Treatment programs have been effective in reducing and ceasing use. However, there are a range of possible barriers that have prevented these programs being widely adopted by methamphetamine users
Methamphetamine use is associated with a range of poor health, social and justice outcomes. Accordingly, in many parts of the world increased methamphetamine use has been identified as a major public health concern.
What is methamphetamine?
Methamphetamine belongs to a family of drugs called amphetamines — powerful stimulants that speed up the body’s central nervous system. Street methamphetamine is made in illegal labs with fairly inexpensive, and often toxic or flammable, ingredients. Methamphetamine is a white, odourless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that dissolves easily in water or alcohol and may be snorted, swallowed, smoked or injected. In its smokable form, methamphetamine is called “ice,” “crystal,” “crank” or “glass” because of its transparent, sheet-like crystals. It is smoked in a pipe like crack cocaine.
The negative effects of methamphetamine can be extreme and alarming, including paranoid delusions, hallucinations, aggressive behaviour and impulsive violence.
Treatment programs for methamphetamine have been effective in reducing and ceasing use. However, there are a range of possible barriers that have prevented these programs being widely adopted by methamphetamine users.
In 2006, the U.N. World Drug Report called meth the most abused hard drug on earth, and the world’s 26 million meth addicts equals the combined number for cocaine and heroin users. Since 2007, the number of clandestine meth sites discovered by police in the U.S. has increased 63 percent nationwide.
Use of methamphetamine is rising on the west coast
The Globe and Mail reported in July 2016 that “Crystal methamphetamine use has climbed across British Columbia and is now on par with heroin use, according to a new provincewide survey of drug users.” Earlier in 2016, The Globe and Mail reported that crystal meth use was steadily on the rise, “with self-reported use at Insite, the supervised injection site, having increased seven-fold in 10 years.”
Crystal meth has received little attention in recent years in the public actions to combat drug addiction compared to opioids such as oxycodone and fentanyl, the latter of which has made national headlines for its growing prevalence in the illicit drug market and its connection to an increase in fatal overdoses.
With attention focused elsewhere, crystal meth use has quietly climbed to alarming rates: In Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, by one account, the rate has increased seven-fold in the past decade. The stimulant is inexpensive, highly addictive and linked to psychosis – a troubling factor in a city whose mayor recently declared a mental-health crisis. And the increase is not limited to the Downtown Eastside. — Andrea Woo, The Globe and Mail, March 4, 2016
Systematic review examines barriers to accessing treatment
In its smokable form, methamphetamine is called “ice,” “crystal,” “crank” or “glass” because
of its transparent, sheet-like crystals. It is smoked in a pipe like crack cocaine. [source: CAMH]
As would be expected with a drug with the addictive qualities of methamphetamine, treatment is difficult.The literature review conducted for the Western Summit on Methamphetamine (2005), revealed that research on effective treatment and best practices is limited at best. Due to the highly addictive nature of methamphetamine, the user can suffer severe cravings, often triggered by a location or meeting with a methamphetamine-using friend. Therefore, simply returning to the community after detox limits successful recovery. [source: Government of Canada (Justice)]
Part of the challenge is that crystal meth addiction has no pharmacological treatments such as methadone or Suboxone for heroin addiction. Crystal meth addicts seeking help are steered toward detoxification and psychosocial interventions. — Andrea Woo, The Globe and Mail, March 4, 2016
Jesse Young presented his research team’s findings in Victoria, B.C. on September 8, 2016
Despite related challenges, treatment programs for methamphetamine have been effective in reducing and ceasing use. However, there are a range of possible barriers that have prevented these programs being widely adopted by methamphetamine users. Jesse Young, a research fellow and PhD candidate at The University of Melbourne’s Centre for Mental Health, along with a team of co-researchers, conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis that examined the barriers to accessing meth/amphetamine treatment reported in peer-reviewed literature.
Young presented the findings during a teleconference from Victoria, British Columbia, on September 8, 2016.
We speak with Jesse Young.
Left-click to listen; right-click to save.
— People First Radio (@peoplefirstrad) September 18, 2016
About Jesse Young
Jesse Young is a Research Fellow and PhD Candidate at the Centre for Mental Health, The University of Melbourne. He holds adjunct Research Fellow positions at the School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia and the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University. Young and a team of researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis that examined the barriers to accessing meth/amphetamine treatment reported in peer-reviewed literature.