While often depicted as that hilarious affliction wherein people take involuntary naps, narcolepsy is actually a serious (and seriously misunderstood) illness that can ruin a person's life. But now, scientists may have finally found a way to cure it, and all you have to do is get hooked on smack.
When high, heroin users look like they just got back from a very exciting day at Chuck E. Cheese's and their dads had to carry them out of the car. Opiates are painkillers, after all; the point is to feel as relaxed as possible. But its long-term effects appear to be the opposite. That's because of a little thing called hypocretin, which conveniently sounds like a Victorian insult for people who shoot up heroin.
Hypocretin is neurotransmitter that regulates our alertness and wakefulness. In 2000, it was discovered that narcoleptics all suffer from a severe hypocretin deficiency, which is why their brains sometimes forget that it's not a good idea to power the body down in the middle of a complicated figure skating routine. But recently, a group of scientists studying hypocretin levels in narcoleptic brains stumbled upon a control brain that once belonged to a heroin addict, and they noticed its hypocretin levels were off the charts. After inspecting five more brown-addled brains, they noted that each of them had an average of 54 percent more wakefulness cells than the average brain. And you know you're in bad shape when your brain has to make sure you don't nap your way into withdrawal.
When the team put their theory to the test using the tried and true scientific method of making a bunch of narcoleptic mice do heroin, it turned out that even after getting them back on the wagon, their heightened hypocretin levels stayed the same. Unfortunately, curing narcolepsy this way could only be achieved after long-term exposure, which is tricky because, as a rule, opioids are addictive as hell. Fortunately, the same team also believes that reducing the levels of hypocretin in opioid users could help them combat their addiction, and you don't often get a cure that comes with its own cure for the addiction to the cure.For more of Cedric's ramblings, do follow him on Twitter.
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