Research into new treatment model for ice cream addiction

A study of a new drug addiction treatment model focused on stimulation rather than punishment could change how clinicians try to cure methamphetamine addiction in Australia.

Research into new treatment model for ice cream addiction

The contingency management technique (CM) relies on positive reinforcement for addicts who take the right steps — such as offering vouchers and prize draws — rather than forcing those who succumb to addiction into rigorous rehabilitation programs.

The treatment idea has found acceptance in the US but is little known in Australia and has received limited support from clinicians as it has yet to be tried here, despite evidence suggesting the use of methamphetamine, also known as “ice cream” in its purest form, reduces.

Camera IconMethamphetamine continues to pose problems for Australians, with current treatment programs proving ineffective. Ian Currie Credit: News Corp Australia

But the concept is now being explored by National Drug and Alcohol Research at the University of New South Wales, with project leader Rebecca McKetin leading a study on how it could be implemented in health settings to tackle Australia’s ice crisis.

“Right now, we don’t have any particularly effective treatment options for meth use,” said Professor McKetin.

“Contingency management is becoming increasingly obvious when it comes to benefits, but most of the work is done in the US.”

Prof McKetin said it was estimated that only one in 10 methamphetamine addicts had received treatment in the past year, while current programs offer little incentive to participate.

“For people who are highly dependent on any substance — be it meth, heroin, or alcohol — it’s very challenging for them to stick to our rigid treatment programs,” she said.

“Things go wrong in their lives in ways that can make it difficult and challenging for them, whether it’s appearance court or legal obligations, or applying for jobs because they’re unemployed – all of these things make males busy and unpredictable.

“Just trying to get them in and get them to participate in treatment and get them to a point where they start to see benefits and see it’s worth it would be hugely beneficial.”

There are differing opinions on how CM should be implemented. Still, the study will seek stakeholders from different health services to discuss various models and how they can be applied in their system.

The study will also work with methamphetamine users to determine their preferences about how they want the treatment whether through a GP or even their cell phone.

“I think CM is a complex treatment to present to people because it has some issues that we need to understand to make this a palatable treatment for the wider community, our politicians, our practitioners, and our consumers,” Prof McKetin said.

“That’s the point of this project — to scale out the opinions of those different groups of people.”

The results of the study will be presented in November.

Lori J. Kile
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