Ideal Option Now Offers Evidence-Based Treatment for Meth Addiction

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The treatment, shown effective in a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, offers hope as the pandemic drives up methamphetamine use disorder.

Ideal Option, a national leader in evidence-based treatment for addiction to opioids, alcohol and polysubstances, is now offering medication-assisted treatment for isolated methamphetamine use disorder.  

The treatment combines two medications: naltrexone, commonly used to treat alcohol and opioid dependence, and bupropion, an antidepressant.

In the past, the two medications have been studied separately for treating methamphetamine addiction, with little success. But the combination appears to be effective. In a 12-week NIH-funded study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), 13.6% of patients who took both medications stopped using meth, compared with 2.5% who took a placebo, an 11% difference.

“This is the first significant evidence we have that medication can help,” says Larry Nye, PA-C, an Ideal Option provider in Washington State. “An 11% success rate may not sound like a huge deal, but it’s actually very exciting — the highest we’ve ever seen.”

“If a person’s readiness to change is high,” Nye adds, “this is a game-changer.”

Nye suspects success rates will be even greater when patients combine the new treatment with accountability protocols and counseling and continue treatment beyond the 12-week duration studied.

The new treatment comes at a critical time: Meth use was skyrocketing prior to the pandemic and has only accelerated during this bleak period of isolation, boredom, illness, and economic hardship.

Overdose deaths from psychostimulants such as meth have recently increased by 34.8 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, largely due to an influx of methamphetamine from Mexico.

“Meth is dirt cheap and it’s everywhere,” says Nye.

"Meth addiction is notoriously, and deceptively, difficult to treat — much more so than heroin now that we have buprenorphine to treat it,” says Nye. “Meth is almost instantly habit-forming and quickly destroys dopamine receptors in the brain, making it hard for users to experience any pleasure outside of using meth.”

"Meth users who have high motivation to quit often have initial success: After enduring the first few miserable weeks, they enter a ‘honeymoon phase’ where they feel great,” Nye says. “But then they hit a wall, a period of extreme depression that can last up to 6 months.”

Most find the depression unbearable and soon find themselves back in the throes of addiction.

While the newly studied combination therapy doesn’t come close to the effectiveness of buprenorphine for opioids, Nye hopes it will prevent patients from crashing hard into that wall. Naltrexone, which blocks opioid receptors in the brain, has been shown to reduce drug-use cravings, while bupropion reduces anxiety and depression, the very conditions that often drive a return to use.

Addiction experts expect the NEJM study’s success will ultimately lead the FDA to approve the new treatment specifically for isolated methamphetamine use disorder. In the meantime, providers such as Ideal Option may prescribe the combination therapy to patients.

Patients enrolled with Ideal Option for methamphetamine use disorder will meet with an addiction medicine provider regularly for 6 months to a year or longer before safely tapering off the medication. If patients are using both meth and opioids, their treatment plan may include buprenorphine. In a recent survey of 1,300 Ideal Option patients, 84% treated primarily for opioid use reported they also stopped using stimulants like methamphetamines.

Those interested in starting treatment for isolated methamphetamine use disorder or other substance use disorders can schedule an appointment at http://www.idealoption.com.

About Ideal Option

Headquartered in Kennewick, Washington, Ideal Option was founded in 2012 and has since helped more than 38,000 patients through a network of 65 office-based opioid treatment (OBOT) clinics across 10 states. With a mission to serve under-served communities, Ideal Option accepts all forms of insurance including Medicaid and Medicare and financial assistance and payment plans are available. 

Ideal Option's team of medical providers carry certifications in Addiction and Emergency Medicine, Internal, OB/GYN, and Family Medicine, among other specialties. The company also employs social workers, caseworkers, counselors, and mental health practitioners. This holistic approach helps drive positive outcomes, including family stability, stable housing, improved overall health, and reduced rates of recidivism.

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Sharen Ross
Ideal Option
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