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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 it.

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 and withdrawal.

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 well.

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 and withdrawal.''

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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