A drug used to treat inattentive and impulsive children could be the key to weaning addicts off the deadly drug ice, researchers say.
Lisdexamfetamine was recently listed on Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children between the age of six and 18 years old.
But researchers at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital are hoping higher doses of the drug could help serious ice users control cravings.
Associate Professor Nadine Ezard will explain the trial at the Australian Drugs Conference in Melbourne today.
“People can take this drug once a day, it has a slow onset across the whole day,” she said.
“The idea is that, if it works, it might help those symptoms of withdrawal that trigger a desire to use methamphetamine.”
Users must attend the hospital for daily doses and must be monitored because improper use can give people ice-like highs.
But lisdexamfetamine has researchers excited because of the way it converts to dexamphetamine in red blood cells.
This conversion process means the treatment is slower acting and gives users fewer ‘positive’ drug-like effects.
“So even if you crush it up and inject it, it’s not going to work quicker, you’re not going to get higher quicker,” Dr Ezard said.
Dr Ezard hoped the drug could work in similar way to methadone for heroin users.
“It does something very similar to the body that methamphetamine does, but not the same,” she said.
“It’s the same kind of principle that we use with nicotine replacement for the treatment of nicotine dependence.
“So we’re not giving tobacco, but we’re giving the active drug that people get addicted to in a different format.”
Currently researchers do not know how safe it is to use higher doses of up to 250 milligrams per day of the ADHD treatment.
A 14-week trial program at St Vincent’s Hospital and Newcastle Private Hospital will monitor the way users react to the drug and whether it helps reduce cravings.
More funds needed to find ice treatment: researchers
Drug treatment specialist Dr Rebecca McKetin from the Australian National University told the ABC’s AM program that drug and alcohol support services were not catering to the needs of ice users.
“Our traditional services are very much around providing psychosocial care and they’re very generic across a range of drugs,” she said.
“But they’re largely targeting people who use opioids and alcohol, so a lot of people who use methamphetamines don’t see these services as necessarily catering to their needs.”
Dr McKetin said more financial support was needed to help researchers find a treatment for ice addiction.
“I think there needs to be a much bigger investment in that research,” she said.
“To make sure that as this problem takes off that we are able to come back and say look, ‘this is a potential treatment and we would like to try it on a larger scale’.”
This article first appeared on ‘Yahoo!7’ on 14 October 2014.