Researchers at Australia’s Curtin University are about to conduct a clinical trial for a pill that could be used to treat meth addiction.
The pill, which contains n-acetyl cysteine, is also known as NAC in medical circles. The trial will test the efficacy of the pill in reducting cravings for crystal meth in an effort to help people addicted to the drug quit using. Past research of NAC has been revealed the drug can balance the chemicals in the brain by targeting glutamate, the brain chemical responsible for crystal meth cravings.
People on meth also experience severe mood swings, which can lead to self-harm. Recent preliminary research shows that NAC can help reduce these side effects, giving people with a substance abuse disorder relief from these challenges.
Lead researcher Professor Rebecca McKetin from Perth’s NDRI says that NAC has been studied in the past and had promising results in attempts to reduce cravings for meth and other addictive substances such as cannabis and cocaine.
How does it work? McKetin says that when a person first tries crystal meth, they get incredibly high. The craving for the drug is almost instant, and then they become dependent on drug to stave away the cravings. The idea is that NAC will be able to reduce these cravings to a point where they can sit still and focus on recovery. NAC could be a solution for those entering detox and early treatment. Just like pills meant to reduct opioid cravings, patients would be prescribed the drug alongside talk therapy or an inpatient treatment program. This would allow patients to fully detox from meth in a safe place without unbearable withdrawal symptoms.
Unlike other medication-assisted treatment, NAC focuses only on treating cravings. Drugs used in the treatments for opioid addiction, for example, block the effects of the drug itself if somebody ingests it. NAC is the first drug aimed at meth that targets the cravings that drive addicted behavior. It’s possible that people addicted to meth would also have fewer cravings for other drugs they abuse, such as nicotine or marijuana.
Researchers expect to publish the results from the study within the next two years.