The study, led by WA Health emergency medicine specialist Dr Amanda Stafford, will use the drug Baclofen, which was licensed in the 1970s as a muscle relaxant.
The treatment using the Baclofen pill, which costs as little as $1 a day, has since been found through overseas trials on humans and animals to act as an anti-craving agent for treating alcoholism and cocaine addiction.
Dr Stafford said doctors in Australia and Europe had told her of cases where Baclofen had also been effective in treating methamphetamine addiction by helping people to “stay on the straight and narrow”.
Having successfully treated dozens of alcoholic patients with the cheap prescription drug, Dr Stafford said she was hopeful it could revolutionise treatment for meth addiction which had turned some of the State’s hospital emergency departments into “meth city”.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that Baclofen in higher doses can be helpful for meth addiction,” Dr Stafford said.
Cravings for alcohol and cocaine were known to stop rapidly once the patient reached their individual dose requirement, which sometimes took as little as a week. She said this raised hopes rehabilitation may be unnecessary for many meth addicts.
But she warned that some patients would need longer time to reach an effective dose and others would still require rehab to rebuild a “normal life” because they had “spiralled down too far”.
“If you like meth then you’ll keep using it but for others, when the party’s over and they take stock of what they’re losing and they really want to get off meth, this (Baclofen) might be something that will help them succeed,” Dr Stafford said.
“For people who have been sliding downwards but still have a skerrick of normality, they may simply need a craving modification drug such as Baclofen which will allow them to rebuild the life they had.”
Dr Stafford said the small-scale trial, which had funding from WA Health and full ethical approval, would start in November with 18 meth-addicted patients who had already been selected. It would involve a team of physicians and researchers from various Perth medical facilities.
This article was originally published by News.com.au.