Methamphetamine (ICE) Use – Effective Treatment and Personalised Counselling By A/Prof Rebecca McKetin

Posted on: June 16, 2019
Last Updated: August 24, 2020

Associate Professor Rebecca McKetin is a Curtin Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director at the National Drug Research Institute. Rebecca’s research has focussed on methamphetamine (‘ice’ or ‘crystal meth’), for which she has received an NSW/ACT Young Tall Poppy Science Award. Her major achievements include developing methods to estimate the number of people dependent on methamphetamine use in Australia, establishing a world-first longitudinal treatment outcomes study for methamphetamine use (the Methamphetamine Treatment Evaluation Study), quantifying the risk of mental health problems associated with the use of the drug, and developing an online intervention for people who use methamphetamine (Breaking the Ice). 

Author Quotes: 

We haven’t really got a great lot of treatment options for methamphetamine. When we look at effective pharmacotherapies, there’s nothing proved yet, so it’s very much symptomatic management.

What we do know works really well is actually contingency management, and there’s some evidence for cognitive behavioural therapy…but definitely contingency management. But in order for these to work, they need to be given in a pretty intensive way… but what happens in reality?

Summary and slides:  

In this final part of Prof McKetin’s talk, she discusses effective treatment for methamphetamine use and presents data of a longitudinal cohort, showing how symptoms change with use.  

She reveals data on how crime rates decrease and health benefits increase when methamphetamine abusers either stop or reduce their use of the drug which supports the impact of effective treatment for meth use. Discussing effective treatment for methamphetamine use, Prof McKetin explains how this research is still very much in its infancy with no approved medications for methamphetamine dependency yet. 

Looking at treatment availability, she discusses optimum management vs drug treatment in reality and shows how the current treatment regime is failing; detox does not work compared with residential rehabilitation, and there are very high relapse rates.

Take-home Points: 

  • Methamphetamine users reveal three symptom factors; affective, psychotic, and stimulation symptoms. (Read more on the clinical spectrum of  methamphetamine-related psychoses)
  • People in rehab who smoke or eat meth, but not injectors, have much better outcomes when combined with individual counseling. 
  • Treatment advice is becoming available online which reduces stigmatization and is free. 


Learn more

  1. The Effects of Methamphetamine-induced Dopamine Release on the Brain – A/Professor Rebecca McKetin
  2. Methamphetamine (ICE) – Tolerance and Bioavailability by Associate Professor Rebecca McKetin

Read more on the assessment and management of methamphetamine dependence.