Pickens County part of nationwide drug study

By D. C. Moody

March 4, 2014

PICKENS — Pickens County has been chosen, along with cities such as Los Angeles, San Antonio, Portland, New Haven, and Lexington, for a new drug trial, and although in prestigious company, the honor might be dubious.

This drug trial is geared toward the cessation of the use of marijuana. The trial, originated by the Medical University of South Carolina, is studying the viability of N-acetylcysteine(NAC) in curbing addiction. Currently NAC is used in the treatment of overdoses of acetaminophen.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), one in 11 adults and one in six adolescents becomes addicted to marijuana.

“We have, as most people know and no pun intended, a very high marijuana population,” said Elizabeth Chapman, director of research for Behavioral Health Services Pickens. “We have a large percentage of the community in Pickens County using marijuana and alcohol.”

While being chosen to participate in the trial is an honor of sorts for Pickens County, according to Chapman, our community was needed to make the study effective.

“The reason they chose us for this research study is because we are different from places like L.A.,” Chapman said. “We have a different population, a different type of community to draw on, and in a study like this, they want to cover as many areas as they can to get more accurate results and figures.”

Behavioral Services of Pickens County isn’t out recruiting participants for the study, stressing it isn’t their place to decide if someone has a need for the study, but rather evaluating those who feel they need the help.

“We’re looking for people who feel they need it. We’re not telling anyone they do need it,” Chapman said. “This is a double blind study and their identities are completely protected and no one, including our staff ,knows the subjects’ identities.”

In a double blind study, the subject’s name is replaced by an identifying number. Not even researchers are able to cross reference the identifying subject number to an individual.

As for NAC itself, according to Chapman, it’s a great fit for this study.

“Based on past studies the medicine is well tolerated by the body,” she explained. “It’s actually an over the counter food supplement which makes it cost effective first of all, but we’ve found marijuana users are more into natural remedies, so it’s something they’re comfortable with.”

The study is slated for one year, January 2014 to January 2015, and there is a hope to have between 50 and 60 participants locally during that time.

The Behavioral Health Services Research Center in Pickens has been conducting research since 1999 and works closely with MUSC. In the past there have been studies on cessation of nicotine, prescription pain medication, and methamphetamines.