What is n-acetyl cysteine?By
Short Answer: it is an easy way to deliver an amino acid — same as the stuff you eat every day, in protein — called cysteine, which otherwise does not easily reach brain cells. Cysteine has two potential ways of working. In some research studies, it was used for one reason but may have actually worked through the other!
Who can benefit?
This simple molecule has been studied and shown to be better than a placebo for the treatment of
- bipolar depressionBerk
- compulsive hair-pulling (“trichotillomania”)Grant and obsessive compulsive disorderAfshar
- addictive behaviors: cocaine cravingLaRowe; gambling Grant ; marijuana useGray; and cigarette smoking (decrease use but not craving)Knackstead
and preliminary evidence (not studied yet against placebo, or in humans) for the following:
- compulsive nail-bitingBerk
- reversing the brain changes induced by cocaine (in rats, anyway)Moussawi, Madayag
Other health claims
Some other possible benefits less relevant to mental health: NAC has been claimed or shown to lower the rates of viral infections, treat fluid in the ear, lower heart disease risk by lowering homocysteine, improve insulin sensitivity, decrease infections in lung diseases, and help prevent kidney stones. (references, such as they exist for these claims). Data from rats suggest NAC could prevent the decrease in kidney function sometimes caused by lithium.Berk p1
This info came from http://www.psycheducation.org/depression/meds/n-acetylcysteine.htm