The breakthrough discovery that may help ice addicts
Brian training can help overcome addiction to ice by replacing subconscious thoughts of drugs with something positive, according to a world-first Melbourne study.
The ability to override the brain's pull towards methamphetamine was found to be so strong researchers were able to more than double a users' ability to kick their addiction during a small trial at three Melbourne withdrawal centres.
Three months after have their brains trained to reject ice - through a process called cognitive bias modification, or CBM - 54 per cent of participants had avoided a relapse into methamphetamine use.
While a much larger trial is planned to determine how successful anti-methamphetamine brain training can be, Turning Point's Associate Professor Victoria Manning said it showed a lot of promise in overcoming the subconscious aspects of addiction.
"A lot of the time we are responding to cues, thoughts, feeling and anything in the environment that over time have become associated with thinking of drugs, alcohol or craving," Assoc Prof Manning said.
"This is retraining that automatic tendency to move towards it, replacing it with an automatic tendency to move away from it.
"This has never been done with methamphetamine clients before.
"It has been used in unhealthy food choices, it has been used in tobacco, alcohol, cocaine and heroin."
Three days after entering withdrawal centres for their moderate to severe methamphetamine addictions, 46 patients completed daily sessions in front of computer screens as part of the Turning Point, Monash University and Deakin University study.
During each 15 minute session the participants were bombarded with 240 images of either methamphetamine or healthy fruit and vegetables.
When presented with drug images participants used a joystick to shrink the picture as though it was being pushed away, while increase the size of healthy pictures as though they were approaching the fruit and vegetables.
Results recently published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment stated 61 per cent of participants reported no methamphetamine use the fortnight after leaving rehab and 54 per cent had no methamphetamine use in the previous month during a three-month assessment.
The three-month abstinence rate was reported as just 18 per cent for usual detox treatments, though the Melbourne researchers concluded much larger randomised controlled trials are needed to determine if it could be a feasible treatment.
Assoc Prof Manning said a funding application was currently being assessed to conduct a trial of much more detailed study of 250 patients, who would be shown more individualised positive pictures such as their families or favourite activities.