As one of the most addictive drugs in existence, methamphetamine abuse continues to be a serious problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as of 2012, an estimated 4.7 percent of the U. S. population reported having tried meth at least once in their lifetimes, with 1.2 people reporting having used the drug in the previous year.
Within the addictions’ field, medication therapies exist for both alcohol and opiate addictions, but not meth addictions. A study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology in May 2015 shows Naltrexone to be a promising medication therapy in the treatment of meth addiction.
Regular users of meth spiral into a hopeless cycle of abuse that causes widespread damage to the brain and body. This damage only works to strengthen the addiction making it all the more difficult for addicts to stop using.
As far as addiction recovery goes, the more addictive the more the greater the need for some form of medication therapy to help addicts wean off the effects of the drug. The benefits of Naltrexone may provide a much-needed support in the treatment of meth addiction.
Methamphetamine acts as a stimulant drug, speeding up brain chemical processes through its effects on individual brain cell sites. In effect, meth forces cell sites to release copious amounts of neurotransmitter chemicals, most especially dopamine. The surge of dopamine chemicals into the brain account for the rush experienced when using the drug.
According to United Press International, researchers at the UCLA Addictions Laboratory studied the effects of Naltrexone on meth-addicted individuals. Naltrexone, commonly used in the treatment of alcohol and opiate addictions, blocks dopamine-producing brain cell sites.
Study subjects were split up into two groups, with one receiving Naltrexone and the other a placebo drug. Those receiving Naltrexone reported experiencing a noticeable reduction in cravings for meth.
Physical examinations revealed participants in this group had lower heart and pulse rates when presented with drug paraphernalia, whereas participants in the placebo group experienced an increase in heart and pulse rates.
Naltrexone’s effects also reduced the rewarding effects of meth when study participants used the drug. Users found the meth high to be less pleasurable making them less likely to crave or want more of the drug.
On average, study participants tolerated Naltrexone well experiencing minimal side effects. While all who received Naltrexone benefited from the drug, positive effects were slightly higher for women than men. In effect, addicts experienced a reduction in cravings, which is a key component in helping those in recovery take an active role in the treatment process.
The study conducted by the UCLA Addictions Laboratory holds considerable promise for those struggling with meth addictions; however, further research into Naltrexone’s therapeutic benefits is still needed. Fortunately, clinical trials are currently underway at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Clinical trials pick up where new studies leave off in terms of determining the effectiveness of a particular treatment, while ensuring overall patient safety. Future research into Naltrexone looks to examine the drug’s effects when combined with other treatment approaches as well as testing Naltrexone’s effects at different dosage levels.