There are no approved pharmaceuticals specifically for the treatment of meth addiction. Medications currently in use are prescribed to treat the symptoms of meth withdrawal and to help patients with any underlying psychiatric problems.
Often, meth addicts use the drug because they are depressed or to self-treat some other, legitimate medical condition. If these factors can be identified, they can be addressed with medications.
In the U.S. it is illegal to treat methamphetamine addiction by prescribing a different (but safer) amphetamine. Unlike heroin addiction, where addicts might be put on methadone to stabilize them, this is not the case for meth. Consequently, addicts are prescribed drugs to help them with the side effects of withdrawal and then encouraged to attend group or individual therapy.
Methamphetamine withdrawal is characterized by insomnia, depression and irritability. The first two of these can be usefully treated with anti-depressants and sleeping pills. Caution is advised whenever treating someone with a history of addiction with another addictive substance, so the sleeping pills are usually withdrawn within a week or two.
More difficult to treat are the strong cravings that occur in addicts, even long after they have undergone withdrawal. A proper diet and exercise can help with any physical cravings, but the psychological need for meth doesn’t go away as easily.
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Currently, a combination of individual and group therapy is the best treatment. This involves teaching the addict life-skills meant to help them meet cravings when they arise as well as teaching positive behaviors that reduce stress and ‘triggers’.
The addict who is deeply involved with methamphetamine has usually tried to quit without help and failed. Even with medical treatment, it is likely they will return to the drug at some point. Part of the problem is the social/economic situation they find themselves in, and good therapy should address more than just the consequences of meth use. Patients who can change their lives in significant ways, beyond their addiction, are more likely to stay off meth.
photo by Rotorhead
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