Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment

Methamphetamine Addiction Treatment

Methamphetamine is the second leading drug threat in the U.S., according to the U.S. National Drug Threat Assessment 2009, released by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC). Cocaine, another stimulant, is number one. Over the past 10 years, methamphetamine has become one of the most widely abused street drugs. Treatment for meth addiction is complex and evolving. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is currently funding research to develop medications for treating stimulant addiction (cocaine and methamphetamine). But there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for meth addiction. And the treatment process requires a long-term commitment.

Primary Treatment

An individual addicted to methamphetamine has a chemical dependency that comes with a high risk of permanent brain damage and is potentially fatal. The best type of primary treatment for methamphetamine addiction, according to experts, is in an extended care residential treatment center. Primary treatment involves detoxification followed by a multi-disciplinary treatment process. A minimum of a 30-day primary treatment program is recommended, to be followed by comprehensive aftercare programs and services.

Meth Detoxification – The First Step

Before any meth treatment can begin, the individual first has to undergo detoxification from the drug. Detoxification from methamphetamine involves many physical and mental health issues, many of which relate to the drug’s biological effects on the brain. Meth withdrawal symptoms can last from 2 days to 2 weeks. Typical symptoms include anxiety, depression, drug craving, fatigue and severe cognitive impairment. Even after meth use has stopped, brain dysfunction can last for months. Other symptoms may include paranoia, hyper sexuality, irrationality, drug craving in response to conditioned cues and violence.

• Medications for Withdrawal – NIDA-funded research is working to develop medications that can help to suppress withdrawal symptoms during detoxification from methamphetamine addiction. There are currently no medications that can safely and effectively reduce life-threatening overdoses from meth, nor are there any medications that can reliably reduce episodes of paranoia and psychotic behavior.

• Medications for Treatment – Similarly, medications can be very useful to help the recovering meth addict to re-establish normal brain functions and to prevent relapse. Such medications can also help to diminish cravings that can occur throughout the treatment process.

• NIDA Meth Clinical Trials Group – NIDA has initiated the methamphetamine clinical trials group (MCTG), a network to provide new clinical research teams in areas with high meth substance problems. Current sites include Costa Mesa and San Diego, California, Honolulu, Hawaii, Des Moines, Iowa and Kansas City, Missouri. These addiction pharmacotherapy groups west of the Mississippi will be working to evaluate new medications for meth disorders and to ramp up the pace of development.

Matrix Model

First developed in the 1980s as a cocaine addiction treatment program under a NIDA grant, the Matrix Model is the only methamphetamine treatment program with demonstrated effectiveness. According to several sources, the Matrix Model is the primary protocol for meth treatment at several Southern California clinics.

The Matrix Model is a method of outpatient cognitive-behavioral therapy. It is backed by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), a division of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA.

• What’s Involved – The Matrix Model involves a 4- to 6-month process that consists of 3 group or individual therapy sessions per week. Patients are coached on their addictions, how to manage cravings, avoid risky situations, and helped through their recovery. Family therapy, urine testing, and 12-step activities are also part of the model. A shorter 2-month approach is in development.

Rehabilitation for Meth Addicts

Residential drug treatment programs for methamphetamine addiction typically involve a 28- to 30-day inpatient program. The patient, with guidance from trained professionals, learns to address the spiritual, emotional and behavioral aspects of their addiction. Daily activities include self-help groups, individual counseling, group psychotherapy, experiential therapies, recreational activities, educational discussions and techniques for relaxation.

Other Aspects of Meth Treatment

Each meth addict receives personalized treatment, often involving a multi-disciplinary approach. Some of the therapies that may be utilized include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy, and rational emotive therapy – all designed to help the patient overcome their addiction.

• Outpatient Services – Designed to encourage long-term abstinence, the range of techniques includes problem-solving groups, specialized therapies (CBT, insight-oriented psychotherapy, 12-step meetings, etc.), and other approaches. The patient can remain in the program for days or months, similar to other drug rehab programs.

• Long-term Aftercare Support – Following treatment for meth addiction, a continuing long-term support program is recommended. Structured day or evening outpatient programs, referral to a sober living environment, and participation in 12-step meetings in the community and treatment alumni aftercare groups may be part of this ongoing support.

• Ongoing Monitoring – To prevent relapse and/or get the patient back on the road to recovery, ongoing monitoring is generally included.

• Family Involvement – Programs, services or referrals to help family members understand addiction and the recovery process in order to support the recovering addict are critical to the patient’s long-term success. Family members learn how to distinguish between codependency and what’s appropriate in a display of love and support. Although they vary with treatment facility, family programs can range from a week-end stay to longer.

• Contingency Management -This is a rewards-based approach in which patients are given non-monetary awards for successful achievement of specific goals. This positive reinforcement for abstinence from drugs helps augment other treatment approaches.

Search For A Vaccine

Although still in the developmental stages, researchers are working on a potential vaccine that may prove effective in methamphetamine addiction. With the heightened risk meth poses in the U.S., and with the focus of NIDA and other governmental agencies on developing effective medications, there is hope that we will one day be closer to helping curb this drug problem.

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