Nowra Bridge. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

Can N-Acetyl Cysteine reduce ICE cravings and stop substance abuse?

Researchers are investigating if N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) can reduce cravings for methamphetamine or ice and help people stop using the substance.

The N-ICE trial was first rolled out in the Illawarra in July 2018.

Associate Professor Peter Kelly from the University of Wollongong, who is affiliated with the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, said there was currently no approved medication to treat addiction to ice and this was a significant barrier to users seeking treatment.

Now the trial is being rolled out in Nowra, South of Wollongong which is considered one of the state’s hotspots for methamphetamine use.

“The main forms of treatment are counselling interventions and residential rehabilitation. For this reason trialling NAC introduces a novel approach to treating ice addiction, “he said.

“Our research suggests that NAC works differently from methadone as it focuses on cravings rather than replacing the drug, it helps to restore brain chemicals that lead to addictive behaviour” said Associate Professor Peter Kelly.

During the Nowra hearing of the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into ice, the inquiry heard of the 52 children put in out-of-home care last year, 34 were from homes where ice had been used.

The Shoalhaven has seen a 25 per cent increase in methamphetamine drug possession offences over the past five years, with 145 people being charged from April 2018 to March 2019.

Trial participants will be given the drug or a placebo for 12 weeks and have weekly appointments with researchers.

“If successful NAC could be made available over the counter as a relatively low cost addiction treatment,” added Associate Professor Peter Kelly.

Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) at Curtin University is leading the randomised controlled N-ICE trial in collaboration with Deakin University, Monash University, the University of Wollongong, the University of Newcastle, La Trobe University and the Burnet Institute.

Dr Olivia Dean from Deakin University’s IMPACT Strategic Research Centre said: “NAC is an amino acid derivative that has many actions that might be useful for people who are trying to stop taking ice.

“NAC can protect against the neurotoxic effects of ice and it is hoped that, in addition to helping people dependent on ice cut down or stop their use, NAC will reduce the mood changes that are often experienced as a result of ice addiction.”

ICE-trial contact

People living within the Illawarra and Nowra regions can contact Tamsin to find out more about the study:

t: 0401 604 496


Visit Wollongong trial website.

Related stories

Illawarra ‘ice’ addiction trial seeking more participants

Media contact

Louise Negline, Communications Coordinator

t: 4221 4702

m: 0417 044 867


Top photo: Nowra Bridge. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

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