Developments in Methamphetamine Use Disorder Treatment

Methamphetamine, or meth, is an illegal stimulant and a very dangerous, addictive drug. It is available in crystal, powder, and pill form, but its most common route of administration is intranasal (ie, snorted) which has a longer duration of action. It is known by multiple street aliases, namely speed, ice, chalk, crystal, and crank. Methamphetamine is identified as a Schedule II narcotic according to the US Controlled Substances Act.

However, as opioid epidemic stories continue to dominate headlines, methamphetamines are falling to the wayside due to the spotlight continuing to stay on opiates and opioids. In reality, meth results in more arrests than any other substance, and the use of opioids and meth has doubled from 2011 to 2017 and in San Diego methamphetamine use remains as the highest consumed street drug.

These alarming increases have made the development of effective treatment programs an important goal for many states. While there is currently not a widely agreed upon medication-supported treatment plan, there are some exciting developments happening that are showing great promise.

What is Methamphetamine Use Disorder (MUD)?

Methamphetamine use disorder refers to the uncontrollable use and addiction to methamphetamines. Methamphetamine is a dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin reuptake inhibitor that causes addiction very quickly. Intoxication results in a hyper-alert, energetic state characterized by feelings of euphoria and uncontrollable desires. These intense feelings of intoxication are the main reason why meth is so extremely addictive however these intense feelings come with a price. Insomnia, agitation with paranoia, dry mouth, tooth decay, and cognitive / memory impairment.

Medication-Assisted Treatment for MUD

Up until this point, the treatment options for meth addicts have been very few and far between. Medication-assisted therapy (MAT) for opioid addiction is gaining traction in the United States but meth treatment programs are not making the same progress. This is due to the fact that finding an effective way to slowly ease addicts off of meth and assist with withdrawal symptoms like they do for opiates is very difficult.

MUD for meth addicts is a field that requires much more attention in order for progress to be made. Thankfully, new research has shown that there is hope for medications that can help those suffering from MUD beat their condition and relearn how to live free of their addictions.

Advances in MAT for Meth Addiction

The results of a recent study suggest that the combination of two novel medications, naltrexone and bupropion, may be effective for the treatment of severe methamphetamine use disorder. This is the first sign of an effective treatment that could potentially provide meth addicts with a much better chance at success while minimizing the chance of relapse.

These medications work so effectively together due to their unique interaction. Bupropion is a stimulant-like antidepressant that acts through the norepinephrine and dopamine systems. This mechanism has shown a potential to reduce the dysphoria associated with methamphetamine withdrawal that drives relapse and extreme discomfort during this time.

Naltrexone is an opioid-receptor antagonist that is effective for the treatment of opioid use disorder. This simply means it helps to ease users off of their chemical dependence by slightly filling that gap that the lack of drugs leaves behind in the brain. Together, these two medications were shown to help addicts deal with withdrawal symptoms more easily than those who participated in a placebo group. These results demonstrate that both the use of MAT for meth addiction treatment should be an area that is more heavily studied and that there are medications out there that can help addicts conquer their condition and avoid relapse more easily.

Overall, methamphetamine use disorder is in the stage of becoming a pandemic in our country. This new development in MAT for meth use shows that there is hope for advancement and that more research is needed in this area, especially with these two promising medications.

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