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Medication for Crystal Meth Addiction and Withdrawal

Methamphetamine, often referred to as crystal meth, is a highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system.1 Crystal meth increases the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a natural chemical in the brain that is involved in motivation, movement, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. Because crystal meth can release dopamine in large amounts, the drug strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior. 1

Despite the consequences of crystal meth, many people still find themselves struggling with addiction. In fact, in 2020, approximately 1.5 million people had a past-year methamphetamine use disorder in the United States.2 Fortunately, there are several treatment options for crystal meth addiction that can help you begin rebuilding your life.

The Effects of Crystal Meth

For some people, the fear of detox and withdrawal is enough to prevent them from wanting to get sober. However, there are significant medical, psychological, and social consequences of using crystal meth. Although they vary from person to person, the short- and long-term effects of crystal meth may include:1

  • Anxiety.
  • Confusion.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Dental problems (“meth mouth”).
  • Hallucinations.
  • Hyperthermia (increased body temperature).
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Increased breathing rate.
  • Increased physical activity.
  • Paranoia.
  • Rapid, irregular heartbeat.
  • Violent behavior.

Over time, the effects of crystal meth take their toll on the body and mind. This makes the decision to consider treatment especially important. Making the decision to get help can be scary but consider the consequences of not working through this fear. Continuing to use crystal meth puts you at risk for short-term and long-term consequences, some of which can be fatal.

Treatment for Crystal Meth Addiction

Recovery from crystal meth addiction is not impossible. While the right treatment will vary from person to person, it is possible to achieve a full recovery with a plan that is tailored to the individual.

Treatment will typically involve a combination of several therapies. There are several types of treatment programs for crystal meth addiction, but a program will typically follow a 4-step process:

  1. Patient assessment: You will undergo a thorough assessment, including a medical and psychiatric evaluation, to help determine what level of care you need.
  2. Detox: While not always necessary, some patients’ continuum of care will include detox. Detox can produce intense, and sometimes dangerous, withdrawal symptoms, particularly from certain substances such as alcohol and benzodiazepines. Detox professionals can help ease the symptoms and get patients through detoxification as comfortably and safely as possible.3
  3. Addiction treatment: Addiction treatment can take place in inpatient or outpatient settings and typically involves a combination of behavior, group, and individual counseling.
  4. Aftercare: Following treatment, you will work with your therapists to create an aftercare plan, which will be created to maintain recovery and prevent relapse.

For those with more serious addiction or those who have been using crystal meth for a long time, inpatient rehab treatment programs may be a better option. With inpatient rehab treatment, you are able to live at a comfortable facility with around-the-clock care.

Where Does Medication Fit In?

Treating addiction to stimulants like methamphetamine is critical but challenging and there is no FDA-approved medication currently available for stimulant use disorders.4 However, promising research has shown that there are certain drugs that might be helpful in the road to recovery.5

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

Currently, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has made it a priority to fund studies that 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 past 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 is 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 crystal meth addiction, there are several medications that can either reduce crystal meth cravings or reduce use. The combination is thought 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 addiction. Current pharmacological approaches to meth addiction include dopamine-partial agonists, GABA-ergic agents, and serotonergic agents.6

Even though most research studies are not successful, there is promising evidence that these three classes of medications hold the key to helping overcome crystal meth addiction.

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

  • Bupropion: An antidepressant that has stimulant-like effects. Bupropion inhibits the re-uptake of dopamine and increases dopamine in the brain. This might help offset withdrawal symptoms as well as the cognitive defects associated with crystal 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 withdrawal. It can also help with attention, memory, and motor functions in adults who have a long-term drug addiction.
  • Naltrexone: An opioid antagonist might help reinforce the role of behavior sensitization as well as blocking cravings.
  • Mirtazapine: An antidepressant that might help reverse methamphetamine-induced conditioning. As an antidepressant, it might help with withdraws in outpatient settings.
  • Topiramate: An anticonvulsant and nerve pain medication that has several neuro-pharmacological actions, including the enhancement of GABA, a chemical that helps people feel relaxed and may act as an anti-craving medication.

Reducing Meth Cravings with Medication

There are a variety of medications that have been evaluated for their efficacy in reducing crystal meth cravings. Much like the medication treatments to reduce crystal-meth use, there has not been an overwhelming success. However, there are some medications available that 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 is a significant difference between craving meth and using it. That is why there is a robust interest in finding a medication that can address both prongs of addition. There are two known medications that 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 effect 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 are ready to quit your relationship with meth. The two main types are inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment. Both offer specific advantages depending on your unique needs.

Meth withdrawal symptoms can be short or long-lasting, so being in the care of qualified medical professionals in an inpatient treatment setting can help you deal with discomfort. During an inpatient treatment stay, you will be supported by people who understand the struggles of addiction. More importantly, by being in an inpatient treatment facility, you can maximize your chances of success.

At an inpatient treatment facility, you will have access to some of the medications listed above which may increase your chances of achieving and maintaining sobriety. Depending on your financial resources, you can stay in either a standard rehab center, an executive rehab center, or a luxury rehab center.

Outpatient treatment is an option if your addiction to meth is less severe. This type of treatment is also suitable if you do not have any co-occurring disorders that would require care. Outpatient treatment allows you to maintain your existing school or work schedule while getting the benefits of treating addiction. However, if you are not sure that you can remain sober in an outpatient setting, consider inpatient treatment.

Medications Are No Substitute for Human Support

The field of pharmacological treatment approaches is progressive and may offer real benefits, but medications will never be a substitute for active support. Group and individual counseling are an integral part of crystal meth addiction treatment. Addiction support groups, family involvement, and intensive cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are all equally important.

  • Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT): 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 will learn about triggers and coping mechanisms to successfully battle addiction.
  • Family support: An integral part of addiction recovery, family support plays a key role in successfully becoming sober.
  • Group and individual counseling: Social support and one-on-one therapy are essential to overcoming meth addiction.
  • 12-Step program involvement: Being with peers who understand the challenges of addiction can help you stay and remain motivated to be sober.

Does My Insurance Cover Crystal Meth Addiction Rehab?

If you have decided to begin searching for rehabs near me, you know the process can feel overwhelming. This is especially true if you are not sure if insurance will cover the cost of treatment. Fortunately, most insurance plans cover at least part of, if not all, crystal meth addiction treatment. You can call the number on the back of your insurance card or check your insurance coverage online by filling out the form below.

Getting Help for Crystal Meth Addiction

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of inpatient and outpatient rehab treatment services. AAC is committed to supporting those struggling with addiction on their journey to recovery. If you are looking for information on meth addiction treatment, you can contact us 24/7 at

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