A study published last week—funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse—shows promise regarding the first-ever medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for meth addiction. Participants received either a placebo or a combination of Naltrexone (Vivitrol and Revia) and Bupropion (Wellbutrin). Naltrexone, an opioid antagonist already used to treat alcohol and opioid use disorder, can help prevent cravings. Bupropion is used to treat depression.
Is There an Effective MAT Treatment for Meth?
The treatment helped 2.5% of the people who received a placebo, compared to 13.6% of those who took the medications. This puts the medication regimen’s effectiveness at 11.1%. While that may seem like a small number, it is encouraging for the 1.6 million Americans who use meth.
Nora D. Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, says 11% is similar to the effectiveness of many other medications used to treat addiction and mental health disorders. In addition, the response rate may increase when combined with behavioral therapy and other treatments.
Lara Ray, a psychologist who studies medical treatments for addiction at UCLA, says, “I believe this clinical trial is really a breakthrough in many ways, because there have been so many failed trials.”
In particular, studies have focused on the use of either Naltrexone or Bupropion individually; this is the first time the two have been combined, and treatment appears to be much more effective that way.
Volkow says this may be because, while Naltrexone reduces cravings, Bupropion helps lower the anxiety people feel when they stop using. When someone is newly sober and hasn’t learned skills to cope with stress without using, they may relapse.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse expects to move forward getting FDA approval for this treatment. In the meantime, Volkow suspects that some clinicians may start using it immediately.
Meth Use Has Increased During the Pandemic
This comes at an important time, as the CDC warned last month that “overdose deaths involving psychostimulants, such as methamphetamine, increased by 34.8 percent” between May 2019 and 2020. This exceeds the number of deaths involving cocaine by over 8%.
Volkow points out that, given the complexity of the human brain, relying on one or even multiple medications to “cure” addiction is unrealistic. However, she says, “It’s progress and it’s quite significant.”
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. We offer medication-assisted treatment (Vivitrol or Suboxone) to help gradually and comfortably free you from substances. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.