The National Institute on Drug Abuse is sponsoring nationwide clinical trials to determine if an over-the-counter supplement can effectively diminish the desire to use cannabis in habitual users. If successful, the trials could lead to the first FDA-approved medication to treat alleged cases of marijuana addiction.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a nutritional supplement that provides antioxidant protection, and a pharmaceutical drug used for various purposes, including to break up mucus and to counteract acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdose.
NAC is also utilized to treat various psychiatric disorders as well as dependence on nicotine, methamphetamine and cocaine – three substances with far more discernible addictive attributes than cannabis.
In animal studies, it has been reported NAC can restore normal regulation of glutamate release, which in turn reduces compulsive drug-seeking behaviors.
NIDA is sponsoring six trials of NAC treatment across the US. Behavioral Health Services of Pickens County, South Carolina is actively seeking volunteers who currently smoke weed and are interested in either quitting cold turkey or cutting back. Behavioral Health Services will continue NAC testing throughout 2014.
The FDA approval process is expected to take two years, with widespread use of NAC to treat "pot addiction" possible by 2017.