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Not only is methamphetamine fiercely addictive, but treatment for meth addiction is lacking. At present, there are no FDA-approved medications for meth use disorder. This could be changing, though. A promising new study by the National Institutes of Health 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 mitigates withdrawal symptoms and naltrexone reduces the intensity of cravings, minimizing the chance of relapse

Meth Use

Before we explore the potential of this new meth addiction treatment, what does meth withdrawal involve? While withdrawing from methamphetamine addiction is not intrinsically dangerous, the psychological pull of the drug triggers symptoms that can be difficult to manage.

Because meth is a stimulant, its withdrawal differs significantly from withdrawal from sedatives like opioids. The individual experiences an initial crash as their body struggles to function without the substance. The crash can last for several days, with many users sleeping for a majority of this time.

Once stabilized, the individual may feel anxious, agitated, angry, depressed, 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. This is why pursuing meth addiction treatment at a residential rehab center is so important: the individual has no access to meth.

Once an individual stabilizes from meth withdrawal, working toward a full recovery takes the form of:

So, how would the new injectable treatment for meth addiction improve the chances of recovery? 

Meth Addiction Treatment: A Promising New Development

The National Institutes of Health published its study in the New York Journal of Medicine in January 2021 stating the potential benefits of combining naltrexone with bupropion and 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.

What Comes Next

If you or a loved one is struggling with meth dependence or addiction, you do not need to quit alone and without assistance. As you should see from today’s exploration of the effects of meth withdrawal, your recovery chances are slim without support.

Instead, reach out to a friendly recovery specialist 24/7 at Landmark Recovery, and we will work to help you reclaim the life you lost to meth. You will benefit from personalized inpatient or outpatient treatment and all the ongoing support you need through our SMART Recovery support group and alumni program. Call us today at 888-448-0302.

About the Author

Michelle Dubey - LCSW, LISW, CCTS

Michelle has been with Landmark Recovery since the beginning in 2016, and she has been in her role as Chief Clinical Officer since 2019. As CCO, Michelle is responsible for development and oversight of Landmark’s clinical programming, as well as quality assurance and compliance. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with active licenses in Arizona, Kentucky, Ohio, and Virginia, and is a Certified Clinical Trauma Specialist. Michelle received her Master’s degree in Social Work from the Kent School of Social Work at University of Louisville and brings more than 13 years of experience working with individuals and families healing from substance use and other co-occurring disorders.

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