New pill to break ice cy­cle

ADHD drug to be tri­alled on beat­ing drug ad­dic­tion

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - FRONT PAGE - MI­RANDA WOOD

MAS­SIVE doses of an ADHD pill for chil­dren will be given to ice ad­dicts in a world-first at­tempt to smash the deadly drug epi­demic.

Syd­ney doc­tors will give 180 vol­un­teers 250mg of the stim­u­lant lis­dex, more than triple the 70mg dose for kids, to see if it can al­le­vi­ate crav­ings and with­drawal symp­toms dur­ing the two-year study.

St Vin­cent’s Hospi­tal lead re­searcher Dr Na­dine Ezard said the trial was “ex­cit­ing for the whole world”.

A PILL that treats ADHD in chil­dren will be given to ice ad­dicts in a world-first trial to wean them off the deadly drug.

Syd­ney re­searchers are re­cruit­ing 180 reg­u­lar ice users to test the stim­u­lant lis­dex­am­fe­tamine in the hope of dis­cov­er­ing the first med­i­ca­tion to treat se­vere ice de­pen­dency.

The new study will de­ter­mine if high doses of the drug — more than three times the amount pre­scribed for At­ten­tion Deficit Hyper­ac­tiv­ity Dis­or­der in kids — can re­duce crav­ings and with­drawal symp­toms.

The once-a-day tablet, known as lis­dex, closely mim­ics the ef­fects of ice and should act like nico­tine re­place­ment for smok­ers or methadone for heroin users. How­ever, lis­dex is long-act­ing in the blood­stream com­pared with crys­tal metham­phetamine.

Lead re­searcher Dr Na­dine Ezard, clin­i­cal di­rec­tor at St Vin­cent’s Hospi­tal drug and al­co­hol ser­vices, said the trial, which started last week, was “ex­cit­ing for the whole world”.

“It would be great if we have some­thing we could of­fer peo­ple,” she said.

A num­ber of dif­fer­ent med­i­ca­tions have been tested pre­vi­ously but failed to prove ef­fec­tive.

St Vin­cent’s Hospi­tal’s act­ing di­rec­tor of emer­gency As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Paul Preisz said he was con­fi­dent lis­dex would work.

“We have had a ter­ri­ble cou­ple of years with the grow­ing prob­lem of metham­phetamines,” he said. “There is a re­ally dif­fi­cult group who strug­gle with the usual op­tions to get clean. This is an im­por­tant devel­op­ment for that group.”

Coun­selling is the cur­rent treat­ment for ice ad­dic­tion.

Ice, a form of metham­phetamine or “speed”, is usu­ally smoked or in­jected. While its ef­fects last about six hours, users of­ten find it dif­fi­cult to sleep for days after­wards.

This can lead to ex­haus­tion, hal­lu­ci­na­tions, de­pres­sion and con­fu­sion. In some cases, high doses of ice lead to bizarre, ag­gres­sive or vi­o­lent be­hav­iour and para­noid psy­chosis.

The low cost of the drug has fu­elled an ice epi­demic in re­cent years, lead­ing to crime sprees while de­stroy­ing fam­i­lies and whole com­mu­ni­ties.

The new trial, ex­pected to take at least two years, will be held at four treat­ment cen­tres in Dar­linghurst and Mt Druitt in Syd­ney, New­cas­tle and Ade­laide.

Dur­ing the 19-week study one group will get a placebo while the other will get 250mg of lis­dex. The dose for ADHD is 70mg.

The two groups will then be com­pared.

“You wouldn’t as­sume that peo­ple stay on this drug for­ever,” Dr Ezard said.

St Vin­cent’s con­ducted an ear­lier small trial in 2014 to test if a high dose of lis­dex would be safe. In 2015, the study, to be con­ducted in part­ner­ship with three uni­ver­si­ties, was awarded more than $1 mil­lion from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and St Vin­cent’s Cur­ran Foun­da­tion.

Dr Ezard said the treat­ment would ben­e­fit the in­creas­ing num­ber of se­ri­ous ice users who seek help as a last re­sort.

“We want them to come for­ward be­fore they run into prob­lems,” she said.

“We have some peo­ple who had been us­ing for decades be­fore they sought help.”

If you would like help with ad­dic­tion con­tact the Na­tional Al­co­hol and Other Drug hot­line on 1800 250 015.

St Vin­cent's Hospi­tal drug and al­co­hol unit di­rec­tor As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Na­dine Ezard. Pic­ture: John Ap­p­le­yard

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