What if there was a magic pill that could curb cravings for crystal meth?
Researchers are conducting a trial of a new medication which promises to do just that – and Wollongong is one of three trial sites to be rolled out nationally.
Called the N-ICE trial, researchers will investigate whether N-Acetyl Cysteine – or NAC – can reduce cravings and help people stop using crystal methamphetamine, commonly known as ice.
Locally we’ve enrolled our first two participants, and ultimately require around 60 people who regularly use ice ...
University of Wollongong researcher Associate Professor Peter Kelly said previous international studies had shown that NAC could reduce cravings for methamphetamine, as well as other substances such as cocaine, cannabis and tobacco.
“We are in the process of establishing a randomised controlled trial to see if NAC can actually help people to reduce their ice use, or even stop using altogether,” Prof Kelly said.
“We are collaborating on this world-first trial with Curtin University, and are fortunate that Wollongong is one of the trial sites along with Geelong and Melbourne.
“Locally we’ve enrolled our first two participants, and ultimately require around 60 people who regularly use ice and who aren’t currently involved in formal drug and alcohol treatment.”
Prof Kelly, who is affiliated with the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, said the groundbreaking trial offered a “great opportunity” for Illawarra users – and the region.
“Drug use affects all of us – it has a massive affect on those who are actively addicted, as well as their friends, family and the whole community,” he said.
“The fact that there hasn’t been an established medication for methamphetamine addiction is a barrier – with users seeking treatment having to access outpatient counselling or residential rehabilitation services.
“So exploring different treatment strategies and coming up with better interventions is an important area of research.
“If successful, this medication is something that can be rolled out relatively easily and it’s a low cost treatment solution.”
Prof Kelly said NAC – an amino acid derivative – was one of a new generation of drugs being trialled for addiction.
“It targets glutamate changes in the brain that are thought to lead to drug cravings and addiction,” he said. “It brings the chemicals in the brain back in balance.”
The research is being funded by a National Health and Research Council grant.
Trial participants will take the medication at home over a three-month period; meeting with researchers weekly to discuss any change in cravings, mood and usage.
For more details visit www.nicetrial.info