For the past three years, the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHSC) in San Antonio has been injecting mice with methamphetamine. The $1 million study was aimed to further the search for a cure to methamphetamine addiction.
The information was disclosed in the March 2016 “Deadly Doses: A Legal Low” report, a collaboration between the Animal Justice Project USA and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.
The report found that nearly 100 experiments had been conducted at 21 institutions of higher learning across the country, including the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the University of Arkansas and the University of Texas Health Science Center.
Each of the university-sanctioned experiments involved some form of induced animal addiction to recreational drugs, tobacco or alcohol, of which the authors of the report consider animal abuse.
The National Institutes of Health’s website reveals that the funder is “the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world, investing more than $30 billion in taxpayer dollars to achieve its mission to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.”
Of those $30 billion, the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s subgroup, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, awarded the University of Texas Health Science Center $1,381,113 from 2013 to 2016 to study the effects of methamphetamine on mice’s brains.
The study’s abstract reads, “Methamphetamine (meth) addiction currently presents an enormous public health issue, and yet no therapeutic agent is currently approved for its treatment.”
Methamphetamine use has increased since 2010. In 2013 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that the percentage of meth users had grown from 0.1 percent in 2010 to 0.2 percent in 2013, respectively, an increase of 353,000 individuals to 595,000.
The researchers involved in the UTHSC study hoped to identify the cellular mechanisms involved in methamphetamine addiction, including autoreceptor signaling, which decreases as a result of methamphetamine addiction.
The NIH writes, “(the study’s) findings will provide a detailed understanding of the relationship between neurotensin, DA neuron activity and meth self-administration and will lay the foundation for therapeutics targeting neurotensinand autoreceptor-mediated signaling.” The research does not violate any state or federal laws.
“Deadly Doses” revealed that the UTHSC’s methamphetamine studies involved surgically implanting catheters into the jugular veins of 8 to 10-week old mice. These catheters were connected via tubing to a pump located between the mice’s shoulder blades, which allowed for external methamphetamine injections. After the injections, the newly addicted mice were able to self-administer the drug as well.
According to the report, approximately 33 percent of the mice were not included in the experiment’s conclusion due to infected or faulty catheters; after 12-36 days, all of the mice were killed.
Will Sansom, Executive Director of Media Communications at the University of Health Science Center San Antonio, stated that the study’s actions were “in accordance with both federal and University of Texas rules and regulations” set in place by National Institutes of Health, the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) and the institutional animal care program.
Under the 1996 Animal Welfare Act, which “sets minimum standards of care that must be provided for animals – including housing, handling, sanitation, food, water, veterinary care and protection from weather extremes,” mice are excluded.
In 2002, the Animal Welfare Act was amended to change the definition of an “animal.” This amendment effectively classified birds, rats of the genus Rattus and mice of the genus Mus as “non-animal.” These species – which account for 95 percent of all laboratory research – could now be handled at the disposal and regulation of each research institution’s choosing.
Despite the UTHSC’s research regarding addiction, the National Institutes of Health reports that animal studies often provide little insight into the ways drugs affect humans.
The NIH’s Wide Strategic Plan Fiscal Years 2016-2020 report states, “Petri dish and animal models often fail to provide good ways to mimic disease or predict how drugs will work in humans, resulting in much wasted time and money while patients wait for therapies.”
Julia Orr of the Animal Justice Project USA hopes the Deadly Doses report will put an end to federally funded research conducted on animals to study the effects of recreational drugs, tobacco and alcohol, especially when the results seem to yield minimal – if any – progress.
Orr explained, “By making this information public, we can educate people about this egregious cruelty and waste of money so we can pressure the NIH to first, have them attempt to justify the unjustifiable, and ultimately bring an end to the experiments.”
David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, believes that the only way to accomplish NIH pressuring is through Congress. “We want to get people pissed off. I mean we want people mad, and we want people to take action,” Williams said. “So we’re hoping that that’s what the next step is – that people will call their member of Congress and demand this, because Congress doesn’t change because they want to; they change because they have to.”