10 Feb ADHD Meds May Help Meth Addicts
Researchers in Australia have an exciting new idea: give ADHD medications to methamphetamine (meth) addicts. There are a number of factors that have led doctors and researchers to believe that this could be a valid way to help treat meth addicts by reducing their cravings for the illicit drug. A trial at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney is about to get underway and hopes are high that it will prove successful.
Australia’s Meth Problem
The U.S. has seen thousands of citizens get addicted to and die from using the drug methamphetamine. This controlled substance is rarely prescribed due to the potential for abuse and the serious side effects. It is a stimulant and produces a euphoric high. Meth, unlike many other drugs, can easily be made from common chemicals in a home lab. The proliferation of amateur meth labs in the U.S. in the early 2000s fueled the epidemic of addiction and its devastating consequences.
Australia is in the midst of its own epidemic. In one area of the country, officials reported that in 2010 one in 25 drug deaths was related to meth use. By 2012 that number had increased to one in 10. One of the reasons for the rise in fatalities is that meth in Australia has become purer and stronger in recent years. All regions of the country are vulnerable to the growing meth epidemic, and officials and activists are calling for a multipronged approach that includes better resources and more effective treatment for addicts.
ADHD Medications Could Help
In the face of an overwhelming and growing epidemic, any new type of treatment is welcome if it proves feasible and effective. ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is often diagnosed in childhood. It is characterized by hyperactive behaviors, an inability to focus or concentrate, and impulsivity. Although it may seem counterintuitive, children with ADHD are treated with stimulant medications similar to methamphetamine.
Researchers at St. Vincent’s Hospital will use lisdexamfetamine, a medication approved for treating children with ADHD, in a trial for treating meth addicts. Because the medication is similar to meth in its chemical structure and how it acts in the body and brain, researchers hope that it will help reduce cravings in meth addicts receiving other types of treatment.
The ADHD medication is similar enough to meth that it could reduce cravings, but it should not produce the high in users that meth does. With no high, there would be no reason for addicts to abuse the medication. Because of how it acts in the body and how it is metabolized, lisdexamfetamine is long-lasting. One dose, if it works, could reduce cravings all day. There is no way to abuse it; even crushing, snorting or injecting the drug will not get the user high.
The researchers are hopeful that this medication can do more than treat children for ADHD. If successful in helping addicts with their cravings, it could become part of an overall effective treatment plan for Australia’s thousands of meth addicts. Right now, the drug is in a trial stage with several addicts getting doses over 14 weeks. The researchers will be evaluating the users not only for cravings for meth and withdrawal symptoms, but also to decide if lisdexamfetamine is safe to take at the doses needed. If it works, this exciting new treatment could help reduce the epidemic of meth addiction.
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