Meth Withdrawal Causes Brain Abnormalities

New research suggests that individuals who stop using methamphetamine may experience brain abnormalities similar to those seen in people with depression and anxiety disorders, according to a Jan. 5 press release from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

For the study, Dr. Edythe London and colleagues at the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of  California Irvine, and NIDA’s Intramural Research Program used positron emission tomography (PET) to image brain activity in methamphetamine users. .The researchers compared the glucose metabolism in the brains of 18 people who did not use the drug to the brain activity of 17 individuals addicted to methamphetamine for an average of 10 years, but who had stopped using the drug for four to seven days before the test. After reviewing the PET scans, the researchers found that in methamphetamine users, the glucose metabolism was lower in brain regions linked to depressive disorders, depressed mood and sadness, but higher in brain regions linked to anxiety and drug cravings.

In addition, questionnaires given to all participants showed that methamphetamine users had higher ratings of depression and anxiety than non users. Based on the study’s results, the researchers recommended that practitioners provide therapy for depression and anxiety in order to improve the success rate for methamphetamine users receiving addiction treatment. The study’s findings are published in the January 2004 issue of the Archives of  General Psychiatry.

Source: London, E., et at (2004) Mood Disturbances and Regional Cerebral Metabolic Abnormalities in Recently Abstinent Methamphetamine Abusers. Archives of General Psychiatry, 61W: 73-84.

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