Any Kind of Drug Abuse Treatment Can Help Gay Men Kick Meth Habit

TUESDAY, Dec. 5, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Methamphetamine abuse has long plagued the gay community, but a new study finds that any form of substance abuse treatment can help users quit.

In a news release, University of California, Los Angeles researchers explained that men who have sex with men are "a population that has been disproportionately impacted by the U.S. methamphetamine crisis in recent years."

Substance abuse treatment is available for these men, but can it really help them kick the meth habit?

In a new study, researchers led by UCLA epidemiologist Allison Rosen tracked outcomes for 285 Los Angeles men who said they'd used meth at least once during the 2014-2022 study period.

Rose's group found that if these men were involved in any form of substance abuse treatment -- even if it was for another drug, such as opioids or cannabis -- rates of meth use went down.

That included reductions in daily use and periods of full abstinence.

The study "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,” Rosen said in the UCLA news release. “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.”

The study was published recently in the Journal of Substance Use and Addiction Treatment.

Meth abuse is a growing problem across the United States. One National Institutes of Health study, published in 2021, showed the number of adults who said they'd used meth at least 100 days out of the year jumped 66% from 2015 to 2019.

That surge led to more tragic deaths: The study found the number of fatal overdoses rose by 180% over the same time period.

Gay and bisexual men have been hit especially hard. Studies have shown they are more prone to using meth, and use can also raise the odds of contracting HIV, the researchers noted.

Treatment options to help folks wean themselves off meth are limited, but the new study suggests any form of treatment can help.

“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.

More information

Find out more about methamphetamine abuse at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

SOURCE: University of California Los Angeles, news release, Nov. 29, 2023