HUNTER researchers hope a drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder could help people struggling with an ice addiction.
Professor Adrian Dunlop said the “LiMA” study was exploring whether lisdexamfetamine – an existing drug used to treat ADHD – could help reduce methamphetamine use, as well as cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
“The theory behind it is a little bit like a nicotine replacement therapy for tobacco dependence,” the director of Drug and Alcohol Clinical Services for Hunter New England Health said.
“If you can give a variant of a drug that has some similar effects on the brain but not in a harmful way, and in a more controlled way, then maybe that can help people grapple with their problems with being dependent on a drug, and decrease their use of the drug.”
Professor Dunlop said they had consistently seen methamphetamine users presenting for treatment over the past decade in Newcastle and the Hunter Region.
“At the specialist clinic for amphetamine users we provide treatment that is evidence-based and is seen as being the most effective treatment – counselling, interventions, cognitive behavioural therapy, and motivational interviewing, etc.
“But it clearly doesn’t work for absolutely everybody,” he said.
“We had an interest in trying medications. There have a few that have already been tried, mainly in the US for methamphetamine dependence. And none so far have proved to be demonstrably effective.
“So we worked with St Vincent’s in Sydney to conduct a pilot of this medication, which is used in the treatment of ADHD – prescribed for kids and adolescents and sometimes adults.”
The LiMA study (lisdexamfetamine for the treatment of methamphetamine dependence) will be trialled in Newcastle, Sydney and Adelaide.
“We are looking at adding a site in Melbourne too,” Professor Dunlop said.
They hope to recruit about 160 participants across those sites.
“I go into it interested and excited, but with an open mind. I’m not convinced yet – it might work, it might not,” Professor Dunlop said.
“We don’t know which patients are getting the active medication or the placebo medication, and the patients don’t know that. And that’s how we will work out whether it works or not.”
To find out more about the study, contact Hunter New England Local Health District, Drug and Alcohol Clinical Services on 0428 464 820.