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Study finds troubling brain changes during meth withdrawal

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A study from the University of Florida found that the brains of mice underwent significant changes during withdrawal stages after methamphetamine use.

The findings imply that addiction treatment should be focused on long-term management of physical and mental symptoms, not just navigating the acute withdrawal process and then maintaining abstinence.

Your brain off drugs

Researchers say that physicians may need to change the way they treat recovering meth addicts.

“When people treat drug addicts, they need to know that during withdrawal, people in recovery may experience cognitive consequences,” said Habibeh Khoshbouei, an associate professor of neuroscience and psychiatry in the UF College of Medicine. “Their brain chemistry has changed.”

Rats in the study who were in the throws of full-blown meth addiction were shown to have no signs of change in the hippocampal region of the brain or in their observed behavior. However, when the rats were in withdrawal, the animals showed changes in their ability to remember things and neuron activity decreased. In the rats, these effects lasted two weeks; for humans, this translates to about a year.

From meth to Parkinson's?

Khoshbouei said the changes seen in the brains of mice resemble those similar to people with Parkinson's disease--where the brain undergoes degenerative shifts that lead to under-functioning. Accordingly, says Khoshbouei, addiction treatment should be focused on monitoring brain health.

“Current protocols treat the addiction, but our research shows that there is more to it than that,” Khoshbouei said. “They should be treated like they have a chronic disease.”

This study was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Source: University of Florida News

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