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Earlier this month, ABC Radio National program All in the Mind featured an episode ‘Breaking the ice’, where host Lynne Malcolm looked at how the drug ice affects the brain and what treatment works.

One of her guests was Amanda Baker, who is a clinical psychologist at the University of Newcastle and studies the subject as part of her NHMRC research fellowship.

According to Baker, research shows that counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is effective in treating meth addiction. In addition, community-based mutual support groups such as SMART Recovery can help prevent relapse.


[Partial Transcript:‘ Breaking the ice’ – Sunday, 6th March 2016, 5:05PM]


Research shows that counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy is effective in treating meth addiction.

Amanda Baker: So we have very, very good evidence here in Australia, we’ve done the leading randomised controlled trials, that counselling works. So methamphetamine users get it, they understand. Once you start experiencing those really unpleasant mental health symptoms, the physical health symptoms, the feeling run down, terrible skin, terrible teeth, they are not eating, they’re not sleeping, their friends don’t want to know them, they know they’ve got problems. And they enter a counselling facility as an outpatient usually and have even a few sessions with a counsellor who listens to them, they can give some good advice and help them with motivational issues and also help them with behaviour change and also some help around their thinking because often their thinking might have gone a bit skewy as well.

Then even a few sessions has been shown to really reduce methamphetamine use, and in fact just a few sessions of counselling doubles the rate of abstinence compared to no treatment at all. If you have as many as four sessions of counselling then that also tends to help the quite severe depression that can also accompany the methamphetamine use as well. We think that’s associated with the relationship, having a relationship with someone who is listening and relating to you, but also the skills around reducing methamphetamine use are transferable to improving your mood. You’ve got to change your lifestyle, you’ve got to go out and meet and mix with people who aren’t users. And so that increases your self-esteem and helps your mood.

Those changes that people can make are quite long-standing. They can be effective in the long term. However, with most substance use, not only methamphetamine use, usually people dabble again and many people will relapse and they’ve got to pick up their socks again and they will have some more counselling down the track. So it’s a good idea for people if they can to do lots of lifestyle changes, get into exercise, get a good healthy lifestyle, but maybe think about attending something like one of the mutual support groups that are available, such as SMART Recovery or Narcotics Anonymous, and some of those things that are available in the community that will just keep you going on track.


To listen to the full audio from the ABC Radio National episode ‘Breaking the ice’, click here. 


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