Methamphetamine clinics provide new hope

Posted on: Monday, 20 June 2011

Methamphetamine users were more likely to seek help from a specialist clinic that provided treatment unique to their dependence, new Australian research has found.

Currently, methamphetamine users are treated in the broader alcohol and other (AOD) drug system, which has been found to be a barrier in seeking treatment.

However, a trial of two methamphetamine clinics in Melbourne has found strong evidence to support a specialist approach.

Researcher Amy Pennay, from Eastern Health’s Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre, said methamphetamine users were often reluctant to enter treatment because they did not believe traditional drug programs, structured around heroin and alcohol dependence, addressed their specific needs.

Speaking as part of Drug Action Week (June 19-25), Ms Pennay said specialist clinics, like the Access Point trial clinics in Fitzroy and St Kilda, helped to attract and retain methamphetamine users in treatment programs.

Access Point offered specialist counselling, immediate treatment, a setting separate from heroin and other drug users, and a strong mental health focus.

Ms Pennay said Access Point clients showed substantial treatment gains, with the use of methamphetamine and other stimulants decreasing over time. There had also been substantial improvements in their mental health.

“Overwhelmingly, Access Point clients regarded their treatment experience as a positive one, reporting satisfaction with both treatment and staff,” she said.

“It appears that a service which provides timely and specialist treatment in a separate physical space, and access to a range of professionals, is one that clients will more readily access, engage and return to.’’

Ms Pennay said clinic staff had praised the client-centred, holistic and multi-disciplinary model of treatment, which included immediate access to a nurse, counsellor, psychiatrist and medical doctor. Staff also indicated that these factors translated to real-world benefits for methamphetamine users.

According to the research, 50 per cent of Access Point clients had never before accessed AOD treatment, indicating that the clinics effectively addressed some of the known barriers that prevented methamphetamine users from seeking treatment.

In addition, more than 85 per cent of Access Point clients attended more than one treatment session, substantially higher than methamphetamine users who accessed regular AOD treatment, where only 25 per cent attended a second session.

Access Point clients were also more likely to stay in treatment substantially longer than those in general AOD treatment – 132 days compared with 38 days.

“Access Point clients overwhelmingly indicated that they were satisfied with treatment,” Ms Pennay said. “Staff were supportive, easy to talk to and honest, and clients received the help they needed.”

What is methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a synthetic substance which stimulates the central nervous system by releasing brain chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters.
Types of methamphetamine include methamphetamine powder (speed), base and crystal methamphetamine (ice).

Potential side effects of methamphetamine include:
* problems with memory, concentration and mood
* tooth decay and gum problems
* increased blood pressure and heart-rate, decreased appetite and weight loss
* kidney infection
* skin irritation

Support for people who have a problem with drug use is available through DirectLine: 1800 888 236.