The influence of depression on treatment for methamphetamine use

Frances J Kay-Lambkin, Amanda L Baker, Nicole M Lee, Linda Jenner and Terry J Lewin
Med J Aust 2011; 195 (3 Suppl): S38.


Objective: To determine whether the presence of comorbid depression influences response to psychological treatment for methamphetamine use.

Design: Randomised controlled clinical trial.

Setting and participants: Our study was conducted between 2001 and 2005 at two sites in Australia: the Hunter Region of New South Wales and the city of Brisbane, Queensland. The 214 participants, who were all using methamphetamine at least once a week in the month prior to the study, were self-referred or referred from health services or drug and alcohol clinical services. Participants were divided into two groups based on whether or not they had depressive symptoms at baseline.

Interventions: The control group received only a self-help booklet; the two treatment groups received either two or four counselling sessions involving cognitive behaviour therapy and motivational interviewing techniques to manage methamphetamine use.

Main outcome measures: Changes in methamphetamine use and depression at 5 weeks and 6 months after baseline.

Results: Over 70% of participants met criteria for depression at baseline, and depression was associated with significantly greater severity of methamphetamine use and related issues. Benzodiazepine use was significantly higher among depressed than non-depressed participants. Reductions in methamphetamine use between baseline and 5 weeks were independently predicted by comorbid depression, in favour of increased change among those with baseline depression. Depressed participants who received three or four counselling sessions showed a significant reduction in depression at 5 weeks. However, reductions in methamphetamine use and depression compared with baseline were no longer evident at 6 months.

Conclusions: Over the short term, comorbid depression did not negatively affect response to treatment, with some evidence of a dose–response treatment effect for reduction in depression. This was not maintained at 6 months, indicating that methamphetamine-focused treatment may not enable people with comorbid depression to make sustained improvement at the level of their counterparts without depression.

Trial registration number: ACTRN12611000355976.

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  • Frances J Kay-Lambkin1,2
  • Amanda L Baker2
  • Nicole M Lee3
  • Linda Jenner3
  • Terry J Lewin2

  • 1 National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Centre for Brain and Mental Health Research, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW.
  • 3 Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, Melbourne, VIC.



Our research was supported in full by a grant from Australian Department of Health and Ageing. We wish to acknowledge the involvement of the study participants.

Competing interests:

None relevant to this article declared (ICMJE disclosure forms completed).

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