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Substance abuse treatment helps reduce reported methamphetamine use among men who have sex with men

Daily methamphetamine users who were receiving some form of substance use treatment – whether it be for meth, opioids, cannabis or other substances — were twice as likely to report a reduction in their methamphetamine usage during their next visit compared to those not receiving treatment.

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Substance abuse treatment of any kind may help to reduce methamphetamine usage among men who have sex with other men (MSM), a population that has been disproportionately impacted by the methamphetamine crisis in recent years.

This is according to a study – “Association of current substance use treatment with future reduced methamphetamine use in an observational cohort of men who have sex with men in Los Angeles” by Allison D. Rosen, Marjan Javanbakht, Steven J. Shoptaw, Marissa J. Seamans, James O. Lloyd-Smith, and Pamina M. Gorbach – that was published in the Journal of Substance Use and Addiction Treatment. 

Here, the researchers analyzed responses from a group of nearly 300 men in Los Angeles in the US, who self-reported how frequently they used methamphetamine in the previous six months and whether they were receiving substance use treatment during that time. The reports were collected from 2014 to 2022 with a total of 285 participants who reported using methamphetamine at least once.

Additionally, they found participants who received a form of substance use treatment had longer periods of abstinence as well as reduced periods of weekly or daily use. Researchers say the findings highlight the importance of treatment programs that focus on use reduction rather than those that require a commitment to abstinence.

“It speaks to that fact that even though treatment options for methamphetamine are limited, it’s important to be able to try and increase access to treatment for people and increase treatment options,” said Rosen, the study’s lead author. “And that treatment of some kind seems to work. We can’t really say what the mechanism is but maybe just being connected to the treatment system is valuable in itself.”

“People reduce their frequency of methamphetamine use following substance use treatment,” Shoptaw added. “The health benefits to reducing methamphetamine use include lowering risks for drug-related physical adverse effects and improving odds for better social, economic, and mental health status. These data provide strong evidence supporting the significance of outcomes to substance use treatment beyond requirements for complete abstinence.”

But compared to other substances such as opioids, methamphetamine has comparatively fewer treatment options and none that have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

“What’s really important here is that we’re providing some evidence outside of the very controlled clinical trial setting that substance use treatment may be able to help folks reduce their methamphetamine use,” Rosen said.

Rosen said further research is needed on other factors including the comparative effectiveness of individual treatment methods for methamphetamine use, how the simultaneous use of other substances can impact methamphetamine use of participants and how more frequent reporting of methamphetamine use can affect how frequently participants use methamphetamine.

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