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N-acetylcysteine, a sulfur-containing amino acid used to treat acetaminophen overdose and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a widely used commercially available oral antioxidant in many countries. N-acetylcysteine has the potential to modulate multiple neurological pathways, including glutamate dysregulation, oxidative stress, and inflammation, which may positively impact brain function, and is being explored as an adjunctive therapy for many psychiatric disorders.
This review summarizes and presents the current evidence from systematic reviews, meta-analyses, and recent clinical trials on N-acetylcysteine for addiction and substance abuse, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and related disorders, and mood disorders. There is good evidence to support the use of N-acetylcysteine as an adjunctive treatment to reduce the overall and negative symptoms of schizophrenia.
N-acetylcysteine also appears to be effective in reducing craving in substance use disorders, particularly in treating cocaine and cannabis use among young people, in addition to preventing relapse in already abstinent individuals. The effects of N-acetylcysteine on obsessive-compulsive and related disorders and mood disorders remain unclear with mixed reviews, although promising evidence exists. Larger and better designed studies are needed to further evaluate the clinical efficacy of N-acetylcysteine in these areas.
Orally, N-acetylcysteine is safe and well tolerated without significant side effects. Current evidence supports its use as adjunctive therapy clinically in psychiatric disorders, administered concomitantly with existing medications, with a recommended dosage between 2000 and 2400 mg/day.
BioMed Research International: N-Acetylcysteine for the Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders: A Review of Current Evidence
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