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Exercise may help treat drug meth addiction

A University at Buffalo study found more evidence that exercise may help methamphetamine users break free from their addiction, in this case when coupled with the drug itself.

The animal research in the FASEB Journal shows that it might be possible to use methamphetamine to treat meth addiction by associating drug use with a stimulus -- exercise -- that’s not harmful. The reason lies in the mechanism through which exercise and methamphetamine affect circadian rhythms, the roughly 24-hour cycles that drive all organisms.

“The circadian system is negatively impacted by drugs of addiction and it doesn’t necessarily recover. We also know that the success of rehabilitation and prevention of relapse is linked to the degree of circadian disturbance in addicts, " Oliver Rawashdeh,  co-first author and formerly a postdoctoral researcher in the UB Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said in a statement.

To better understand the relationship between addiction and circadian rhythms, the researchers studied mice after removing the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a small region in the brain’s hypothalamus that acts as the master circadian clock.  Addiction upsets circadian rhythms, increasing craving for the drug and making relapse after treatment more likely.

It’s like being in a constant state of jet lag, according to Margarita Dubocovich, senior author and chair of the UB Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

The thinking goes that if you pair a reward, in this case access to a mouse running wheel, along with methamphetamine in 24-hour intervals over a period of time, the animal’s fragmented sleep-wake cycles acclimate to 24-hour cycles and the change persists even after removing methamphetamine. The unanswered question is whether this works in humans.

The work was funded by U.S. Public Health Service and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

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