Beating an addiction to meth.doc

Beating an addiction to meth.doc - Beating an addiction to...

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Beating an addiction to meth? By Julia Sommerfeld MSNBC The spread of methamphetamine production and abuse has sparked a flurry of research on the drug’s health effects and possible new ways for treating the addiction. Until a few years ago, methamphetamine was considered a regional problem. Largely confined to the West Coast and Southwest, it was off the radar of federal drug offices in Washington, D.C. But as the drug swept into rural Midwestern communities in the mid- 1990s, catching hospitals and treatment centers unprepared for its devastating effects, steps were taken to gain a better understanding of meth’s toll on the body. Getting hooked Methamphetamine, like cocaine, is a powerful stimulant. It produces physiological changes similar to the fight-or-flight response — it boosts heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and body temperature. Some people use it for the brief, intense “rush” it produces when smoked or injected. Others use it for functional reasons — as an appetite suppressant to lose weight or as an energy-booster to enable them to work more. When snorted or taken orally it doesn’t produce an intense “rush” but rather a “high” that can last more than 12 hours. Both cocaine and meth boost brain levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which causes feelings of euphoria and increased energy, but go about it in different ways. Cocaine doesn’t directly stimulate the release of dopamine; it prevents the normal recycling of the chemical messenger once it’s released. Meth goes a step further — it actually gets into the nerve cell where it causes the excessive release of dopamine. Meth users can quickly become addicted to the spike in dopamine. Abuse of methamphetamine is linked to several serious medical complications such as heart damage, stroke and psychosis. But perhaps the most frightening side effect is long- term neurological damage unlike anything seen with heroin or cocaine. While high levels of dopamine in the brain usually cause feelings of pleasure, too much can produce aggressiveness, irritability and schizophrenic-like behavior. “Meth has more long-term, serious effects on the brain than cocaine,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, senior scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratories in Upton, N.Y., who has studied the effects of both cocaine and methamphetamine on the brain for 15 years. The brain on meth Using brain-imaging techniques, scientists have discovered that the brains of former chronic users show a significant decrease in the number of dopamine transporters, a crucial component of a functional dopamine system.
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The most recent development comes from Volkow who, along with Dr. Linda Chang, collected the first data on what this decline in dopamine transporters means. They performed brain scans on 15 detoxified, former meth users and found a 24-percent loss in the normal number of dopamine transporters. This loss of transporters was linked to slowness in motor skills and poorer performance on verbal and memory tasks.
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  • Summer '14
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