Weird, wacky and wonderful: Medical madness and Crazy cures

This week our writers discuss some the weirdest medications. Do not try these at home!

29th February 2016

Cocaine for motion sickness:

In 3000BC, Incas in the Andes chewed coca leaves to counteract the effects of thin mountain air by speeding up heart rates and breathing. Cocaine was first isolated in 1859 by Albert Niemann and was famously used as an ingredient in the new soft drink Coca-Cola in 1886, the same year as its effects on supressing motion sickness were first discussed. Cocaine has an effect on reward pathways in the brain by increasing the number of neurotransmitters present and leading to addiction by causing feelings of euphoria. By increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain, cocaine can prevent feelings of nausea and prevent vomiting. Even today, cocaine is still legally used as an anaesthetic and for decreasing bleeding in nasal surgery through application directly to the skin, but can also increase the risk of stroke and heart attack, so maybe don’t pass up those antihistamines just yet.

Lizz Lennox

LSD for anxiety, Ketamine for depression:

Anxiety sucks. It can limit your free time with overbearing worry, and put a real spanner in the works in regards to your enjoyment in life. But apparently, we have an answer in the form of Lysergic acid diethylamide, or its street name LSD. It seems like one extreme to another, but seriously, this psychedelic wildcard could really do some good. 12 volunteers underwent an experiment to test its effects. All applicants suffered from a life-threatening illness, and most scored highly on anxiety symptom tests, with 8 taking a dose of LSD, and the remaining four being given an ‘active placebo’ to induce some of the effects. The results were ground-breaking, with no ‘bad trips’ recorded, some of the patients wanted more of the drug due to its ability to make them feel so strongly. Some had vivid recollections of happy neglected memories, and others felt it made them feel far more emotional and alive, and although they felt negative emotions just as strong as positive ones, it was better to really feel something than to just repress and forget. Furthermore, it was recently revealed that Ketamine works wonders for depression, so perhaps recreational drugs could lead to more insights into possible psychotherapies?

Jordan  Oloman


Marijuana for period pains:

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient of marijuana, could be a saviour to many, during their time of the month. Symptoms known to be helped by THC ingestion are anxiety and nausea, which has led to controlling cramps and headaches. These are all too common known; whether you’ve experienced it first-hand or had a girl in your life complaining for days on end. During a period, contraction of the uterus releases prostaglandins, which are involved in pain and inflammation; leading to muscle contractions. THC is known to directly reduce this inflammation and ‘block’ the pain. Already in California, medical marijuana is being prescribed for premenstrual dysmorphic disorder (a severe form of PMS). Unfortunately, research is limited due to the legality of conducting experiments with marijuana. Queen Victoria’s physicians were known to prescribe marijuana concoctions to relieve PMS. Surely - if it’s fit for a queen, it’s also fit for us?

Ana Beretsos

Aspirin for heart attacks:

Aspirin as we know it was first used in 1899 after Felix Hoffmann - who worked for the chemical company Bayer - used it to prevent his father’s arthritis pain, but the natural equivalent found in willow bark has been used for thousands of years. Its main use is as a non-steroidal painkiller, the same class as other common over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen. It was first recommended as a method of reducing the risk of heart attacks in 1948, based on anecdotal evidence from Dr Lawrence Craven, and the Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to the research group who demonstrated this in 1982 by demonstrating that aspirin inhibits production of prostaglandins; hormones responsible for clot formation. So the next time you take aspirin after a messy night at Digi, don’t forget the roots of the humble tablet, and remember - even if you’ve destroyed your liver, you’re still doing your heart some good.

Lizz Lennox

Booze drug for HIV:

Since conducting a small clinical trial, scientists at the University of Melbourne have discovered that a widely used drug could be a vital step forward in finding the cure for HIV. Known as Antabuse or disulphiram, this non-toxic drug has been given to alcoholics for years because it induces vomiting when alcohol is consumed – a strong incentive to avoid the booze! Therefore, disulphiram can be given safely to HIV patients for long periods of time as long as they don’t drink whilst taking the drug. Current anti-retroviral medications are strong enough to eradicate HIV from the blood, but the virus can hide in a dormant state in other parts of the body and re-emerge if treatment ceases. Unfortunately, disulphiram alone won’t solve this deadly disease, but it is a promising option for combining with other drugs. If a second, non-toxic drug is discovered, then the approximate 39 million HIV sufferers around the world have the potential to live healthy, drug-free lives in the future.

Ellen Jones

Headsets for stroke:

Virtual reality headsets may seem like a bit of a videogame gimmick, and things like the Oculus Rift have made a name already in the gaming community, however they’ve been known for a while to have a secondary use: the treatment of stroke victims. Virtual reality goggles are used to run a software program which uses three-dimensional avatars of the affected parts of the body -  triggering the brain to move parts of the body which are otherwise unable to move. This is already recognised as a method of therapy, and recently, Switzerland-based company MindMaze has recently received a $100bn investment to develop virtual reality hardware and neuroscience further. Their work has already had huge approval in Europe, showing the effectiveness of this technology. Sure, it’d be nice to shoot some aliens on Halo with one of these things strapped to your head, but their effectiveness as medical treatment far outweighs their aesthetic capabilities.

Errol Kerr

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