Medication-Assisted Treatment for Meth Addiction Being Tested

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For the past few years, an addiction epidemic has raced across the U.S. While opioids have been taking lives through overdoses, another dangerous addiction has silently raged; methamphetamine. Until recently, there were no medications to help people cope with the withdrawal and intense desire to use that causes meth addiction to be so nefarious. New Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) research shows that a powerful combination of medications — injectable naltrexone and oral bupropion — can help people stay sober. This study would be the first time MAT has been successfully helped people with meth addiction.

What Was The Study About?

The clinical trial tested two drugs that have already been approved for opioid addiction but are already used off-label to treat alcoholism in some places. The study combined injectable naltrexone and oral bupropion and measured their safety and efficacy when treating meth addiction.  The test used subjects who were considered to have a moderate or severe methamphetamine use disorder. Half were given the medications, and the other half were given placebos.

Which Drugs Were Tested for Meth Addiction?

Meth addiction has been notoriously difficult to treat due to the withdrawal symptoms most people get. The study, known as ADAPT-2, took place for two years between 2017 to 2019. Four hundred three adult volunteers ages 18-65 took part in the study. All of the study participants were eager to stop using meth and recover from their addiction.

Volunteers in the treatment group were administered extended-release naltrexone, a drug used to treat opioid and alcohol use disorders and alcohol use disorders. The drug was administered every three weeks. They also took daily extended-release tablets of bupropion, an antidepressant that has helped people quit smoking for a few decades.  

The Results of MAT for Meth Addiction

Medication-Assisted treatment with combination therapy was deemed successful. For meth users, withdrawal is a challenge because it “hijacks” the brain’s pleasure center by raising dopamine levels. This feel-good chemical then has trouble producing without a consistent supply of the drug.

“Long-term methamphetamine misuse has been shown to cause diffuse changes to the brain, which can contribute to severe health consequences beyond addiction itself,” Madhukar H. Trivedi, M.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, told reporters of the clinical trial. “The good news is that some of the structural and neurochemical brain changes are reversed in people who recover, underscoring the importance of identifying new and more effective treatment strategies.”

Further research of these drugs as a combination therapy will likely lead to new tools to help people combat meth use disorder.