Methamphetamine, a known stimulant, commonly used by college students, truck drivers and athletes was discovered in 1919. Originally intended for use as a nasal decongestant, it has been very long since the drug has been used for a therapeutic benefit. It was even used by soldiers during World War II to enhance their alertness. Ever since the time of introduction, the drug has only had disastrous consequences in many different communities of the world.
It is a highly stimulant drug, the effect of which is probably due to high levels of release of the neurotransmitter, dopamine into specific areas of the brain that regulate feelings of pleasure. Short-term use of the drug enhances physical activity and alertness. The stimulant effects last for several hours following intake, even at very small doses. Long-term use of the drug is found to be associated with addiction, characterized by compulsive drug seeking or craving, followed by drug use.
The drug can be snorted, smoked or injected. With decreasing effects of the drug, the drug users tend to display violent behaviour. Other conditions that can arise as a result of methamphetamine use include loss of memory and psychotic behavior. In addition, it also poses a serious threat of brain and cardiovascular damage and increases the risk of transmission of hepatitis and HIV.
Currently, no medications have been approved in the treatment of methamphetamine addiction. Managing methamphetamine drug addiction has been a significant challenge to the scientific community. At last, the untiring efforts of the pharmaceutical industry to seek a solution to drug abuse has been successful, with recent research that suggests that bupropion (antidepressant) could be used as a management strategy.
The drug has been found to attenuate methamphetamine high and reduce cravings for the drug, prompted by visual cues such as ambient drug use. The drug is thought to reduce the stimulant effects by blocking the drug from entering the brain cells that would in turn restrict the release of neurotransmitters that cause feelings of euphoria.
A research study has been initiated to evaluate the effectiveness of bupropion for treating methamphetamine addiction in humans, the Phase II clinical trails of which have already offered a new ray of hope. Out of the 26 participants, all of whom where active users of the drug, aged between 18 and 45, nearly 20 completed the study. The participants were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or bupropion.
The participants were required to provide a subjective description of the effects following methamphetamine usage, at two different levels, one before treatment and the other following treatment with bupropion. An analysis of the responses highlighted a lesser high after treatment with bupropion. In addition, the carving episodes were less intense in the treatment group.
In conclusion, any attempt to find newer and effective ways of treatment is to be welcomed for perhaps it might be the only approach towards taming the devil of drug abuse.