Monday, March 26, 2012

DNA and Drugs

Hi all,

Today I read an interesting article that reminded me of something our awesome professor said in 201 last week (wrong class, I know. Not the point). We were learning about malaria, and how drugs taken to treat malaria or prevent malaria have some pretty "psychedelic" side effects...hallucinations, etc. [who needs acid when we can just take this instead?! (but not really)]

Well, on huffingtonpost.com there is an article about a US troop in Afghanistan who killed 17 civilians. The author of the article ascertains that it is possibly because of a side-effect from taking an anti-malaria drug, Mefloquine, AKA Lariam, that the troop committed such an atrocious crime. Side effects include: depression, psychosis, and suicidal thoughts. According to the article, there is sometimes also an urge to hurt someone or yourself. The urge comes on fairly quickly, and "it just seems like the right thing to do".

Although use of this drug was dropped almost entirely in 2009, it is still used in certain circumstances (like in Afghanistan), although those who have suffered traumatic brain injury should not be given the drug. The soldier involved in the article did, in fact, previously suffer a traumatic brain injury. As already noted, the effects were fairly disastrous. This is not the first time something like this has happened, either.

(Here is the link to the article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/25/robert-bales-malaria-drug_n_1378671.html)

Although it has not been confirmed whether or not the soldier took this drug, it is interesting to note the potential side effects. 23andme.com says that our DNA results will inform us about how we will react to certain drugs, and it is a comforting thought to know that one day things like this can, hopefully, screened for in advance.

I, personally, am happy to hear about this development. I was diagnosed with depression in my early teenage years, and had to deal with medications that did not work too well. I was too young to understand how drugs worked, and took them because I was supposed to. However, instead of alleviating any thoughts they had adverse effects and my depression increased. I eventually switched to another medication, which still didn't work any better. During my first year of college, I realized that I felt worse after taking the medication, and stopped taking them. Ironically, many of the symptoms of depression I felt went away after I stopped taking any medication. If my DNA had been analyzed before, then I could have enjoyed all the time that was otherwise wasted. (I'm happy to say I haven't taken any medication since I quit taking them, and don't regret it at all).

Although this might seem like too personal a post, I think my own example, as well as that of the soldier in Afghanistan, show the potential missteps that can occur as a result of taking medication, and how 23andme.com can resolve problems such as this, and ameliorate our future.

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