Research Study Using ADHD Drugs to Treat Addiction

By Spencer Watson

Michael Mancino, M.D., an associate professor in the UAMS Department of Psychiatry, is the principal investigator on the first of the two-year studies, while Alison Oliveto, Ph.D., a professor in the UAMS Department of Psychiatry, is the principal investigator on the other, both funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Individuals interested in participating in the studies may call (501) 526-7969 or visit studies are both clinical trials using drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of ADHD.

In the first trial, the only one of its kind in the United States, subjects will receive the medication lisdexamfetamine, known commercially as Vyvanse, during a one-week stay at a residential facility. The participants will then receive the drug on an outpatient basis for six weeks and continue to be followed on an outpatient basis for eight weeks after discharge from the residential facility.

In the second trial, subjects will be given the drug atomoxetine, known commercially as Strattera, for two weeks while residing at a residential facility, and then continue to receive the drug for eight weeks as outpatients.

Participants will also take part in weekly cognitive behavioral therapy sessions to help them develop strategies to cope with their addiction to methamphetamine.

Chronic users of methamphetamine, an extremely addictive stimulant drug, undergo severe structural and functional changes in the areas of the brain associated with memory and emotion. Amphetamine addicts also have a high incidence of ADHD, a cognitive dysfunction that can impair their ability to gain control of their addiction.

“We’re looking at these two drugs as treatment options to not only help addicts address their drug problem but as a way to prevent them from relapsing,” said Oliveto. “Methamphetamine affects the user’s decision-making process, which explains why so many people continue to use the drug despite its consequences. We hope by improving their concentration levels that we can directly impact their addiction.”

Long-term use of methamphetamine can cause extreme weight loss, severe dental problems, and skin irritations cause by scratching as well as psychotic symptoms such as paranoia and delusions.

“Methamphetamine can increase the user’s heart rate and blood pressure, and because it alters their inhibitions, it can increase their risk of contracting diseases like HIV and hepatitis B and C,” said Mancino. “Withdrawals are a big part of the problem associated with methamphetamine and we hope these drugs will help addicts deal with this issue and eventually beat their addiction.”