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With more than a million people in the United Stated addicted to methamphetamine, and no treatment available apart from counseling, it has been quite frustrating for the physicians. However, a new trial with an antidepressant has shown promising results.

Methamphetamine can be highly addictive

By the end of the year 2009, there were as many as 1 million people in the United States who were addicted to methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug. People abusing the drug can take it by snorting, smoking in a joint, injecting it or simply swallowing meth pills.

It is a powerful stimulant which removes all inhibitions and makes you feel invulnerable. Meth abuse is rampant in homosexuals as it causes “dis-inhibition” and promotes risk taking while indulging in sexual activities.


Meth abuse can be quite frustrating for the treating physicians as unlike other drugs taken for substance abuse, there is no known medication for treating the condition. The only option left is to advise the addict to seek counseling. Although counseling works for some patients, most of the addicts drop out of the counseling program and suffer from a relapse.

In the past, many medications like antipsychotic drugs, calcium channel blockers, and serotonergic medications have been tried to get rid of meth abuse. However, none of them has been found to be effective. Many antidepressants have also been tried as they act on certain brain chemicals which produce a “high” with methamphetamine. But until now, none of these could produce the desired results.

Mirtazapine, has been Effective in Treating Meth Abuse in a Small Clinical Trial

Mirtazapine has been effective in treating meth abuse in a small clinical trial, which has been reported in the November issue of the journal “Archives of General Psychiatry.” The trial, which was undertaken by Dr. Grant N. Colfax, along with his colleagues from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, was done to find out the effectiveness of Mirtazapine in treating meth abuse among 60 gay men.


The participants were randomly divided into two groups. The first group received drug counseling for 12 weeks while the second group received mirtazapine in addition to counseling. At the end of 12 weeks, urine samples from both the groups were taken to detect the presence of methamphetamine. While in the first group, 63% patients tested positive compared to 67% at the onset, in the group that received mirtazapine as well, the percentage of positive patients declined from 73% to just 44%. The result came as a big, pleasant surprise to the researchers. It showed that mirtazapine can be used effectively in treating meth abuse.

However, many questions still remain unanswered. The researchers are not sure how effective mirtazapine will remain when used for a long time. Moreover, the duration for which the drug has to be given so that the patient is de-addicted is still not known. And once, the medication is stopped, one doesn’t know whether the patient will suffer from relapse. Considering the fact that mirtazapine is a costly medicine with price ranging from $45 to $200 per month, these questions become very important. Also, like other antidepressants, mirtazapine can cause side effects like significant weight gain. Therefore, a thorough research is needed before the drug can be considered for clinical use.

  • “Mirtazapine to Reduce Methamphetamine Use”, by Grant N. Colfax, et al, Archives of General Psychiatry, published in November 2011, accessed on November 30, 2011. Retrieved from http://archpsyc.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/68/11/1168
  • “Antidepressant shows early promise for meth abuse”, by Amy Norton, Reuters, published on November 15, 2011, accessed on November 30, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/15/us-antidepressant-shows-early-promise-idUSTRE7AE22820111115
  • Photo courtesy of monsieurzenein on Flickr: ww.flickr.com/photos/monsieurzenein/384636467