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Australian scientists lead world-first trial of pill to treat meth addiction

Australian scientists lead world-first trial of pill to treat meth addiction

PanARMENIAN.Net - Perth researchers will lead a world-first trial of a pill that could become a cheap and simple take-home treatment for methamphetamine addicts, The West Australian reports.

Curtin University’s National Drug Research Institute is heading the N-ICE trial to investigate whether the medication n-acetyl cysteine, or NAC, can reduce cravings for crystal meth and help addicts quit.

NAC is a new-generation medication showing promise in treating substance abuse. It balances brain chemicals and targets the compound glutamate that is thought to cause cravings.

Researchers believe it could reduce the toxic effects that ice has on the brain, such as triggering powerful mood changes.

A big advantage is the medication could be prescribed by a doctor and used at home — a tablet taken twice a day like a vitamin pill.

About one in 100 Australians aged 14 and over are estimated to have used ice in the past year.

The trial, which is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and includes seven universities and institutes, will be run out of three clinics in Wollongong, Geelong and Melbourne.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Rebecca McKetin from Perth’s NDRI, said previous studies showed NAC could reduce cravings for meth use and other substances including cocaine, cannabis and tobacco.

“This is a new and exciting area where we’re starting to understand the processes in the brain that underpin addiction as opposed to just using a drug,” she said.

“When someone first takes ice they experience the desirable effects of intoxication but if they continue to use and become dependent, changes occur in the brain that cause cravings, making it hard to stop using it.

“NAC helps to reduce cravings by restoring the balance of chemicals in the brain that are involved in craving and drug-seeking, making it easier for people to manage their desire for the drug.

“We also know it’s got a pretty good safety profile.”

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