The efficacy of N-acetylcysteine in the treatment of methamphetamine dependence: a double-blind controlled, crossover study

Arch Iran Med. 2015 Jan;18(1):28-33.


Objective: Preclinical studies and early pilot clinical investigations have suggested that N-acetylcysteine (NAC) may be useful in treatment of methamphetamine (METH) dependence. The present study evaluated whether NAC would suppress craving to the METH.

Methods: In a double-blind, controlled crossover clinical trial, 32 METH-dependent volunteers were chosen to receive either NAC (1200 mg/day) or placebo, randomly. They were intervened in two four-week sessions. During first session they received either 1200 mg/day of NAC (group A) or placebo (group B). After three days of washout period, next session started with the crossover intervention of the previous regimen. During these eight weeks, all participants received standardized, and Matrix Model of treatment. Craving was assessed using the Cocaine Craving Questionnaire-Brief (CCQ-Brief). The data were analyzed using SPSS version 20.0 (SPSS Inc. Chicago, Illinois, USA).

Results: In 23 subjects who completed the study, the mean score of CCQ-Brief reduced in four consecutive weeks with NAC treatment. The mean (SD) scores of carving in group A and B were 3.38 (1.16) and 5.96 (1.03), at the end of first session; and 4.57 (1.88) and 3.2 (0.86), at the end of the second session, respectively. Our findings indicate that the main effect was significant for NAC (P < 0.001). Across placebo and NAC conditions, only mild side effects were noted, and the number of subjects who reported side effects did not differ.

Conclusion: The NAC showed good efficacy in suppressing METH craving, and may be a useful pharmacological treatment for METH dependency.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects
  • Craving
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Free Radical Scavengers / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine / adverse effects
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Methamphetamine
  • Acetylcysteine