Methamphetamine: Therapeutic use

Last modified: Monday, 1. June 2009 - 6:19 am

Until the 1970s, methamphetamines were used for a variety of medical conditions in the United States. However, with the growing abuse of these powerful drugs, the federal government imposed strict controls on their usage and prescription. Currently, the use of methamphetamines in medicine are restricted for only a few types of medical conditions, including weight reduction for obese patients, narcolepsy, and attention-deficit disorder (ADD).
Methamphetamines and amphetamines are both used for treatment of obesity since they decrease hunger in patients. It is thought that both methamphetamines and amphetamines decrease the urge to eat by affecting certain areas of the brain that are associated with appetite and eating behaviors. While methamphetamines work reasonably well in controlling hunger, they are not indicated for long-term control of obesity because tolerance to the drug develops rapidly. Therefore, more and more methamphetamine has to be taken in order to achieve appetite suppression. Patients usually take methamphetamines or amphetamines for a maximum of six to eight weeks at a time, during which period most people will lose 6-10 lbs (2.7-1.5 kg).
Narcolepsy is a rare condition in which people literally fall asleep, quite suddenly, with no conscious control. This may occur only once or twice a day, but may occur up to 100 times a day. Low doses of methamphetamine or amphetamine are given to these patients on a very controlled basis to help keep the multiple episodes of sleeping under reasonable control.
Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) is widely diagnosed in school-aged children, although the disorder is seen well into adulthood. It is characterized by impulsive behavior, inability to concentrate, and short attention span. Methamphetamines and amphetamines, when given to people with this disorder, have the paradoxical effect of increasing the attention span, decreasing hyperactive behavior, and increasing the ability to concentrate. There are several types of methamphetamine and amphetamine available to treat this condition, including long-lasting, once-a-day preparations.
Methamphetamine is also used in other medical situations. People with severe depression are sometimes given short courses of a stimulant such as methamphetamine or amphetamine. However, physicians need to be cautious when giving a person with depression methamphetamine, since there can be a “let-down” period after stopping the drug that may cause the depression to actually worsen. Methamphetamines are also sometimes used to treat severe cases of epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease in which the normally prescribed medications have failed.

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