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Brain region recovery possible in former methamphetamine users

Adaptive changes in chemical activity in certain regions of the brain of former methamphetamine users who have not used the drug for a year or more suggest some recovery of neuronal structure and function, according to an article authored by UC Davis Health System researchers in the April issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Methamphetamine use has been shown to cause abnormalities in brain regions associated with selective attention and regions associated with memory.

Using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy, Thomas E. Nordahl, psychiatry professor, and colleagues compared eight methamphetamine users who had not used methamphetamine for one to five years and 16 recently abstinent methamphetamine users who had not used the drug for one to six months with 13 healthy, non-substance-using controls.

They found that when drug exposure is terminated, adaptive changes occur, which may contribute to some degree of normalization of neuronal structure and function.

"The understanding of how the human brain can recover or partially recover as a function of extended drug abstinence has important implications both for the neurobiology of addiction and substance abuse treatment," the authors concluded.

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