Methamphetamine is one of the most dangerous, harmful illicit drugs on the market today. It is made by “cooking” cold medicine with another substance such as battery acid or antifreeze. The process is dangerous and often results in injury or death when the chemicals explode. As you can probably guess from the ingredients, meth is extremely harmful to the human body. It eats away at a person’s teeth and internal organs such as blood vessels, the liver, kidneys, lungs, etc. It is easy to spot a meth addict because their physical appearance gives them away. Their teeth are rotten, their pupils are dilated and they will appear malnourished. They will often display erratic, psychotic behavior.
It is clear that someone addicted to meth needs immediate, effective help. They need to be stopped before they do serious, permanent damage to their body. One approach often heralded as workable is to prescribe a medication to a drug addict to replace the illegal substance they are using. The theory is that if the addict can be gotten to give up the street drug due to the effects of the medical drug, they will be better off. After all, the new drug comes from a doctor. How bad could it be?
The History of Drug-Replacement Therapy
This method of drug “rehabilitation” has been tried in the past. In the mid 19th century opium addiction was a real problem. Opium is a narcotic derived from the resin of the poppy plant. It causes lethargy, mental confusion and loss of memory, among other effects. In an effort to solve the opium problem, morphine was created. It was billed as less addictive and less potent than opium, but it quickly proved to cause an even bigger problem than opium ever had. Despite this, it was quickly decided that the solution to the morphine problem should be another attempt at a wonder drug that would cure the addiction. To that end, heroin was created. Again, it was claimed that heroin was less potent and less addictive than morphine or opium. The rest, of course, is history. Heroin addiction is a problem to this very day.
With such experience, you might assume that those seeking to provide drug rehabilitation would turn away from other drugs as a solution. After all, the goal of rehab is to be sustainably drug-free, isn’t it? Now Naltrexone is being offered as a possible “cure” for meth addiction. It blocks the opioid receptors in the brain, thereby diminishing the effects of meth and reducing the high a user experiences. The theory is that if the high isn’t so pleasurable, the addict will stop using. To date, the drug has been tested on only 30 people. It is clear that much more testing will be needed.
Why Naltrexone is not the Answer
The obvious question, however, is whether this line of research is even headed in the right direction. Is it really in the addict’s best interest to make them dependent on another chemical substance? Certainly, ceasing meth use can only benefit a person, but what happens if they run out of Naltrexone and can’t get more? Will they simply think to themselves, “Oh well, I’d better go find something productive to do with my life.”? If the underlying causes of drug addiction have not been addressed, what is to stop a meth addict from finding other ways to obtain a high, ways that don’t rely on opioid receptors? Wouldn’t it be far better in the long run to find an effective drug rehabilitation program that will address both the physical and mental aspects of addiction without creating further chemical dependence? Even if Naltrexone proves “effective” in halting brain activity related to meth addiction, it will not lead to a drug-free life. It is like putting a Band-Aid on a large, festering wound and hoping that it will get better. There has to be a better way. “Solving” drug addiction with more drugs is not the answer.