Curent projects in the laboratory focus on the substituted cathinones (including 3,4-methylnedioxypyrovalerone; MDPV, mephedrone and methylone), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or "Ecstasy"), methamphetamine, cannabis and opioids.
Compulsive Drug Use, Addiction and Dependence
Addiction to several classes of psychoactive drugs, from opioids such as oxycodone and heroin, to cannabis, to psychomotor stimulant drugs such as methamphetamine and novel cathinone derivatives ("bath salts") interferes with numerous aspects of personal health, vocational performance, interpersonal relationships and financial well being. Behavioral consequences of drug abuse, and the illicit drug trade, also strain legal and emergency medical resources throughout the US. Current therapeutic approaches for addiction are less than completely effective and additional research is necessary to identify new avenues for medication development.
Research in the Taffe Laboratory [ PubMed ] focuses on the effects of recreational or abused drugs on the brain and the resulting changes in behavior. We have a current interest in the compulsive use of drugs with a focus on factors involved in the transition from casual to repetitive drug use, as well as on novel therapeutic approaches using the immune system. Additional studies focus on the acute and lasting impact of recreational drug exposure on behavior and physiology.
Recent successes in early clinical trials using immunotherapeutic approaches for cocaine and nicotine addiction have motivated interest in creating similar vaccines for methamphetamine addiction.
Neuropharmacology of Drug Addiction
Substituted Cathinone "Bath Salts": A diverse array of new stimulant drugs based on the cathinone core structure emerged on worldwide markets starting around 2008-2009. Early entities included drugs such as 4-methylmethcathinone (4-MMC, mephedrone), 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethcathinone (methylone). Some exhibit neuropharmacological actions similar to MDMA, some are more similar to cocaine and some are more similar to traditional amphetamine stimulants such as methamphetamine. There are now over a dozen cathinone entities which have been placed under Schedule I control by the US DEA, and more of them may follow in an attempt to evade legal control. Our goal with the cathinone project is to determine how the pharmacological differences between these entities confer different risks for compulsive use and for thermoregulatory disruption of a life-threatening nature.
Vandewater, S.A., Creehan, K.M. and Taffe, M.A. Intravenous self-administration of entactogen-class stimulants in male rats. Neuropharmacology, 2015, in press. [ Publisher Site ]
Aarde, S.M., Creehan, K.M., Vandewater, S.A., Dickerson, T.J. and Taffe, M.A. In vivo potency and efficacy of the novel cathinone α-pyrrolidinopentiophenone and 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone: Self-administration and locomotor stimulation in male rats. Psychopharmacology, 2015, 232:3045-3055. [ Publisher Site ][ PubMed ]
Previous work has been supported by USPHS grants R01 DA024705, R01 DA035482 , R01 DA024105, R01 AA016807, P20 DA024194, P60 AA006420, R01 DA18418, R21 AA013972, R01 DA13390, R01 MH61692 and P30 MH62261.