New hope for meth addicts

Posted on 19 May 2006 at 12:50pm
By A.J. Mistretta – Contributing Writer

Clinical trial conducted in Dallas shows new drug offers
“‘significant benefit’ for those trying to break addiction to crystal

Meth’s sizeable impact has made fighting its addictiveness through medicine a national health care priority. But beyond inpatient and outpatient detox and counseling, few clinical treatments have shown promise.

That may be changing.

Results from a recent clinical trial in Dallas indicate that 80 percent of meth-addicted study participants experienced a “significant benefit” after undergoing four weeks of outpatient treatment with a drug protocol called Prometa.

The protocol is already being used to treat alcohol, cocaine and meth addiction in about 20 treatment centers across the country, including one in Houston.

California-based healthcare services company Hythiam Inc., which developed Prometa, went public with the trial results last week.

Prometa is actually a combination of three separate, FDA-approved drugs administered intravenously and orally. Intravenous injections are given in five separate clinical visits.

The study conducted by Research Across America on 51 treatment-seeking men and women defined improved patients as those who completed the course of treatment, experienced a reduction in cravings and decreased or abstained from meth use during the treatment and in the weeks following.

Dallas psychiatrist Dr. Harold Urschel who led the study said the drug combination is believed to actually repair the part of the brain damaged by meth, allowing individuals to stay calm and focused as they stop using.

He said most study patients experienced markedly decreased anxiety, improvement in sleep and concentration. There were also no adverse side-effects.

“This is the first clinically effective treatment for meth that we have; until now nothing has worked,” Urschel said.

With less likelihood of relapse and additional money spent on treatment, he believes it’s only a matter of times before health insurance companies get on board with Prometa.

Urschel said after publishing his findings, he himself plans to apply for a license to administer the treatment protocol in Dallas and he said other area addiction specialists have also expressed interest.

“I think this will expand hugely,” he said. “This stuff works and the goal now is to get the word out to the meth patients and make them aware of it.”

Michelle, a 31-year-old Dallas business owner who participated in the study, said she has been sober from meth for 10 months since the Prometa treatment.

After 12 years of using and numerous attempts to quit, she said her cravings disappeared just days into the treatment. She would recommend it to any addict

“This just works,” she said. “I tried to quit for so long, made excuse after excuse, but nothing worked. This did.”

Still, Urschel cautions, Prometa isn’t a cure-all for meth addicts. He and officials with Hythium encourage patients who undergo the protocol to follow up with outpatient treatment and Crystal Meth Anonymous or another recovery support organization. No behavioral counseling was included in the treatment, leading Urschel to believe that with counseling, an even higher percentage of patient improvement might be realized.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, May 19, 2006.

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