Recreational use of HIV antiretroviral drug linked to psychoactivity

More than one in 270 people in the U.S. are living with HIV, and every 9.5 minutes someone is else is infected. The economic cost estimates associated with HIV/AIDS exceed 36 billion dollars a year. Effective antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatments have helped people with HIV to live longer. However, a highly effective and widely prescribed antiretroviral drug, efavirenz, can also cause adverse neuropsychiatric side effects including depression, anxiety, aggressive behavior, night terrors, hallucinations, psychosis and delusions. Recently efavirenz has been diverted for recreational use when the pills are crushed and smoked for a high.

John Schetz, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Neuroscience, recently applied his expertise to help solve the mystery as to why efavirenz, when taken as prescribed, can cause adverse neuropsychiatric events, and why it may be attractive for recreational use. This later use is a potential public health concern because improper dosing could encourage the development of ARV-resistant HIV strains.

Dr. Schetz and colleagues hope their findings will help generate support for additional studies aimed at preventing ARV side effects and abuse. Re-engineering a highly effective ARV drug that lacks adverse neuropsychiatric side effects and abuse potential could foster patient compliance, reduce the likelihood of HIV drug resistant strains and prevent illicit use of HIV medications.

Recent News

Kari Northeim
  • Our People
|Sep 28, 2023

HSC’s Dr. Kari Northeim and Parker County collaborators awarded SAMHSA grant for rural EMS training and education

  Dr. Kari Northeim, School of Public Health assistant professor of population and community health at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, has been awarded the SAMHSA Rural EMS Training and Education grant in conjunction with HSC community partners, Parke...
Graci Finco
  • Research
|Sep 28, 2023

SBS researchers publish innovative study in Nature Scientific Reports 

People with leg amputations, including those with diabetes, run the risk of overuse injuries like osteoarthritis, muscle atrophy or bone breaks in their intact limbs.   Now, new research is quantifying the impacts of amputations and diabetes, a leading cause of amputation, on those overuse ...
Frank Filipetto Cropped For Social
  • On Campus
|Sep 28, 2023

HSC’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine to host symposium on ‘Creating Change in Health Care Delivery’

Americans have soured on the U.S. health care system, according to a Gallup poll taken earlier this year. Most of those surveyed rate health care quality as subpar, including 31% saying it is “only fair” and 21% — a new high — calling it “poor.” The U.S. ranked nearly last compared w...
Tarri Wyre
  • On Campus
|Sep 26, 2023

SaferCare Texas empowers Community Health Workers to complete HSC Mental Wellness microcredential

Tarri Wyre saw the growing need to expand her mental health education. The community health worker and ambulatory care manager for Memorial Hermann Health in Houston turned to the Mental Wellness microcredential, offered by The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s SaferC...