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October 24, 2014

Related NIDA Notes Article

Dr. Kevin. M Gray


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My research team is currently conducting a clinical trial of a medication called N-acetylcysteine, which also is more commonly known and simply known as NAC.

This is a medication that we believe may have potential as a treatment for substance use disorders and marijuana use disorders in specific.

My research team here at MUSC with funding from NIDA conducted a trial in marijuana-dependent adolescents comparing NAC versus placebo in adolescents who were undergoing an 8-week treatment.

Everybody got a behavioral treatment known as contingency management, and they were followed for 8 weeks and randomized to either take NAC or placebo for those 8 weeks.

We found those that received NAC actually had more than twice the likelihood of achieving abstinence during treatment compared with those who were randomized to placebo.

What we’re interested in doing now is following up on that adolescent trial, which was a relatively small sample of 116 adolescents.

We’re now hoping to replicate those findings or find if those findings hold true in an adult sample.

This is a trial that we’re doing in conjunction with a number of collaborators across the U.S.

This is being conducted in the NIDA Clinical Trials Network, and it’s in progress across six sites, across the United States, and I’m fortunate to collaborate with a number of very bright investigators and very productive study teams.

We actually are going to enroll a total of 300 adult participants ages 18 to 50 who meet criteria for marijuana or cannabis dependence and are seeking treatment.

And so these are individuals who recognize that their use of marijuana is causing impairments and are seeking out treatment to help with reduction or cessation in use.

This is a 12-week placebo-controlled trial of NAC, which means that all participants will in what we call a double-blind fashion such that the researchers and clinical team, but also the participant doesn’t know whether they’re receiving NAC or placebo.

We’re hypothesizing that those who are randomized to receive NAC will be more likely to achieve marijuana abstinence during treatment than those who receive placebo.

What’s exciting about this and doing this through the Clinical Trials Network is we’re able to run 300 participants really in the matter of just over a year, which is really a very fast pace compared with traditional studies that might be at one site and they take a longer period of time.

So, we’re excited to be positioned to very rapidly answer this question and address what really is an emerging public health need, which is providing more efficacious treatments for marijuana dependence.