The lead story in the October 2010 NIDA Notes–a federal government publication about drug abuse research–reports that the dietary supplement acetylcysteine shows promise in helping drug users quit. Recent studies have highlighted the normalizing effect of acetylcysteine on glutamate, which has been identified as the neurotransmitter (=brain signalling agent) most closely associated with drug-seeking behavior. The supplement showed such a significant capacity to reduce drug-seeking behavior in laboratory animals that it is now being used in a large-scale investigation of cocaine users who are also receiving cognitive behavioral therapy as they try to quit. Researchers noted that, because acetylcysteine already has a well-known safety profile, it was possible to move quickly to a human trial of its effect on drug users in rehab. Other research suggests that acetylcysteine may also be helpful for those trying to quit other substances, including heroin and tobacco.
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Note: the supplement acetylcysteine is available at NYBC as NAC (N-acetylcysteine).