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Combination Treatment for Meth

by Landmark Recovery

April 28, 2021
Doctor thinking about meth addiction treatment

Combination Drug Therapy for Meth Addiction Treatment

Not only is methamphetamine fiercely addictive, but treatment for meth addiction has until now been lacking.

This could be changing, though. A promising new study has illuminated the possibility of using combination drug therapy to counter meth withdrawal.

In the case of both alcohol use disorder and opioid use disorder, buprenorphine can mitigate withdrawal symptoms, while naltrexone can reduce the intensity of cravings, minimizing the chance of relapse. At present, there are no FDA-approved medications for meth use disorder.

We’ll explore how this may be changing thanks to fresh research, and the discovery of this new combination drug treatment is timely. With the United States still reeling from the effects of the pandemic and the unresolved opioid epidemic, use of meth and fentanyl is soaring.

As far as meth is concerned, 2017 NSDUH data, 14.7 million Americans – that’s over 5% of the population – have tried meth at some stage. 1.6 million are past-year users, with 964,000 meeting the criteria for meth use disorder.

With remarkably pure meth hitting the streets of the US courtesy of Mexican super labs, what causes so many people to experiment with this ruinous substance?

What Is Meth?

Meth is a powerful form of amphetamine that comes in crystals, powder, or tablet form.

The euphoric effects induced by meth are similar to those of cocaine, but they last much longer than the fleeting cocaine high.

Meth goes by many names, including:

  • Crank
  • Crystal
  • Glass
  • Ice
  • Redneck cocaine
  • Tweak

A potent stimulant, meth is highly addictive. Although not as deadly as opioids, meth is still capable of destroying lives. Typically associated with destructive behaviors, poor judgment, and aggressiveness, meth users can behave unpredictably.

After taking meth, you’ll experience a soaring high with alertness and energy levels increased. As the high wears off, you’ll then become anxious, agitated, and you’ll strongly crave more meth.

Habitual meth use triggers a laundry list of negative outcomes, from the meth mouth we mentioned above through to cognitive impairment, emotional problems, and unraveled relationships.

While meth pummels users mentally and emotionally, the physical effects of the drug should not be underestimated. Meth addicts experience persistent itching. Picking the skin to alleviate this often results in sores and scabs.

How do people use this stuff, then?

Meth Use

According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), meth users most commonly smoke the drug. You can smoke meth crystals without needing to mix them with other substances. Users smoke the blue-white rocks, usually through a glass pipe.

The Office of National Drug Policy states that smoking meth is the most likely route to addiction. Smoking meth also brings about meth mouth, a condition characterized by a dry mouth and teeth eaten away by the corrosive drug.

Less frequently, users inject meth. This brings with it all the attendant risks of intravenous drug use, in particular a heightened risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis B or C. Blood-borne infections are easily transmitted through sharing needles.

Injecting or smoking meth delivers the most intense high almost immediately. This is sometimes known as a rush or a flash.

Beyond these delivery methods, some new meth users try snorting the drug. This is inadvisable and can lead to a perpetually runny nose, and even a damaged septum. Snorting meth results in effects hitting the users within 5 minutes.

Also, some users swallow pills, either manufactured or homemade. Ingesting meth delays the onset of effects by about 15 or 20 minutes.

Unlike smoking or injecting meth, snorting or swallowing the substance produces a euphoric high in place of an intense and jagged rush. It doesn’t last long, though. The fleeting nature of the effects leads many meth users to use the drug in a pattern classified as binge and crash. A meth run is a particularly damaging form of abuse where the user binges on the drug for days without eating or sleeping.

When meth use is discontinued, users can expect a variety of adverse withdrawal symptoms. Before we explore the potential of this new meth addiction treatment, what does meth withdrawal involve?

Meth Withdrawal

First, the good news. Withdrawing from methamphetamine addiction is not intrinsically dangerous, but the psychological pull of the drug triggers symptoms that can be difficult to manage.

As a stimulant, meth withdrawal differs significantly from withdrawal from sedatives like opioids.

If you stop taking stimulant drugs like meth, you’ll experience an initial crash as your body struggles to function without the substance. This phase is not dangerous, and you should find your body repairing rapidly. Proper nutrition and restful sleep are key. The crash can last for several days, with many users sleeping for the majority of this time.

Once stabilized, you may still be anxious, agitated, and potentially unreceptive to treatment. These psychological withdrawal symptoms are the most insidious element of quitting. Cravings are intense to the point of being unbearable. By seeking meth addiction treatment in a residential rehab center, you’ll have no access to meth, perhaps the most powerful way of resisting those inevitable cravings.

The main psychological issues stemming from meth withdrawal are:

  • Depression
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Hopelessness
  • Agitation
  • Anger

Engaging with meth addiction treatment can shine a light on mental health conditions masked by meth use. Sometimes, meth users start taking the drug as a means of coping with mental health issues. Unfortunately, using the drug inflames and compounds these problems.

If you have meth use disorder with a co-occurring mental health condition, dual diagnosis medication-assisted treatment is normally recommended.

Once stabilized from meth withdrawal, ongoing recovery takes the form of:

  • Group counseling
  • Individual counseling
  • Nutrition and exercise
  • 12-step support groups

So, how could the new combination drug treatment for meth addiction help reverse the tide of meth users willing but unable to stop using the substance?

Meth Addiction Treatment: A Promising New Development

A January 2021 study published in the New York Journal of Medicine illustrates the potential benefits of using naltrexone in combination with bupropion for easing meth withdrawal symptoms.

Neither of these medications is new. Naltrexone is usually prescribed to soothe the cravings associated with opioid withdrawal. Bupropion is prescribed in the form of Zyban (for smoking cessation) and Wellbutrin (for depression).

Researchers found that naltrexone serves to reduce cravings for meth, while bupropion acts together with norepinephrine and dopamine to soften the symptoms of withdrawal.

The NIDA-funded study found using a combination of naltrexone and bupropion had positive results in 13.5% of more than 400 subjects addicted to meth. The placebo group only showed positive results in 2.5% of subjects. A positive result was a negative drug screen.

With both of these medications already FDA-approved, this means the combination drug treatment could be immediately rolled out to those in need.

With meth use still a clear and present danger, this discovery has arrived at an opportune time.

Help Finding Meth Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one is struggling with meth dependence or addiction, you don’t need to try quitting alone and without assistance. As you should see from today’s exploration of the effects of meth withdrawal, you’ll be making things hard on yourself going this route.

Instead, reach out to the friendly team at Landmark Recovery and we’ll help you reclaim the life you lost to crystal meth. You’ll benefit from personalized inpatient or outpatient treatment and all the ongoing support you need. Call us today at 888-448-0302.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.