Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that strongly activates certain systems in the brain. The drug is often used to treat obesity and is often addictive. According to the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, about 8.8 million people in the United States have tried methamphetamine at least once in their lives.
Researchers from UCLA studied 17 methamphetamine users and 18 healthy people to determine how brain activity affects the success of addiction therapy. Participants completed questionnaires to help identify any symptoms of depression and anxiety. They also received Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans while performing different tasks to measure cerebral glucose metabolism, which is an indicator of brain function. Researchers measured the glucose metabolism in seven areas of the brain, which are known to regulate emotion, motivation and behavior.
Results of the study show methamphetamine users had abnormal activity in regions of the brain that are linked to mood. Healthy people did not have these brain abnormalities. Methamphetamine users also reported more symptoms of depression and anxiety in the questionnaire portion of the study.
Researchers say these results suggest treating mood disorders in methamphetamine users may help improve the success of addiction treatment. Most methamphetamine users undergo behavioral therapy because no medications have shown to help the recovery process.
Researchers from the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, say their PET images for the first time pinpoint abnormal brain activity that has been closely linked to symptoms of depression and anxiety and they feel that targeting these complicating conditions as part of a more comprehensive treatment program may improve success rates of methamphetamine addiction therapy.