In its guidance, the FDA expressed for the first time that it was open to clinical trial testing for new treatments to reduce cravings for stimulants rather than simply pursuing abstinence as a treatment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, while opioids, particularly fentanyl, continue to be the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in the country, a growing number of drug fatalities are linked to stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines.
There are currently several drug treatments available for opioid addiction, including methadone. However, no drug treatments have been developed for stimulant addiction.
With stimulants like meth and cocaine becoming more potent, easier to find, and cheaper to make, the urgency for effective treatments for their addiction is more pressing. However, with limited research and a lack of funding, experts say there has been little progress.
Marta Sokolowska, the FDA’s deputy center director for substance use and behavioral health at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, told NBC News that the number of clinical trials for stimulant abuse is far lower than those for other disorders like oncology.
Dr. Ayana Jordan, a psychiatrist specializing in addiction at NYU Langone Health, told NBC News that stopping prolonged stimulant abuse is difficult without medical intervention. She said going cold turkey causes both physical withdrawal and mental health challenges like irritability, mood swings, depression, and sleeping disorders.
Dr. Jordan echoed Sokolowska’s assessment, telling NBC News that she has seen nothing “on the horizon” nor are there any current clinical trials that could be promising.
In its guidance released last month, the FDA encouraged drugmakers to start clinical trials for medications to treat cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription stimulant abuse. The agency said any promising medication could qualify for the FDA’s fast-track process for expedited approval.
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