"Our experiments show that it might be possible to use methamphetamine to treat meth addiction itself, by associating drug usage with a stimuli that's not harmful: exercise.”
According to new research from a pre-clinical study out of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, there may be an interesting treatment option for methamphetamine addicts: meth itself, coupled with exercise.
Circadian rhythms — the body’s biological clock — play a key role in the recovery process. As the UB researchers explain, addiction upsets these natural rhythms, which in turn increases craving for the drug and raises the chance of relapse.
In a press release, first author Oliver Rawashdeh explains that “the success of rehabilitation and prevention of relapse is linked to the degree of circadian disturbance in addicts."
To further investigate this relationship, the research team looked at mice who were missing a small region in the brain’s hypothalamus that acts as the master circadian clock, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).
"Metabolism and sleep cycles are all off kilter when someone is addicted, just like an animal whose master circadian clock has been removed,” Rawashdeh said.
Then, the researchers added meth and exercise to the equation. The idea was that by pairing access to a running wheel with methamphetamine in 24-hour intervals, the animals might acclimatize their fragmented circadian rhythms to the 24-hour cycles.
"We created a new homeostatic state," he said. "By using the principles of learning and memory, we may have rewired the brain's circuitry, activating a new clock - a form of plasticity - using the same stimulus that caused addiction in the first place, methamphetamine."
The researchers say that the successful brain rewiring may have also been influenced by the growth of new neurons due to exercise.
Fascinatingly, this rewired circadian rhythm persists even after removing the methamphetamine, the team reported.
"Our experiments show that it might be possible to use methamphetamine to treat meth addiction itself, by associating drug usage with a stimuli that's not harmful: exercise,” Rawashdeh concludes.
The research has been published in The FASEB journal.
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