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Quitting drugs cold turkey could lead to mental decline


A new animal study from Georgetown University Medical Center suggests the "cold turkey" approach to drug withdrawal may not be the healthiest method for long-term mental health.

The observations of the researchers revealed that managing morphine withdrawal could promote a healthier mental state.

"Over time, drug-abusing individuals often develop mental disorders," says Italo Mocchetti, PhD, a professor of neuroscience. "It's been thought that drug abuse itself contributes to mental decline, but our findings suggest that 'quitting cold turkey' can also lead to damage."

Cell death and protective effects of morphine

In the study, Mocchetti and his colleagues either treated the addicted animals with morphine or allowed them to experience withdrawal by stopping the morphine treatment. After this, they measured pro-inflammatory cytokines, which can promote cell damage and death, and the protein CCL5, which exhibits various protective effects on the brain.

"Interestingly, we found that treating the addicted animals with morphine both increased the protective CCL5 protein while decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokines, suggesting a beneficial effect," Mocchetti said.

The animals that weren't treated with morphine during withdrawal showed opposite, negative results - decreased CCL5 and increased levels of cytokines.

"From these findings, it appears that morphine withdrawal may be a causative factor that leads to mental decline, presenting an important avenue for research in how we can better help people who are trying to quit using drugs," Mocchetti concluded.

Source: Georgetown University Medical Center