Dr Sarah Baracz - 2015 Highly Commended for Excellence in Higher Degree Research (Business, Humanities and Social Sciences)
Dr Sarah Baracz - 2015 Highly Commended for Excellence in Higher Degree Research (Business, Humanities and Social Sciences)

Pharmacotherapies for methamphetamine dependence

There are no current pharmacotherapies that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration or the Therapeutic Goods Administration for methamphetamine dependence. Oxytocin is one possible treatment. Dr Sarah Baracz has focused her PhD research on understanding the neurobiological impacts of oxytocin mechanisms within the brain.

Sarah’s study was the first to show that oxytocin significantly reduced the rewarding effects of methamphetamine when locally administered into the nucleus accumbens core or subthalamic nucleus. This is the first research to show a functional role of oxytocin receptors in the region and provides insight into how oxytocin can reduce the rewarding effects of methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine use in Australia and the associated social and economic burden means that an urgent treatment for reducing dependence is required. Oxytocin is one such proposed treatment and might be administered by an intranasal spray. When solely administered via a central route to the brain, oxytocin has no rewarding effect on its own. Uncovering the brain mechanisms of how oxytocin administration can reduce methamphetamine abuse provides future avenues for drug development.