South Carolina Researchers Seeking Methamphetamine Study Participants

By Beth Leipholtz 02/06/18

The study will test a new potential treatment for meth addiction, which has affected Pickens County more than others.

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A new clinical trial based in South Carolina is combining two drugs in hopes that their simultaneous use could prove effective for people addicted to methamphetamine.

According to the Greenville News, officials in South Carolina’s Pickens County, a rural area in the upper part of the state, are studying a new methamphetamine addiction treatment and are recruiting participants.

The study is focused in Pickens County, rather than metropolitan areas like Charleston. Susan Sonne, principal investigator and associate professor with the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina, told the Greenville News that this is because Upstate South Carolina faces greater issues with meth.

“Part of it is the rural nature of the area,” she said. “Folks will make meth more in a rural setting and use it and sell it more.”

In addition to its rural setting, Pickens County is being focused on because there is a great number of people addicted to meth who are seeking treatment, said research coordinator Elizabeth Chapman.

Presently, however, Sonne says there is no FDA-approved medical treatment for addiction to methamphetamine.

The Greenville News states that this new clinical trial, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is “based on a pilot study that showed promising results.”

The trial is focused on combining two drugs: bupropion (also known as antidepressant Wellbutrin and nicotine addiction drug Zyban) and naltrexone (also known as Vivitrol, this drug affects the brain’s reward system by blocking opioid receptors). When paired, the idea is that the drugs would simultaneously decrease desire to use meth and reduce withdrawals.

“With the meth problem, a single medication never had much effect,” said Sonne. “It’s thought that by using two meds, we might actually be able to show some improvement.”

Researchers are aiming to recruit 370 people in the U.S. for the study, approximately 55 of which would come from Pickens County. Half of those recruited would be given the two combined drugs, while the others would be given placebos. The participants would then visit a clinic twice per week for 12 weeks to receive the medications.

The study is being conducted at Behavioral Health Services of Pickens County. According to Jessica Faulkenberry, a research assistant there, participants can be male or female and between the ages of 18 and 65. They must be struggling with meth use.

Participants will be recruited through March 2019, according to Sonne.

“Our study is for folks who are regular meth users who are having difficulty stopping on their own,” she told the Greenville News. “We hope this proves to be an effective treatment for meth addiction.”

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.