ) <aem@inic[ ]com ['om.' in gap]> on Saturday December 29, 2007 @09:58AM (#21848108) Homepage
    100 micrograms runs about $120-$150.
    1 milligram about $560.

    Still, if it works. Think of all the extra billable hours...
  • Re:Speculation (Score:2, Informative)

    by nguy ( 1207026 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @10:00AM (#21848120)
    The disease involves the buildup of plaques in the thalamus; that would eventually kill you even without sleep deprivation. So, most likely, both death and insomnia are separate manifestations of a common, underlying, fatal disease.
  • To Be Specific... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Obyron ( 615547 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @11:04AM (#21848564)
    Sorry, but I'm a drug/organic chem geek.

    The amphetamine in the "Go Pills" used by the USAF is dextro-amphetamine. This is NOT a derivative of methamphetamine. They are both derivatives of phenethylamine, and belong to that class of drugs. Amphetamine is an acronym of Alpha-Methyl-PHenEThylAMINE (ie: it's a phenethylamine molecule with a methyl group attached at the alpha position). Amphetamine is chiral, meaning that it has a stereocenter: because the molecule exists in 3D space there are two "versions" of it (called "isomers") that have the same atomic makeup, but are turned in different directions, and are thus non-superimposable. Dextroamphetamine is the dextrorotary isomer of regular ol' amphetamine. (The other isomer is called levo-amphetamine.)

    This is NOT even remotely the same thing as methamphetamine. Do you know anyone on Adderall for ADHD? They are on dexamphetamine. Adderall is a mixture of both isomers of the amphetamine molecule (called a "racemic mixture"). Remember that seemingly minor changes in structure can cause a drug to have vastly different effects. The fact that the amphetamines are stimulants is something of an anomaly, since they're part of the larger class of Phenethylamines, and most PEAs are actually psychedelics (including drugs like MDMA, mescaline, MDMCat, MDA, and the 2C and DOx classes of "research" psychedelics).

    I just want to counter any assumption people might take from this post that Air Force pilots are flying around jacked up to the gills on meth, fiending for a hit from the pipe, and screaming about the spiders crawling underneath their skin. Methamphetamine is the scary, back alley, black sheep cousin of the amphetamine family; similar to how heroin (diacetylmorphine) is the scary, back alley, black sheep cousin of morphine or fentanyl (80 times stronger than morphine, and not uncommonly used in epidurals during childbirth). As the parent suggests, there isn't anything dangerous in an expertly trained pilot taking dexamphetamine at a reasonable dose under medical supervision. If there is, there are thousands of college students out there popping Adderall illegally to study for exams because it intensifies concentration who would probably like to know about it! Methamphetamine, however, as I'm sure you've all seen on the news, is an entirely different animal...

    This isn't so much a reply to the parent as a clarification of a lot of the "USAF pilots are taking meth!" posts I've seen in this thread. It's just not the same thing.
  • by leenks ( 906881 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @12:07PM (#21849018)
    Out of interest, how much exercise do you do per day, and what do you eat? These things can have a massive effect on the ability to sleep - especially the exercise aspect.
  • by Mopatop ( 690958 ) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @01:02PM (#21849376) Homepage
    The main methods of taking drugs are: Ingestion, insufflation (snorting), inhalation and injection.

    With ingestion, the chemical is absorbed through the digestive system. When insufflated, it is absorbed via the mucus membrane at the top & back of your nasal cavity. Inhaled drugs are absorbed through the lungs, and injection needs no explanation.

    The difference is usually a duration/intensity trade-off based on how quickly the chemical enters the bloodstream in its entirety. I listed them above with the longest duration on the left and the highest intensity on the right. This is usually the deciding factor in administration for drug users, however some drugs are not suitable for some methods for various reasons. For example, MDMA (ecstasy) is particularly painful to snort, amphetamine has a longer tail-off period when ingested (making sleep difficult) and obviously you'd find it difficult to snort cannabis. You can usually snort nearly any water-soluble powdered substance.

    Some drugs also have different effects when administered differently. Ketamine is much more of a tranquilliser when ingested than when snorted (when it is a more enjoyable dissociative). Cocaine acts as a (powerful) local anaesthetic making it well-suited to insufflation, whereas if you rub it into your gums you lose all feeling in your mouth. MDMA has a "threshold" dosage for its main effect making it unsuitable for absorbing through the gums as gauging the dosage is tricky.

    I should point out that whereas the summary implied inhaled drugs are "snorted", this is incorrect. Inhalation is different to insufflation - I would be impressed to see someone get a monkey to bosh a fat line of charlie.

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