Antidepressant May Ease Meth Addiction
Depression Drug Showed Promise in First, Small Study
Nov. 23, 2005 -- The depression drug bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban,
Amfebutamone) may help treat addiction to the stimulant methamphetamine, also
called "crank," "meth," and "speed."
The finding comes from a small, brief study of meth users. It's too early to
know if bupropion will become the first drug approved for treating meth
The study by Thomas Newton, MD, and colleagues appears in the advance online
edition of Neuropsychopharmacology. Newton is a psychiatry professor
at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Millions of Americans are directly or indirectly affected by meth addiction,
the researchers write.
They note that while current treatments (which focus more on behavior) work
for some people, relapse remains a significant problem.
In a news release, Newton says that "finding new, effective ways to
treat methamphetamine addiction is a key component of bringing the ongoing
epidemic of abuse under control."
"Bupropion's novel effect on the brain is what makes this line of
research so promising," he continues. "These findings may point the way
toward medications with even greater potential to be helpful."
Newton's study included 26 active meth users, 20 of whom completed the
study. They were 18-45 years old.
None was seeking treatment for meth use. They also had no history of other
illicit drug addictions, seizures, or other serious health problems.
Participants were given bupropion or a fake pill (placebo) to take twice
daily. Ten people from each group completed the study. They didn't know which
pill they'd gotten.
Before taking those pills, they were given small doses of meth in a lab.
Then, they rated the drug's effects.
Participants got another round of meth doses in the lab six days after
taking bupropion or the placebo. Afterwards, they repeated their ratings.
Lower High, Reduced Cravings
Participants in the bupropion group reported a smaller "high" after
the second round of meth doses. They also didn't seem to crave meth as much as
those in the placebo group.
To track meth cravings, participants rated their reactions to a video of
actors simulating meth use. Watching others use drugs has been shown to trigger
drug cravings in users.
For comparison, participants also watched a video of nature scenes unrelated
to drugs. As expected, the nature videos didn't prompt meth cravings in any
More Work Ahead
Bupropion, which has a stimulant effect, may reduce meth's brain effects,
the researchers note. They call for more studies, adding that their project
wasn't exactly like real-world meth use.
Users often favor higher doses of meth than those provided in the study, and
they usually administer meth themselves, Newton's team writes. But in this
study, all meth doses were administered by the researchers via an IV
The bupropion dose was also low, write Newton and colleagues. They state
that they chose the bupropion doses based on safety information about possible