A Pickens County substance abuse clinic is recruiting marijuana smokers who believe they are addicted and want to quit as part of a potentially groundbreaking new study.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is sponsoring a new Medical University of South Carolina clinical trial that will try to determine if a widely-available over-the-counter drug can reduce marijuana dependency.
Behavioral Health Services of Pickens County is one of just six nationwide sites participating in the MUSC clinical trial. In all, MUSC researchers hope to get 300 participants for the overall study into the potential for N-acetylcysteine (NAC) medication which is normally used for Tylenol overdoses and to treat cystic fibrosis.
MUSC researchers earlier discovered the potential benefits for breaking marijuana dependency in teens during a 2012 study. NIDA officials say about 9 percent of those who have used marijuana in their lives are dependent on the drug, while nearly one in six adolescents struggle with addiction.
“Despite how common cigarette smoking and marijuana use are in young people, our existing treatments are actually not particularly good in terms of outcomes,” lead researcher Kevin Gray, an MUSC psychiatrist, told South Carolina Radio Network. He emphasized that the study is only intended to help those who are struggling with dependency, much like others struggle with alcohol or tobacco addictions.
“I think it’s underappreciated how difficult a time these people have with quitting, even with the best of existing treatments,” Gray said. “I think there’s a very real gap in our knowledge of how best to treat this. And that’s why this is such a critical study.”
Behavioral Health Services of Pickens County is accepting marijuana smokers ages 18-50 for the study, which is also being conducted in five other states. Researchers are looking for 300 overall participants for the study before it gets fully underway in March.
“This is a really exciting research study, because it’s possible this will be a viable treatment option for people who are experiencing problems due to marijuana use,” the clinic’s research liaison Margaret Garrett said. “That’s going to continue regardless of whether or not marijuana is legalized.”
Participants will be reimbursed for their time. Half will be given NAC while the other half will receive a placebo. The trial will be double-blind, meaning even workers at the clinics will not know which patients are receiving the actual medication.