“It’s Crazy What Meth Can Help You Do”: Lay Beliefs, Practices, and Experiences of Using Methamphetamine to Self-Treat Symptoms of Opioid Withdrawal

Sydney M. Silverstein, Raminta Daniulaityte, Kylie Getz, William Zule

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Across the U.S., methamphetamine use is expanding among people who use illicit opioids (PWUIO). Motives for methamphetamine use must be contextualized within the experiences of PWUIO, who may use methamphetamine not only to achieve euphoria, but also as a tactic of self-management. The overall aim of this study is to contextualize lay beliefs, practices, and experiences of methamphetamine use as a form of self-treatment of symptoms related to chronic opioid use among PWUIO in the Dayton Metro Area of Southwest Ohio, an epicenter of the ongoing opioid crisis. Methods: This paper draws on two phases of interviews conducted with 38 individuals who use both heroin/fentanyl and methamphetamine. This paper primarily analyzes qualitative data but includes supplementary information from the structured interview component. Qualitative interview sections were transcribed in their entirety and thematically analyzed. Results: Participants described learning about methamphetamine as a tactic to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms through social networks and through personal experimentation. Many participants suggested that methamphetamine was helpful in relieving exhaustion, alleviating some acute physical symptoms of opioid withdrawal, and providing a psychological distraction, although some admitted that methamphetamine use could incur additional health risks. To effectively use methamphetamine as a tactic of self-treatment, participants emphasized the importance of timing and dosing. Discussion: Among PWUIO in the Dayton area, methamphetamine use as a tactic to self-manage opioid withdrawal must be studied in relation to historical and evolving patterns of illicit opioid use and associated risks. More research is needed to understand the long-term health impacts of this emergent practice of polydrug use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1687-1696
Number of pages10
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2021


  • Methamphetamine
  • opioids
  • polydrug use
  • qualitative
  • self-treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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