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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

UNITED STATES: Antidepressant Could Help Meth Addicts Kick Habit


San Francisco Chronicle (11.08.11) - Monday, November 14,

A daily antidepressant drug was significantly better than placebo in reducing methamphetamine use and sexual risks, a new study suggests. Regular meth use among men who have sex with men can double the risk of HIV infection, said study leader Dr. Grant Colfax, director of HIV prevention at the San Francisco Department of Public Health. The 12-week study involved 60 meth-dependent MSM randomized to take the antidepressant mirtazapine (Remeron) or placebo.

Participants underwent weekly addiction counseling and urine testing to check for meth. Among those taking mirtazapine, positive urine tests fell by 40 percent, from 73 percent the first week to 44 percent the last week. In the placebo group, positive samples fell by 6 percent, from 67 percent to 63 percent. The MSM in the treatment group also reported fewer risky sexual behaviors than the men in the control group.

Reflecting a difficulty sticking to regimens that is common among meth addicts, adherence was generally less than half of prescribed doses for both treatment and control groups, Colfax said. However, the fact that dependence was significantly reduced is a good sign anyway, he added. Mirtazapine may work because it targets areas of the brain related to drug craving and reward, addiction experts said, but the results need to be confirmed in a larger trial.

The full study, "Mirtazapine to Reduce Methamphetamine Use," was published in Archives of General Psychiatry (2011;68(11):1168-1175).


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Information in this article was accurate in November 14, 2011. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.