The Effects of Methamphetamine-Induced Dopamine Release on the Brain – A/Professor Rebecca McKetin

Posted on: June 14, 2019
Last Updated: November 24, 2023

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: 

And what’s going on in the brain? Basically, you get a large release of the chemical dopamine, which we know if a feel-good chemical, and this is activating the brain’s natural reward system.

One of the things we’ve discovered recently is that those brain changes are a learned response and they are mediated at least in part by the glutaminergic glial cells in the nucleus accumbens. So this has become a target for novel therapies in treating methamphetamine addiction.

Summary and slides: 

 Continuing with the presentation, in this second video excerpt Prof McKetin takes a look at how methamphetamine acts on the brain, and how the brain reacts to the increase in dopamine. Learn more about dopamine pathways of the brain.

Learn more about NAC.

Prof McKetin describes how the problem of methamphetamine abuse has increased dramatically in the last decade or so regarding people with a use disorder which is associated with the high purity of the product and the method of use, i.e. smoking. 

She describes the effect this has on the number of people attending treatment centers in Australia. 

She discusses the severity of psychotic symptoms experienced by methamphetamine abusers and provides a breakdown of the number of users who experience either no symptoms, mild symptoms, or clinically significant symptoms. 

This video excerpt ends with a look at psychotic symptoms and the dose relationship with meth use. 

Take-home Points: 


Learn more

  1. Methamphetamine (ICE) Use – Effective Treatment and Personalised Counselling By A/Prof Rebecca McKetin
  2. Methamphetamine (ICE) – Tolerance and Bioavailability by Associate Professor Rebecca McKetin