November 30 is National Meth Awareness Day and the UCLA Center for Behavioral and Addiction Medicine (CBAM) would like to shed light on an epidemic that affects roughly 1.2 million people in the United States alone.

Methamphetamine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system and causes high levels of dopamine to be released in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that has many functions, one of which is to make people feel “good”, to feel the sense of pleasurable reward. Not only does meth cause increased unnatural amounts of dopamine to be released in the brain, it also inhibits the reuptake of the dopamine in the brain; meaning dopamine roams free longer and it takes longer to be reabsorbed in the brain. Methamphetamine’s unique ability to remain in the user’s system makes it highly addictive. Whereas 50% of cocaine will be removed from the body in one hour, it will take 12 hours for the body to remove the same amount of methamphetamine.
Despite the large number of people using meth, there are no FDA-approved medications available for treatment. Currently, the treatments available are strictly behavioral, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy which works to solve problems and change unhelpful thinking and behaviors, and contingency management which rewards positive behavior. However, despite some successes, significant numbers of people who try these options will relapse.

Researchers are currently trying to find more effective ways to treat meth addiction, including testing new medications. CBAM actively takes part in this research. To find out more please visit our website or visit to find other options available in your area. For more information about methamphetamine in general, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


CBAM is a multidisciplinary center that seeks to advance the prevention and treatment of chronic illnesses, especially in communities with health disparities. As part of the UCLA Department of Family Medicine, CBAM works at the intersection of academia and community with a focus on treating addictions and preventing the spread of HIV.

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