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Public Health Institute Tests New Treatment for Methamphetamine Addiction in Contra Costa County

January 20, 2010

Methamphetamine use is rapidly increasing and reaching epidemic proportions in certain parts of the country such as the western United States. The addiction afflicts more than 400,000 people in the country and costs the society more than 20 billion dollars every year.

However, little research has been done on effective modes of treatment to change behaviors around this powerful stimulant. There is growing evidence that a new type of treatment, based on motivational counseling, is effective for alcohol and some types of drug addiction, but it has not been studied for methamphetamine dependence.

To test how well this new treatment approach that uses Motivation Enhancement Therapy helps people quit using methamphetamine, researchers at the Alcohol Research Group (ARG) in Emeryville, California study more than 200 people who are or have recently been dependent on methamphetamine at an alcohol and drug treatment center in Lafayette, California.

Methamphetamine, also known on the street as 'crank,' 'crystal,' and 'speed,' is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that can cause a number of physical and psychological problems, from cardiovascular disease to psychosis. More than 10 million people in the United States have tried methamphetamine, and it continues to create challenges for law enforcement, public health officials and families, especially in the western and central states, where it is identified as the greatest drug threat. In Contra Costa County, it is estimated nearly 90% of domestic violence house calls involve methamphetamine.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy is a supportive style of counseling that encourages individuals to examine their reasons for using methamphetamine as well as reasons they might want to make changes. "Unlike other types of addiction counseling, motivational interviewing combines supportive and directive strategies," says Doug Polcin, a research scientist at ARG, who directs the study. "It allows clients to see how their behavior is affecting their lives, which helps lead them to develop a road map for change."

Polcin, also an adjunct faculty member of the John F. Kennedy University's department of counseling psychology, serves as the study's principal investigator. Janice Stalcup, clinic director at New Leaf Treatment Center, is the research project liaison. The study is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

New Leaf Treatment Center offers treatment to persons of all ages who struggle with addictive diseases and other chemical dependency problems. The Center offers an intensive outpatienttreatment program for adolescents and adults who want to stop using alcohol or other drugs. Treatment includes medical and mental health services as well as medication management.