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Recreational use of HIV antiretroviral drug linked to its psychoactivity

Efavirenz (tradenames: Sustiva, Stocrin) is an antiretroviral (ARV) drug commonly used to treat HIV. Its popularity as a medication, alone or more commonly in combination with other HIV medications (tradename: Atripla), is due to its superior effectiveness in suppressing replication of the virus that causes AIDS. Though highly effective, a standard dose of efavirenz is known to carry a risk of side effects that include adverse neuropsychiatric complications such as depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, impaired concentration, aggressive behavior, night terrors, hallucinations, paranoia, psychosis and delusions. However the question remains as to why these side effects occur. Recent anecdotal reports of the recreational use of efavirenz provided some clues.

Dr. John A. Schetz at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, Texas, utilizes a mechanistic approach to solving problems and answering questions of importance to society. As a neuropharmacologist working to discover and develop new drugs for the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders, his experience and intuition helped solve the mystery as to why efavirenz, when taken as prescribed, can cause adverse psychiatric events, as well as why there are reports of efavirenz being diverted for recreational use. The later practice could encourage the emergence of ARV-resistant HIV strains by educating the HIV virus.
 
 

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