World first trial to investigate new medication for 'ice' dependence

Media release

01 March 2023

In a world-first, Australian researchers are trialling a new medication to help people kick their dependence on crystal methamphetamine or 'ice'.

Funded by the Medical Research Future Fund, The Tina Trial is looking at whether the antidepressant drug, mirtazapine, can help people stop using ice.

There are currently no medications available to treat methamphetamine dependence. But mirtazapine, which is already available in Australia and sold as Avanza, has been found in US studies to help people reduce their methamphetamine use and improve their mood and sleep.

Associate Professor Olivia Dean from Deakin University's Institute for Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Translation (IMPACT) and Barwon Health said having a medication to help people come off methamphetamine would revolutionise treatment.

"The Tina Trial aims to definitively show whether mirtazapine can be used to treat methamphetamine dependence in routine clinical practice," Associate Professor Dean said.

"Reusing existing medications for new applications fast tracks new treatments. If proven effective, mirtazapine would provide a relatively cheap treatment option that could be quickly put into clinical practice."

The Tina Trial is the largest trial of its kind in Australia and is being led by Associate Professor Rebecca McKetin from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at the University of New South Wales, in collaboration with Deakin University, Monash University, the University of Wollongong, and the University of Sydney, together with clinical services in Geelong, Brisbane, Perth, and Wollongong.

Addiction psychiatrist and Clinical Director at Turning Point, Associate Professor Shalini Arunogiri said most people seeking help for methamphetamine use also have mood and sleep problems that can perpetuate the cycle of drug use.

"Having a medication that can address both substance use and these mood and sleep problems will provide a more integrated treatment approach," Associate Professor Arunogiri said.

"The next step is to show this medication is a safe and effective frontline treatment for people using ice in Australia."

The research team is recruiting participants in Geelong, Brisbane, Perth and Wollongong. Further information on the trial and recruitment information can be found here:

Participating health services:

  • Barwon Health, Geelong
  • Biala City Community Health Centre, Brisbane City, Queensland Health
  • Next Step Drug and Alcohol Services, East Perth, Western Australia Mental Health Commission
  • Illawarra Shoalhaven Drug and Alcohol Services, Wollongong, NSW Health

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