Medication-Assisted Treatment: Naltrexone to treat Methamphetamine Addiction?

May 10, 2019 9:17 pm - Published by

Treating methamphetamine addiction is commonly regarded as one of the most challenging addictions to provide comprehensive addiction treatment for. Methamphetamine addiction has recently taken a backseat amidst the opioid crisis, however fatal overdoses caused by methamphetamine have been climbing at a steady pace, proving it to be one of the most lethal addictions out there.

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is most commonly known as meth. It is an illicit, man-made drug that falls under the classification of stimulants.

Methamphetamine or meth also goes by various street names, including:

  • ice
  • crystal
  • crystal meth
  • speed
  • crank
  • tweak
  • chalk

Some states with the highest prevalence of crystal meth include:

  • Hawaii
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

Meth Production

Meth is usually made in homemade laboratories in the United States, with more meth labs showing up across the border in Mexico. Because of the dangerous process of making meth, all it takes is a single drop of sweat during production to cause a massive and deadly explosion.
The most common age for meth lab accident burn victims is four years old. This disheartening fact is one of many sad truths when it comes to the production and use of meth across the United States. In 2015, meth use cost the United States over 23 billion dollars— these numbers have only risen in recent years.

Impact of Meth Addiction

Despite the national cost methamphetamines have on the United States annually, meth also has a massive impact on the criminal justice system. “According to research from the United States Sentencing Commission, methamphetamine produced more offenses than any other drug in 27 states, including much of the West, Midwest and the South” (Abadi). With nearly half of all inmates in the U.S. prison system serving sentences for drug offenses, and more than half of the states in America attributing drug offenses to meth, this illicit drug’s impact is wide spread.

What America’s Done About the Impact of Crystal Meth

There have been instances of legislation being passed in efforts to remedy the exorbitant impact crystal meth has had on communities in the United States, but this legislation is mostly harm reduction at best. Most notably, many states have required a prescription for the common cold medication called pseudoephedrine— a key ingredient for the creation of meth.

For a long time, addicts have criticized addiction treatment modalities and a lack of pharmaceutical interventions that could potentially provide medication that could be used for medication-assisted treatment for meth addiction. Despite public outcry for more help treating meth addiction, there have been no experimental or FDA-approved medications being used to treat meth addicts.

Methamphetamine isn’t only extremely deadly in its production, but it is a very potent and lethal drug to use. For these reasons, access to the right addiction treatment is imperative.

Naltrexone

Naltrexone is an FDA-approved medication that is used for medication-assisted treatment for both opioid use disorder and alcoholism. Naltrexone binds to opioid receptors, making it able to block the “high” effect that results from using opiates. Also, naltrexone is known to greatly reduce cravings for both opioids and alcohol.

In terms of treating alcoholics, naltrexone has an effect that makes the act and side effects of drinking unenjoyable, and therefore undesirable. If alcoholics begin to drink on naltrexone, it doesn’t produce an awful physical reaction (like some medications for alcoholism used in medication-assisted treatment); naltrexone just makes it so that drinking alcohol is not pleasant.

Naltrexone to Treat Meth Addicts?

More recently, naltrexone has made headlines for being a potentially effective treatment for meth addiction. In a study conducted by UCLA and published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology “…was the first in the U.S. to evaluate Naltrexone for treating methamphetamine addiction” (University of California). Findings included: “…that Naltrexone significantly reduced the subjects’ craving for methamphetamine, and that it made them less aroused by methamphetamine: Subjects’ heart rates and pulse readings both were significantly higher when they were given the placebo than when they took Naltrexone. In addition, participants taking Naltrexone had lower heart rates and pulses when they were presented with their drug paraphernalia than those who were given placebos” (University of California).

Essentially, naltrexone was able to reduce the rewarding effects of crystal meth, and “…those taking Naltrexone did not find methamphetamine to be as pleasurable and were much less likely to want more of it” (University of California). The reaction from naltrexone for meth addicts is similar to the medication’s effect when it’s used to treat alcoholism. Because of this helpful reaction, we may see naltrexone being used to treat recovering methamphetamine addicts using medication-assisted treatment in some drug rehab centers in the future. This news is a promising development in the field of addiction treatment, offering exciting possibilities of improving effectiveness in the subcategory of medication-assisted treatment.

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References:

Abadi, Mark. “This Graphic Shows Just How Widespread Meth Is in the United States.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 29 June 2016, www.businessinsider.com/graphic-how-widespread-meth-is-in-the-us-2016-6

Hall, Katy, and Troy Dunham. “LOOK: The Methiest States In The U.S.” HuffPost, The Huffington Post, 7 Dec. 2017, www.huffpost.com/entry/meth-states_n_4057372

University of California – Los Angeles. “Potentially effective treatment for methamphetamine addiction identified.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 May 2015.