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  • Methamphetamine, a powerfully addictive stimulant originally derived from amphetamine, is a common drug of abuse in communities across the United States. In recent years, meth overdose cases have also increased significantly. 

    Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications available for treating methamphetamine use disorder and treatment generally focuses on behavioral therapies with poor success rates. 

    However, a recent clinical trial has suggested that naltrexone may provide significant therapeutic benefits when used in combination with bupropion

    Naltrexone & Bupropion

    Naltrexone is an effective treatment that’s prescribed to help those experiencing both opioid addiction and alcohol use disorder

    The medication is an opioid-receptor antagonist, meaning that it blocks opioid receptors in the human nervous system and cancels the euphoric effects of drugs like heroin.

    Naltrexone is produced by Alkermes, which also produces an extended-release, injectable naltrexone formulation known as Vivitrol.

    Bupropion, also known as Wellbutrin, is an atypical antidepressant and norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor that is known to reduce severe feelings of dysphoria and distress. The medication is currently used to treat severe depression and smoking.

    Why Naltrexone & Bupropion For Meth Addiction?

    Naltrexone has shown to improve outcomes related to alcohol addiction, despite alcohol not directly activating opioid receptors. 

    However, it is thought that by interfering with the function of opioid receptors, naltrexone can interrupt the function of the reward pathway in the brain, curbing some of the cravings associated with severe methamphetamine use disorder.

    Bupropion may further improve outcomes by reducing the mental distress associated with acute methamphetamine withdrawal.

    This drug combination is also used to control food cravings in situations of severe obesity and medical weight loss.

    What Did The Study Show?

    A double-blind study published in January of 2021 was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and was led by Dr.  Madhukar Trivedi of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. 

    This study describes how a combination of naltrexone and bupropion produced positive results in 13.6% of patients treated by clinicians as part of the study.  

    This result was significantly higher than the 2.5% response among patients in the placebo group. 

    The study took place between 2017 and 2019 at clinics in multiple community treatment programs in the United States. 

    403 adult volunteers who wished to end their use of methamphetamine took part, all aged between 18 and 65 years with moderate to severe methamphetamine use disorder. Each was randomly assigned to either the treatment or control group.

    Investigators tested urine samples at the end of each stage of the study. 

    Participants were considered to have responded to treatment if at least three of four urine screens were negative for methamphetamine, evidencing just how common it is for those experiencing methamphetamine addiction to relapse at least once during treatment.

    Participants in the treatment group who received both naltrexone and bupropion reported slightly fewer cravings than those in the placebo group, as well as greater improvements in their life experience. 

    Moreover, only minor adverse events or side effects were reported during the length of the study related to the medications being investigated.

    Why The Study’s Results Are Important

    Meth use is deeply destructive, causing severe physical and mental harm to those who take it.

    Long term effects of methamphetamine abuse include:

    • addiction
    • psychosis
    • repetitive motor activity
    • changes in brain structure and function
    • mental health effects impacting thinking and motor skills
    • increased distractibility
    • memory loss
    • aggressive or violent behavior
    • mood disturbances
    • severe dental and skin problems
    • weight loss and malnutrition
    • overdose death

    Despite the extent of methamphetamine abuse in the United States and the alarming harm that it causes, there have been very few effective treatment options developed to support those trying to quit the drug. 

    However, both naltrexone and bupropion are currently approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

    This means that clinicians are already able to use these medications off-label to support methamphetamine addiction treatment and potentially improve outcomes for their patients. 

    Treatment For Methamphetamine Use Disorder

    If methamphetamine addiction has negatively impacted you or a loved one, professional treatment is available to support you as you work to get clean and stay clean.

    Our recovery centers host a wide-range of personalized addiction recovery programs with services and treatment options that may include:

    To learn more, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health representative today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    PubMed - Methamphetamine Overdose Deaths in the US by Sex and Race and Ethnicity
    National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine misuse?
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Bupropion
    National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Naltrexone
    UT Southwestern Medical Center - New combination drug therapy offers hope against methamphetamine addiction

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on August 10, 2022
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