Treatment tips

Does MAT help with meth usage?

Discover the challenges of treating methamphetamine addiction and explore the effectiveness of medication-assisted treatment options.

Ophelia team
Medications as treatment and meth
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Fact checked by
Nicole Martin, NP

The epidemic of opioid misuse is pervasive and dangerous, leading to the deaths of over a million people in the country over the last two decades. But opioids aren’t the only class of drugs that deserve attention and action at personal, local, state, and federal levels. Amphetamine use, particularly methamphetamine use, also poses a major problem for millions across the nation.

People with opioid use disorder (OUD) are likely familiar with treatment options, including medications for addiction treatment (MAT). But do those same resources exist for people seeking treatment for amphetamine use disorder? Is there such a thing as meth addiction medication? This guide covers the basics of MAT for meth and what you should know about this class of drugs.

What is methamphetamine?

First synthesized in the late 1880s, amphetamine wasn’t widely used as a medicine until the 1930s when it became popular as a decongestant in inhaler form. Since then, amphetamines have been used medically to treat narcolepsy, ADHD, obesity, low blood pressure, and much more. It’s used for all these conditions because of its effects as a stimulant. It works to push the central nervous system into overdrive, which can increase blood pressure, brain activity, and metabolism. 

Methamphetamine was discovered just a few years after the base amphetamine it’s derived from, and it has many of the same effects—but it infiltrates the brain more efficiently and is, therefore, more potent at equal dosages. Both drugs are classified as Schedule II by the federal government, meaning they have a high potential for abuse but may nevertheless have medical applications.

Amphetamines are still used to treat conditions that benefit from stimulants, like ADHD and narcolepsy. However, these medications can be harmful in large-enough doses. Methamphetamine, on the other hand, sees almost no medical use in the United States today, so its familiarity is due to its illicit manufacture and use.

In addition to the effects produced at therapeutic doses, meth may also induce euphoria, an increase in libido, heightened memory and cognitive function, and improved physical performance. This has led to its widespread use as a recreational drug despite its high potential for addiction. When taken over long periods, meth can produce several negative effects, including psychosis, paranoia, severe weight loss, and an irregular heartbeat. 

Signs of meth addiction

Meth use can become a problematic habit very quickly. The physical signs of meth abuse and addiction include:

  • Rapid dental decay—sometimes referred to as “meth mouth”—regardless of how the drug is administered (i.e. through smoking, snorting, ingestion, or injection)
  • Cardiovascular issues, such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and heart failure
  • Skin issues, such as bleeding, scabs, excessive itching, and abscesses
  • Rapid weight loss and malnutrition

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, and their onset seems unusually quick, that may be a sign of habitual meth use.

Meth addiction also has numerous psychological and behavioral effects. These include visual and aural hallucinations, paranoia, hyperfixation, aggression, and decaying mental health.

How are amphetamines + opioids different?

While both amphetamines and opioids are widely used for recreational purposes and are highly addictive, they are very different classes of drugs. Amphetamines are central nervous system stimulants, whereas opioids are depressants. Opioids act on the opioid receptors in the brain and lead to depressed respiratory and cardiovascular function, pain relief, and reduced gastrointestinal activity. Rather than stimulating activity in the brain and body, opioids are known for suppressing it. As a result, the two classes of drugs have very different medical applications.

Because they act differently on the body, amphetamines and opioids also have distinct long-term side effects, and both overdose and addiction may look very different. Many people may also use the two drugs together, which produces its own set of negative effects and may be more dangerous than misusing just one type of drug by itself.

While you might expect that mixing a stimulant and a depressant would lead to opposite and therefore neutral effects, the truth is that the drugs affect different systems, leading to both effects taking place at once. For example, taking a stimulant like methamphetamine will not reverse the slowed respiratory action caused by opioid use. This leads to various bodily systems receiving conflicting signals, resulting in undue stress.

Additionally, there is a risk of being exposed to other substances, including fentanyl, since methamphetamines are produced and distributed illicitly rather than through regulated channels.

Is treatment for OUD effective for amphetamine users?

Unfortunately, the most common medications for opioid addiction are not effective when used to treat amphetamine use disorders. This is because opioid medications, like Suboxone®, are designed to act specifically on the brain’s opioid receptors, which amphetamines do not interact with (important safety information). Medication-based treatment for meth is currently in its infancy, and there are currently no drugs with FDA approval for the treatment of amphetamine use disorder. 

That said, there is some research that suggests drugs like Suboxone can help mitigate meth cravings, even if the treatment is not fully reliable or robustly tested. There are also some signs that a combination of bupropion and naltrexone may help meth users reduce their use. While these studies have not yet led to a surefire meth addiction medication, early research is promising.

Real-time research that produces gold-standard care

While research into methamphetamine treatment is ongoing, it’s important to remember that there’s a safe, effective way to treat opioid use disorder. Ophelia’s clinicians work hard to make sure patients and the public are informed about developments in the field. We share our research and insights to keep the conversation moving forward and help people make informed health decisions.


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