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Can an antidepressant help meth addicts stop using?

An estimated 1.2 million Americans use methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant. Overcoming meth addiction can be extremely difficult, but new research from the San Francisco Public Health Department hints that an antidepressant could be helpful: In a small study of male meth addicts, the men who took an antidepressant every day were far less likely to be using after three months than those who were given a placebo. Erin Allday reports in today's San Francisco Chronicle:

Researchers have for years been trying to find a drug to help alleviate dependency on methamphetamine, much as methadone can be used to help people quit heroin, but multiple studies of many different drugs have failed. Addiction experts said they're cautiously optimistic that the antidepressant mirtazapine, sold under the brand name Remeron, will prove useful.

"This is exciting to see because with methamphetamine, virtually everything  we've tried hasn't worked. There have been quite a few bombs pharmacologically," said Keith Humphreys, [PhD,] a Stanford psychiatry professor and a researcher at the Veterans Administration in Palo Alto who specializes in addiction. "At the same time, those earlier experiences have taught me to be cautious now."

Allday explains that the antidepressant may work to combat addiction because it "targets areas of the brain related to drug cravings and reward." Experts told her that the findings, which appear in the Archives of General Psychiatry, must now be validated in larger clinical trials.

Previously: Stanford Health Policy Forum focuses on America’s methamphetamine epidemic

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