An estimated 5 percent of the population suffers from alcohol addiction. Although 12-step programs and…
Alcoholism Drug Naltrexone Could Treat Meth Addicts
Naltrexone, a medication used to treat alcohol addiction, has been shown to have promise in treating methamphetamine (meth) addiction as well, according to a new study from researchers at UCLA. This was the first study to look at how naltrexone could help meth addicts, although it has long been used to treat alcoholics and more recently to treat those addicted to narcotics. The drug works by reducing cravings for alcohol and narcotics, and it could do the same for meth and help thousands of people struggling with addiction.
How Naltrexone Works
Naltrexone is a medication that helps people addicted to alcohol or narcotics, like prescription painkillers, stay clean and resist the urge to use again. A common misconception is that naltrexone is a narcotic and that it is used similarly to methadone in replacement therapy for heroin addicts. Naltrexone is not a narcotic. It acts to block the effects of narcotics and alcohol so that a user will not get high or get any pleasurable feeling.
Using a medication like naltrexone represents one element of a comprehensive addiction treatment plan. It is not a cure and should only be used in conjunction with other treatment strategies like counseling, rehab or support group meetings. Naltrexone is only used with addicts who have already stopped using drugs or alcohol. It can be taken as a tablet or as a long-acting injection.
Naltrexone for Meth Addiction
The UCLA study, which was so promising, was the first of its kind in the U.S. No other research had examined the effects of using naltrexone to treat people addicted to methamphetamine. The research included 30 participants, all of whom were using meth three to four times a week on average and were considered dependent. They spent several days in a hospital and were given either a daily dose of naltrexone or a placebo.
On the last day that the participants were in the hospital, they were administered a dose of meth and then asked to describe how they felt. Those who had been given naltrexone during the week were less impacted by the meth dose. They were less aroused by it. Their physical symptoms from taking the meth were lessened as well, including lower heart rates and blood pressure than the participants who received a placebo.
The results of the study indicate that meth addicts given naltrexone crave their drug less and are less affected by it. Because the effect of the meth was less pleasurable for them, they were less inclined to take more. The naltrexone was tolerated by the participants. They did not experience many side effects, and none were serious.
The researchers from UCLA hope to try combining naltrexone with other medications and to test it in differing doses to find an optimal combination and dosage to treat meth addiction. They also hope to see their results reproduced in larger studies.
The real test of using naltrexone to help meth addicts will be if it is successful in clinical trials. These are already underway and are being sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. If naltrexone can be shown to be successful at reducing the amount of meth that addicts use in a larger group of participants, it may become a more common and effective treatment technique that will help thousands of people who struggle every day with the urge to use methamphetamine.