The researchers think they may have found the first drug treatment for methamphetamine addiction, a significant step in curbing the increase in overdose deaths seen in recent years.
A study published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine found that a combination of two drugs can be a safe and effective treatment for adults with moderate or severe methamphetamine use disorder.
The phase three clinical trial studied the effects of the combination of Naltrexone, which is approved to treat alcohol and opioid use disorder, and Wellbutrin, an antidepressant, in adults with moderate or severe meth use disorder. He compared the effects to a control group of patients who received placebos.
Patients who received the drug combination responded at a significantly higher rate than those in the control group and reported fewer desires and improvements in their lives.
Unlike other substance use disorders, there is no approved drug treatment for methamphetamine use disorder.
“We are very excited about the results because so far, despite much research that has been done in the field, there has been no successful clinical trial for the treatment of methamphetamine addiction involving drugs,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Drug Abuse Institute (NIDA), which conducted the trial.
“More and more, we see people dying from methamphetamine. There is a great concern about not being able to have drug treatment as we have for the opioid use disorder, which could help prevent the death of people from the use of methamphetamine. “
Drug overdoses have been on the rise for decades, with public attention focusing mainly on opioid deaths. But experts are increasingly concerned about recent spikes in deaths from stimulant drugs, including methamphetamine and cocaine. More than 16,000 people died of methamphetamine-related overdoses in 2019, a 10-fold increase from 2009. The increase in deaths is probably partly due to a more potent methamphetamine from Mexico and mixed with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.
Experts fear the pandemic has worsened the problem, with more people turning to meth, relapses in treatment and overdoses.
“We know that, by researchers in the field and patient groups, there has been, on the one hand, an increase in drug use associated with the COVID pandemic and, on the other hand, an increase in the number of people with relapses and an increase in mortality during the overdose pandemic, ”said Volkow.
The results of the new study are a sign of hope, said Volkow.
The study showed that 16.5% of patients who received the drug combination responded to treatment, compared with 3.4% of patients in the control group, who received placebos.
When examined a few weeks later, 11.4 percent of the treatment group responded to treatment, compared with 1.8 percent of the control group.
Although these numbers appear low, addiction is notoriously difficult to treat, and the combination of drugs is just as effective in treating the methamphetamine disorder as other drugs are in treating other addictions, such as alcoholism.
Volkow said the next step would be to ask the Food & Drug Administration to approve drugs for the treatment of methamphetamine disorder so that they are covered by health plans. Doctors can now prescribe the drug combination for patients with meth use disorder, but insurance plans may not cover it if it is not approved by the FDA for that purpose.
“Finally, a meditation that can help improve results and help people achieve sobriety and recovery,” said Volkow.