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Ibudilast: The Cure for Meth and Opiate Addiction?


Methamphetamine and opiate addiction are some of the most difficult addictions to kick. Meth relapse rates are enormous, and medical treatments for opiate addiction involve substituting one opioid for another, thereby only switching the addiction rather than treating it.

There seems to be a potential light at the end of the tunnel, as a drug called Ibudilast has just passed the preliminary safety test in a move towards treating meth addiction in a new way: by providing a non-opiate option for heroin and opioid addicts. Although it’s important that we recognize the importance of this breakthrough, it’s equally important that we use caution before calling this a “cure” – it very well may be a tool to ease withdrawals and cravings, but it is far from the end-all of treating addictions.

Ibudilast is actually an anti-inflammatory drug that has been used in Japan for 20 years to treat asthma and post-stroke reactions. In a very small study conducted by UCLA in order to determine whether or not the combination of methamphetamine and Ibudilast was dangerous, the results show that this drug seems to lessen cravings and help restore brain functioning. It is possible that Ibudilast prevents glial cells from being activated in the central nervous system, which would allow an amphetamine addict to have a break from the mental need for the drug, and take a step back. In a similar study conducted on opioid addicts, cravings and withdrawal symptoms seemed to be eased by the use of Ibudilast. Phase II of the required FDA testing for both of these studies are set to be underway by mid-summer.

These studies indicate a potentially enormous breakthrough in the world of treating these two addictions. Methamphetamine users currently only have a few options: twelve-step programs, inpatient rehab, and counseling. While all of these are good options, there is a need for medical intervention as well. After all, in 2011 there were about 439,000 people who abused methamphetamine. That is an enormous amount of people causing fiscal and emotional damage to themselves and those around them.

In regards to heroin and other opiate addiction, there are a few medical options, but the problem is that they are all opiates. From methadone to Suboxone and Subutex, the medication that is given to ease withdrawals is another form of opiates. Some of these opiates are more potent than the original drug, and users end up addicted to their “maintenance,” delaying their recovery from opiates by months and even years. With Ibudilast, there is another option for meth and heroin users alike, one that may prove to be more helpful and successful than the currently available options. As with any new approach, however, it is important that we don’t view this discovery in a vacuum.

Yes, medications may be helpful in treating addiction, but it is important to combine other aspects of recovery as well. It is for this reason that I stray from calling this a potential cure – nothing can erase an addiction, because it isn’t simply physical. It’s mentally, physically, and spiritually depleting. While medications are an indispensable tool in getting past the initial danger zone of withdrawals and discomfort, it’s important for addicts to recognize the other aspects of their disease.

Counseling, twelve-step programs, and rehabs coupled with medical intervention could prove to be a helpful combination. All in all though, people have to be ready and willing to quit or no amount of medicine, support, or rehabilitation will make a difference. This medical breakthrough may open a door for many addicts into the life of recovery, but from there it’s important that those who are addicted continue to actively address their addiction.


Works Cited

“A Cure for Meth Addiction?” Elkhart County Drug-Free Partnership. n.p., 03 April 2013. Web. 11 April 2013.

Grise, Chrisanne. “Meth Addiction Cure Tested on Human Addicts.” The Fix. The Fix, 03 April 2013. Web. 11 April 2013.

Miles, Kathleen. “Meth Addiction Cure: UCLA Tests Ibudilast On Human Addicts.” HuffPost., Inc., 04 April 2013. Web. 11 April 2013.


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Written by

A native New Yorker, Bre loves the California scene and writing for Treatment4Addiction. She has been writing content for T4A for five months, and loves to learn new things, form opinions, and send them out to the world. Her interests include dance, singing, acting, talking with friends, being a daughter, and being the best big sister she can to her 16 year old brother. After attending ASU for a few months, she is interested in taking cosmetology classes and exploring her options. She looks forward to learning all she can, and doing something positive with that knowledge and experience.

Filed under: Addiction, Treatment · Tags: counseling, Heroin, Ibudilast, inpatient rehab, meth, methadone, methamphetamine, methamphetamine addiction, opiate, opiate addiction, Opioid, opioid addiction, Suboxone, Subutex, twelve-step programs, withdrawal is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc.
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