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Crystal Meth Addiction Medications

Crystal Meth Addiction Medications

Methamphetamine, often referred to as crystal meth, belongs to a broad class of drugs known as psychostimulants.

Crystal meth has dominated media headlines because of its alarmingly addictive nature. It impacts families, communities, and is destructive for those who use it. Though the consequences outweigh the rewards, many people still find themselves struggling with addiction.

Methamphetamine’s synthetically made chemical structure is much like other amphetamines – but is an even more potent central nervous system stimulant. The high that people get from meth creates a feeling of euphoria. This rewarding sense of well-being releases dopamine into the brain. The sudden rush of dopamine is the trigger for addiction – over time, chemical receptors in the brain stop functioning if there isn’t meth available to create the release.

The Effects of Crystal Meth

crystal meth

The idea of quitting your relationship with crystal meth might be terrifying, especially if you’re a long-term user. For some people, the fear of withdrawal and detox are enough to prevent them from wanting to get sober at all. Short- and long-term effects, however, are also serious. While they can vary from person to person, many addiction specialists agree that most of this list is present in the majority of people who seek treatment.

  • Heightened vigilance or attention
  • Increased activity and restlessness
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Rapid and irregular heartbeats
  • Euphoric rush
  • Decreased appetite
  • Hyperthermia (increased body temperature)

Over time, the effects of meth will take their toll on the body and mind. This makes the decision to consider treatment especially important.

For individuals addicted to crystal meth, the prospect of quitting the drug can be daunting and even terrifying. These feelings of overwhelming fear are understandable, however, as the idea of going through the withdrawal process can be overwhelming.

But before you run away from the meth recovery process out of fear, consider the consequences of not working through this fear. Continuing use of crystal meth puts you at risk for both short-term and long-term consequences – some of which can even be deadly.

Why Is It So Hard to Break a Crystal Meth Addiction?

It’s hard to stop a crystal meth addiction because of what’s going on chemically inside the brain. Research shows that the chronic neurologic effects are the result of its chemical structure and its toxicity to the human body. The acute (or immediate) effects of meth include an increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and elevated blood sugar levels. The long-term effects severely alter the way in which dopamine is released and processed throughout the body.1

Dopamine: The Body’s Pleasure Chemical

Meth increases the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a very powerful chemical that is responsible for many bodily activities including movement, reinforcement, and motivation. That means that if a person comes to rely the surge of dopamine experienced after taking meth makes it highly susceptible to abuse and addiction.

Continued meth use causes changes to the brain’s dopamine receptors. In turn, this is associated with reduced coordination and impaired verbal learning. Studies have shown severe changes relating to memory and emotion. This might explain one of the reasons why it’s so difficult to stop using meth. The surge of dopamine makes the user want the drug over and over again to find that feeling of pleasure.2

Treatment for Crystal Meth Addiction

Recovery from a meth addiction is a long road, but it’s not an impossible journey. Many studies confirm that the appropriate treatment for crystal meth addiction will vary from person to person. However, it is completely possible to achieve a full recovery with a plan that’s custom tailored to each individual.

Generally speaking, the most common treatment approach usually involves a combination of several treatment strategies. Detoxing from the drug is more than just a physical act; the mind also needs to be trained how to function without meth. This is why treatment also needs to address the psychological damage that’s occurred as a result of meth addiction. It’s possible to recover function and develop a flourishing life without the need to use meth every day.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and intervention strategies are often highly successful treatment approaches. Understanding the root of addiction and counseling for family members is also equally important.

Detox approaches will vary for each person, depending on the level of addition. For moderate addictions that haven’t lasted very long, out-patient treatment facilities are generally successful.

For those who have more serious, long-term meth addictions, inpatient treatment programs might be the better option. In this scenario, a person will be able to physically detox from meth under the care and supervision of trained staff. This approach to detox is often less stressful, as it’s possible to offset meth cravings with medication. A research study from UCLA found that people who are given medication following initial detox have significantly fewer cravings for meth overall.3 Other medications can help quell some of the mental challenges associated with living drug free—namely agitation, panic feelings, or feelings of nervousness.

So Where Does Medication Fit In?

Currently, there is no approved medication to be used in the treatment of meth addiction. However, promising research has shown that there are certain drugs which might be helpful in the road to recovery.4

The detox process usually includes a number of uncomfortable withdraw symptoms such as anxiety, intense desire for the drug, depression, and fatigue. The good news is that when combined with cognitive therapies, supportive medications can be used to help ease the severity of the detox process.

Anxiety and Fatigue are some withdrawal symptoms

Currently, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has made it a priority mission to fund studies which explore medication treatment options. One of the most challenging aspects of developing medication for addiction is bioavailability. Bioavailability is the measure of how much of a drug makes it passed the blood-brain barrier and into the body’s circulation system.5 When a medication is taken orally, it might be broken down in the stomach or in the intestine. It might also never be absorbed.

Researchers at NIDA are hard at work trying to find a medication that’s better suited for addiction treatment. The good news is there are plenty of other medications on the market today. Medication softens symptoms of withdrawal and

although there is no one medication approved by the FDA for meth addiction, there are a number of different medications that can either reduce meth cravings or reduce use. The combination is though to be the most effective pharmacological approach to treating addiction.

The emerging field of addiction research is still searching for drugs that have an impact on meth addiction. Each person will respond differently to medication, depending on the length of addiction and intensity of addition. Current pharmacological approaches to meth addiction include dopamine-partial agonists, GABA-ergic agents, and serotonergic agents.6

Even though most research studies aren’t successful, there’s promising evident that these three classes of medications hold the key to helping overcome meth addiction.

A specific group of medications have been studied for reducing meth use. These include the following:6

    • Bupropion: An antidepressant that has stimulant-like effects. It inhibits the re-uptake of dopamine and increases dopamine in the brain. This might help offset withdraw symptoms as well as the cognitive defects associated with meth use.
    • Modafinil: A non-amphetamine stimulant that has dopaminergic effects. The stimulant-like activity of this drug might be a good treatment for symptoms of withdraw. It can also help with memory, motor, and attention in adults who have long-term drug addiction.
    • Naltrexone: An opioid antagonist might help reinforce the role of behavior sensitization as well as blocking cravings.
    • Mirtazapine: It might help reverse methamphetamine-induced conditioning. As an antidepressant, it might help with withdraws in outpatient settings.
    • Topiramate: It has several neuro-pharmacological actions, including the enhancement of GABA, a chemical that helps people feel relaxed and less an Might act as an anti-craving medication.

Reducing Meth Cravings with Medication

There are a variety of medications which have been evaluated for their efficacy in reducing meth cravings. However, much like the medication treatments to reduce meth use, there hasn’t been overwhelming success. However, there are some medications available which seem to offer some hope in craving reduction.7-10

    • Dextroamphetamine: A stimulant that affects the central nervous system, helps people to focus, and releases dopamine into the body.
    • Rivastigmine: More research is still needed, but studies show this might be useful in reducing meth cravings.
    • Bupropion: Clinical trials have shown this medication to be beneficial in reducing cravings in people who have less-severe addictions.
    • Nicotine. This might be useful to reduce cravings in people with less severe addictions
    • Naltrexone: New studies show that this medication can help reduce meth seeking behavior as well as cravings for meth

Medications that May Reduce Both Meth Use and Meth Cravings

Though more research is still needed to explore the benefits of pharmacological treatment for people who suffer from meth addiction, there have been promising results. The scientific community understands that there’s a significant difference between craving meth and using it. That’s why there’s a robust interest in finding a medication which can address both prongs of addition. There are two known medications which have been shown to be useful.

Bupropion is the active chemical ingredient present in two different name brand medications and helps reduce both the high from meth and the desire to take the drug. This is exceptionally promising, as it suggests it might offer a clinical treatment to combat the neurological brain chemistry component of addiction.11

Naltrexone is an FDA-approved medication that helps treat both alcoholism and opioid addiction. In the brain, it functions as an opioid receptor antagonist. That means that it blogs other drugs that would have an affect on opioid receptors, like meth. More research is needed, but it might also be useful in treating the desire to use meth, which is very good news for anyone suffering from this addiction.10

Immunological Treatment

One of the most promising aspects of addiction research is in the field of immunological treatments. These treatments use lab-created antibodies to specifically target meth inside the bloodstream. In blocking the high achieved from meth use, researchers think it might be useful in quelling the need to use the drug.12

Medication Use in Treatment Facilities

There are different types of treatment available when you’re ready to quit your relationship with meth. The two main types are outpatient treatment and inpatient treatment. Both offer specific advantages, and there’s likely one which is best suited for you.

Outpatient treatment is an option if your addiction to meth is less severe. It’s also suitable if you don’t have any other medical or mental health conditions that would require care. The majority of most rehab centers offer outpatient services. This allows you to maintain your existing work or school schedule while getting the benefits of dealing with your addiction. However, if you’re not sure that you can remain sober in an outpatient setting, then you might consider inpatient treatment.

Inpatient treatment is most often the best choice. Meth withdraw symptoms can be both short and long lasting, so being in the care of qualified medical professionals can help you deal with that discomfort. During an inpatient treatment stay, you’ll be supported by people who understand the struggles of breaking free from your addiction. Even more importantly, by being in an inpatient center, you can maximize your chances of success.

At an inpatient facility, you’ll have access to some of the medications listed above which can help increase your chances at long-term sobriety. Depending on your financial resources, you can stay in either a standard rehab center, an executive center, or a luxury center.

  • Luxury rehab centers. These offer high-end amenities to help make your transition to sobriety as comfortable as possible
  • Executive rehab centers. Patients here have access to both treatment all the while being able to maintain a professional career.
  • Standard rehab centers. These are the most affordable and offer patients the ability to tackle your addiction in a safe residential setting.

Medications Are No Substitute for Human Support

The field of pharmacological treatment approaches is progressive and might offer real benefits, but medications can never be a substitute for active support. Group and individual counseling is an integral part of your treatment. Family involvement, addiction support groups, and intensive cognitive-behavioral therapy are all equally important.

  • Group and individual counseling: Social support and one-on-one therapy is essential to overcoming meth addiction.
  • Cognitive-behavior therapy: Often used in conjunction with counseling, CBT attempts to unravel the root of addictive behavior. This is an intensive process that takes a lot of personal transparency. During CBT, you’ll learn about triggers and coping mechanisms to successfully battle your addition.
  • Family support: An integral part of addiction recovery, family support plays a key role in successfully becoming sober.
  • Twelve-Step program involvement: Being with peers who understand the challenges of addiction can help you stay and remain motivated to be sober.

Diverting ADHD medications

How Prescription Stimulants are AcquiredA lot of young people can get stimulant medications to treat ADHD even without a doctor’s recommendation. This is a widespread problem that can lead to rampant misuse. Where do these young individuals get these prescription drugs? A survey conducted in 2016 by Recovery Brands revealed that the majority of young people between 18 and 28 years old get ahold of their prescription stimulant medications to treat ADHD by means of their friend. Almost 20.5% acquire them through a member of their family, more than 18% via other students, and merely 14.8% from a street dealer. Doctor-approved users can help out by keeping track of their doctor-prescribed ADHD medications in order to protect vulnerable college-age individuals from substance misuse. Read more


  1. Rusyniak, D.E.. (2011). Neurologic manifestations of chronic methamphetamine abuseNeurol Clin. 29(3), 641–655.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: What is methamphetamine?
  3. Wolpert, S. (2015). UCLA researchers identify a potentially effective treatment for methamphetamine addiction.
  4. University of California-Los Angeles. (2015). Potentially effective treatment for methamphetamine addiction identified.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Narrative of Discovery: The Quest for a Medication To Treat Methamphetamine Addiction, Part 4.
  6. Karila, L, Weinstein, A., Aubin, H.J., Benyamina, A., Reynaud, M., Batki, S.L., (2010). Pharmacological approaches to methamphetamine dependence: a focused reviewBr J Clin Pharmacol, 69(6).
  7. Elkashef, A.M., Rawson, R.A., Anderson, A.L., Li, S.H., Holmes, T., Smith, E.V., Chiang, N., Kahn, R. et al., Weis, D. (2008). Bupropion for the treatment of methamphetamine dependence. Neuropsychopharmacology, 33(5):1162-1170.
  8. De La Garza, R., Newton, T.F., Haile, C.N., Yoon, J.H., Nerumalla, C.S., Mahoney, J.J., Aziziyeh, A. (2012). Rivastigmine reduces “Likely to use methamphetamine” in methamphetamine-dependent volunteersProg Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry, 37(1):141–146.
  9. Gatch, M.B., Flores, E., Forster, M.J. (2008). Nicotine and Methamphetamine Share Discriminative Stimulus Effects. Drug Alcohol Depend, 93(1-2), 63-71.
  10. Ciccone, A. (2015). Naltrexone May Be Effective for Methamphetamine Addiction.
  11. Knight, W. (2005). Anti-smoking drug may cut crystal meth craving. NewScientist.
  12. Chen, Y.H., Wu, K.L., Tsai, H.M., Chen, C.H. (2013). Treatment of methamphetamine abuse: an antibody-based immunotherapy approachJ Food Drug Anal, 21(4), S82–S86.

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