Purpose of review
To describe and review the literature published on methamphetamine in 2003–2004, with a particular focus on patterns of use, its effects on the user and society, and progress being made towards effective treatment strategies.
The methamphetamine epidemic continues to grow, dominating drug use trends in many parts of the world, and signifying an increasing need for effective treatment. In addition to the already-documented physical effects of the drug, preliminary evidence suggests methamphetamine dependence may cause long-term neuronal damage. Recently abstinent users have been found to do poorly on neurocognitive tests of attention and motor skills, both factors that can adversely affect treatment outcomes. Methamphetamine use is also implicated in aggression and violence and there are increasing presentations to emergency rooms. It also affects the developing fetus, as well as children and adults who are exposed to toxic chemicals at laboratory sites. Outpatient programs, such as the Matrix Model, show improved in-treatment performance. Case management was found to be an effective intervention. Agonist-type pharmacotherapy in combination with quality behavioral therapy should produce benefit and a reduction in risks caused by stimulant abuse.
The increasing evidence that methamphetamine has adverse effects on the human brain indicates the pressing need for effective prevention and treatment approaches. There is a need to take these findings, particularly those that involve cognitive deficits, into consideration in current treatment programs and when developing new treatments.