EVERETT, Wash. — An Everett hospital was chosen to take part in a research study for a new treatment for meth addiction.
So far, doctors say results have been promising.
Curtis Letzkus has been through the Providence Hospital emergency department more times than he can remember for overdoses and other addiction-related issues.
"I've been in and out of this hospital for years and years," he said. "One of my more lengthy stays was 67 days in the ICU. So, yeah, I've been here a bit."
Among other things, Letzkus was addicted to meth. His disease caused him to live in a tent for nine years. Getting clean was brutal.
"The withdrawal is really uncomfortable," said Letzkus. "A lot of sweating and a lot of anxiety. Not being able to sleep for days and days. Fidgeting all the time. It isn't pretty."
Letzkus was far from alone.
According to the State Department of Health, the number of fatal meth overdoses in Washington ballooned from 54 in 2000 to 728 in 2020.
Nationwide, between 2015 and 2019, meth-related deaths grew exponentially to more than 15,000 per year, a 180% increase, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
While there are medical and chemical treatments to help people recover from opioid addiction there is nothing for meth, until now.
"It sounds too good to be true," said Tom Robey, an emergency department doctor at Providence Everett.
Robey is part of a research study at the hospital treating meth addicts with monoclonal antibodies, the same technique used to treat COVID-19.
"It's like a switch," said Robey. "Patients feel better within minutes of getting the treatment. It's like an antidote to a snake bite."
Antibodies cling to the meth, sucking it from the brain.
The drug is then naturally flushed from the body.
What's most promising, according to researchers, a single IV treatment can last more than a month.
It prevents the patient from getting high, keeping them clean while they begin to get their lives straight, seeking long-term treatment, or mental healthcare with greater clarity.
Robey says of the 10 patients he has treated all of them have seen their lives change for the better.
"They have their housing vouchers. They've made medical appointments. They have their ID. They come in with a family member or partner who cares for them. They have a smile on their face," Robey said. "It's a game-changer."
Everett was chosen to take part in the study because of its pervasive meth problem.
"There is no shortage of people who would benefit from this study," said Robey. "We are enrolling as many qualified people as we can."
People interested in taking part in the study can contact Katie Sanders at 425-261-4069. These days Curtis Letzkus is still in the Providence E-R all the time, but it's as a drug counselor.
He's 5 years sober.
While the treatment wasn't available when he was an addict, Letzkus believes it's already providing incredible new hope.
"I really do hope this works out the way it's expected to," said Curtis. "It's amazing."
If approved, the treatment likely won't be on the market for another four to six years.