Hunter researchers hope drug used to treat ADHD could help people recover from ice addiction

Hope: Professor Adrian Dunlop said the study would explore whether an ADHD drug could help ice users overcome addiction. Picture: Marina Neil
Hope: Professor Adrian Dunlop said the study would explore whether an ADHD drug could help ice users overcome addiction. Picture: Marina Neil

HUNTER researchers hope a drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) could support recovery from an ice addiction.

Professor Adrian Dunlop said the world-first “LiMA” study was exploring whether lisdexamfetamine – an existing drug used to treat ADHD – could help reduce methamphetamine use, 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.

“Dexamphetamine has been used as a treatment for methamphetamine dependence with some initial promising results. 

“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.”

Professor Dunlop said they had consistently seen methamphetamine users presenting for treatment in the past decade in Newcastle and the Hunter Region.

“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 currently don’t have a proven medication treatment for severe methamphetamine dependence.”

There had been some US research into using existing medications for methamphetamine dependence, but so far, none had 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,” he said.

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 180 participants.

“I go into it interested and excited, but with an open mind. I’m not convinced yet. It might work, it might not,” he said. “Lisdexamphetamine is a slow release form of dexamphetamine, with a slower onset of action and is metabolised by the body in a way that is very hard to be used non-medically.

“We won’t know which patients are getting the active medication or the placebo medication, and the patients won’t know that either.”

To find out more about the study, contact Hunter New England Local Health District Drug and Alcohol Clinical Services on 0428 464 820.