Meth, or methamphetamine, is addictive. It is a powerful stimulant that produces a pleasurable feeling followed by a sudden rush of unpleasant sensations, called a crash. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, in order to experience the pleasure and avoid the crash, more and more of the drug is taken until the user can no longer bear not taking the drug and becomes an addict. Management of meth addiction relies heavily on forms of behavioral therapy, along with a few drugs that can be of some help with the craving that follows withdrawal from the drug. There is no known drug that can directly counter the effects of meth on the brain.
This medication, marketed as Wellbutrin, is commonly used to treat depression. Methamphetamine stimulates the brain by increasing the amount of a chemical, serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in certain parts of the brain. Bupropion appears to stabilize the brain against the effects of methamphetamine and actually reduces the rush of pleasure of methamphetamine and the craving that follows abstinence from the drug.
Methamphetamine also damages nerve endings in areas of the brain that have to do with reasoning and understanding consequences of actions. This makes it very difficult, according to the NIDA, for meth addicts to continue in a drug rehabilitation program. The drug, modafinil, commonly used to treat narcolepsy, appears to restore this function, improving the compliance of the patient, and increasing success rates for meth addiction rehabilitation programs. This drug is still being studied for its proper place in the treatment of meth addiction.
Antibodies, produced by the immune system, have been engineered to target methamphetamine in the bloodstream in the latest approach to treatment by the NIDA. They hope to use this method to treat methamphetamine overdose, which is relatively common among meth addicts. The antibodies work by binding the molecules of meth in the bloodstream, stopping the drug from causing its dangerous effects on the brain and other organs like the heart.
Meth Addiction and HIV/AIDS
Meth addicts are more prone to human immune deficiency virus infections than the average person. Even among addicts of other drugs, meth addicts are still more likely to be infected with HIV because, notes NIDA, meth addicts are more reckless in behavior than other addicts. Meth addicts will often indulge in risky sexual behavior that increases the chances of infection with HIV. The use of the intravenous route and needle sharing among meth users further increase the chances of HIV infection.