M.A.T. for Meth Addiction is Way Overdue

While alcoholics and opioid addicts are typically offered M.A.T. (medically assisted treatment aka pharmaceuticals to assist recovery), meth addicts are mostly left with abstinence or addiction as their only options.

“Different chemically than it was a decade ago, the (new meth) is creating a wave of severe mental illness and worsening America’s homelessness problem.” This is because when it comes to meth, the dual diagnosis of mental illness and addiction cuts both ways. There are people who had serious mental health issues before they started in on meth and there are people who have developed serious mental illness, including schizophrenia, as a result of using it.

By housing and feeding a meth-addicted gentleman transitioning from a tent in Denny Park here in Seattle for the last 10 months, I’ve begun to understand why so many meth addicts resist abstinence. It’s because they need a stimulant for their brain to work at the level of someone without their disorders. The stimulant brings them to the same starting line, so to speak, as someone who doesn’t need a stimulant.

Adderall, a pharmaceutical related to meth, is one of the prescription drugs some meth addicts took via their own scrip or that of a friend. It’s prescribed for some brain disorders including ADD/ADHD. These disorders are the result inadequate development of the part of the brain that functions to control impulses, movement, and focus and can be the result of childhood trauma involving abuse or neglect which is the history of most in the tents. Also, many meth addicts used to take some kind of anti-depressant and possibly anti-anxiety medication as well if they’re bipolar, depressed, anxiety-ridden or afflicted with an array of other brain disorders that can be medicated.

Meanwhile, Meth has flooded the streets of Seattle and well beyond. Preloaded syringes are just a phone call away. Dealers make tent calls or have their own tents that they operate out of part of the day. (Unsanctioned encampments are full of tents that are mostly used to commit trafficking crimes involving drugs, weapons, humans, and stolen goods.) Ending the street drug scene with all of its accompanied crime, disorder, and homelessness requires getting meth addicts the M.A.T. they need for their brain disorders.

Stepping up the availability of M.A.T. for meth addiction could be a game changer. On the streets, meth is all they have and no one is offering them much of anything else in spite of research that suggests there are promising medicinal combinations to medically assist recovery from meth addiction. According to a 2010 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, bupropion, naltrexone and modafinil have shown effectiveness in reducing meth use in people addicted to the drug, yet inexplicably governments drag their feet on approving such therapeutics. Meanwhile the street drugs epidemic killed nearly 100,000 people in the U.S. last year and three quarters of a million people in the last 10 years. Another interesting, but elusive aspect of recovery for meth addicts should be relevant job training. One of the only times ADD/ADHD brain disorders don’t interfere with functioning is when the afflicted person is doing something they’re really interested in. This indicates that specific job training in an area that the recovering meth addict finds compelling is imperative for long term self-sufficiency and recovery.

Finally, psychotherapy that incorporates psychedelics shows great promise in releasing deep traumas often resulting from childhood neglect and abuse that can result in depression and addition. Gabor Maté, an M.D. in Canada who himself experienced huge trauma during the holocaust as a child, speaks widely about the possible benefits of therapist-guided use of psychedelics.