Burnet Institute Research fellow Dr Brendan Quinn has been appointed co-investigator of a world-first trial of a new medication to help people dependent on crystal methamphetamine, or ‘ice’.
Called the N-ICE Trial, researchers are investigating if N-Acetyl Cysteine, or NAC, can reduce cravings for ice and help people stop using the substance.
The N-ICE Trial is being conducted at frontline clinical services in Wollongong, Geelong and Melbourne.
The coordinator of the Melbourne site, Dr Quinn said many people who use ice do not use the main existing treatment options including counseling interventions and residential rehabilitation.
“Over-stretched services with wait lists, the need for lengthy residential stays, stigma and fears about confidentiality are among the reasons people don’t get treatment,” Dr Quinn said.
“We are hoping this take-home medication can help people who aren’t accessing these conventional drug treatment options to reduce or stop their ice use.
“Methamphetamine continues to create problems for individuals, families and communities in Australia and worldwide, so there is a continued need to identify effective treatment options.”
NAC is one of a new generation of medications being trialled for addiction. It targets glutamate changes in the brain that are thought to underpin drug craving and addiction.
Lead researcher and National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) Associate Professor Rebecca McKetin said previous studies showed NAC could reduce cravings for methamphetamine use and other substances including cocaine, cannabis and tobacco.
“When someone first takes ice they experience the desirable effects of intoxication,” Professor McKetin said.
“But if they continue to use, and become dependent, changes occur in the brain that cause cravings, making it hard to stop using ice.
“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.”
Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the NDRI at Curtin University is leading the trial in collaboration with Deakin University, Monash University, the University of Wollongong, the University of Newcastle, La Trobe University and Burnet.
Burnet’s program Director, Behaviours and Health Risks, Professor Paul Dietze, and Senior Fellow Dr Peter Higgs are also co-investigators.
Anyone interested in the N-ICE Trial should visit www.nicetrial.info for more information.