When racked with a cold, flu, or bout of allergies, breathing through a snotless schnoz can seem like a sweet, sweet luxury—one most coveted during sleepless hours of the night. But many of the pills marketed to help achieve that unobstructed euphoria may be infuriatingly useless.
In a new study of more than 500 adult allergy sufferers, researchers found that the common, over-the-counter(OTC) decongestant, phenylephrine, was no better at unclogging noses than placebo—even when given at higher doses than those currently approved. The study’s authors called on the Food and Drug administration to strike phenylephrine from its list of effective nasal decongestants.
Methamphetamine is one of the nastiest drug addictions to overcome, in part because memories of the high are so powerful. But what if scientists could erase those drug-infused recollections? Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida have developed a drug that’s able to do just that in mice.
We already have a general memory erasing drug – it’s called U0126. U0126 inhibits a kinase called MEK1 that doesn’t critically kill any one pathway when you inhibit it, but instead it ‘nudges’ half of the functions in the cell. Signaling through MEK1 is like the biochemical equivalent of Kevin Bacon; every single process has at most a degree or two of separation from it. One of the many processes altered by inhibiting it is memory reconsolidation. So give someone the drug, have them recall a memory strongly (this is why fear-inducing memories work well) and it’s like you sent the memory on snapchat.
On an obscure webpage that looks like it’s been barely updated in the last decade there’s a link to download a PDF with the unassuming name of “NDSP Catalog.” Click it and you’ll find pretty much every drug you can dream up: meth, cocaine, heroin, MDMA—nearly 800 compounds in all. Welcome to the scientist’s stash of illegal drugs, available for free from the government.
The catalog, aka NIDA Drug Supply Program, provides scientists with scheduled substances for human and animal research. If you’ve ever seen a subway ad recruiting for marijuana research or a news coverage of how cocaine addles the brains of mice, then you’ve likely indirectly encountered the NDSP.