The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), UNSW Sydney has received a $4.9 m grant to trial a promising new treatment for methamphetamine use, “ice” or “crystal meth”.

The trial will test whether the common antidepressant medication, mirtazapine, can be used to treat methamphetamine use.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Rebecca McKetin said, “Ice is a significant and growing concern in Australia, for which no approved medications are currently available.”

“We have evidence from two small trials in the US that mirtazapine can help people reduce their methamphetamine use. We want to find out whether mirtazapine can work in a real-world setting to treat methamphetamine use in Australia.”

Mirtazapine is a low-cost generic medication already available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for depression.

“If proven effective, it would provide an efficient and cheap option to treat methamphetamine use,” said Associate Professor McKetin.

Recruitment for the trial will start in 2022, with sites in Brisbane, Perth, Wollongong, and Geelong.

“We have seen a high demand for trials, with many people wanting to try new medications to help them reduce their methamphetamine use,” said Associate Professor McKetin.

The trial will be randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel trial with 340 participants.

Participants will receive either mirtazapine or a placebo for 12 weeks.

“We are working collaboratively with frontline clinical services around Australia to implement the study,” said Associate Professor McKetin.

The study will be led by UNSW and conducted in collaboration with the University of Wollongong, Deakin University, the University of Sydney, Monash University, and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).

“We will be running the trial for the next two years and expect results in 2024”

Read more on the NDARC website here.