Help online for ice users

A randomized controlled trial of a web-based treatment program designed to help people who use stimulant drugs like methamphetamine, including ‘ice’, has found that the online treatment is promising.

People who received the online treatment were more likely to seek help for their drug use, and were more engaged in their usual day-to-day activities, than people who did not receive the online treatment.

Published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the six-month study evaluated the effectiveness of a self-guided web-based intervention, “breakingtheice” for amphetamine-type stimulant (ATS) users via a free-to-access site. The research was conducted by a collaboration between researchers at the Australian National University, the University of New South Wales, the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University, and the Black Dog Institute.

NDRI researcher Robert Tait said that regular methamphetamine users, and in particular users of ‘ice’, the more harmful form of the drug, were likely to experience harms such as dependence and mental health problems, and early intervention was important to prevent their problems becoming severe. However, as the current treatment for methamphetamine use relies on intensive psychotherapy, access is extremely limited, particularly outside of major cities.

Dr. Tait said that web-delivered interventions have been found to be successful in reducing hazardous alcohol use. There are fewer studies on interventions for illicit drug use, but early results are positive. “Results from this study are promising, and we are now seeking funds to develop the intervention so that it can be made available as a viable treatment option,” he said.

“There is a public perception of an ice user as someone who is out of control, and certainly we have seen evidence of this side of ice use in the recent press. Importantly, however, many users realise they have a problem at an early stage, but are not sure where to go for help, and are worried about the stigma associated with accessing traditional services,” said Associate Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin from the UNSW National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

“The “breakingtheice” intervention was developed with the aim of providing these people with help to reduce the harms arising from their drug use.”

Associate Professor Rebecca McKetin, from the Australian National University, explains that the majority of people who use methamphetamine do not get the help that they need. “We are seeing more people seeking help for methamphetamine use and existing services are over-stretched.”

Posted on: 1 Aug 2015

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