Study may lead to curbing meth addiction
and HIV infection
By Matt Wynkoop, Bay City News Service
October 11, 2006
The San Francisco Department of Public Health is set to launch
three new studies that it hopes will reduce both methamphetamine
addiction and risky sexual behavior that can be associated with
Researchers hope to determine whether three different medications
that have previously been effective for treating nicotine dependence
and depression will have a similar impact on methamphetamine craving
Researchers also hope to find that by treating methamphetamine
addiction, the spread of HIV can be reduced because the amount
of risky sexual behavior that is commonly associated with methamphetamine
use will decrease as well.
The new studies have been funded by the National Institute of
Health and will be conducted by San Francisco's Department of
Public Health AIDS Office.
According to Dr. Grant Colfax, principal investigator of the
new studies and co-director of the Health Department's HIV/AIDS
Statistics, Epidemiology and Intervention Research Section, the
new studies will focus specifically on gay male methamphetamine
users because similar studies have been done with heterosexual
methamphetamine users in the past.
"This is a very interesting and exciting new study because
it's the first treatment study that will focuses on gay methamphetamine
users, who are twice as likely to become infected by HIV and whom
rates of methamphetamine use are 20 times higher than the general
population,'' Colfax said.
A 2005 study that was conducted by researchers for the federal
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the San Francisco
Department of Public Health found that methamphetamine users are
at least three times more likely to be infected with HIV than
those who don't use the drug.
According to the report, this is because methamphetamine users
are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior -- such as
unprotected sex -- than individuals that do not use methamphetamines.
Each of the three new studies will be conducted with 30-60 participants
per drug. The Federal Drug Administration has previously approved
the drugs that will be used in the studies, but none have been
approved for treating methamphetamine dependence specifically.
According to Colfax, there is currently no FDA-approved treatment
for methamphetamine addiction.
Participants will be randomized to receive one of the drugs or
a placebo, according to Colfax. All participants will receive
substance abuse counseling and HIV risk-reduction counseling as
The three medications to be used in the studies are bupropion,
a drug commonly used to treat depression and nicotine dependence,
the antidepressant mirtazapine, and aripiprazole, a mood stabilizer.
Colfax said that while participants in the study will be voluntary,
there has been a substantial amount of interest from the community.
Studies are expected to continue for a three-month period. "We
are hopeful that in combination with counseling, this kind of
a pharmacologic intervention will reduce methamphetamine craving
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