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Quitting Drugs 'Cold Turkey' May Trigger Mental Decline

Nov 09, 2013 08:22 PM EST
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Drug addict
A Nepalese drug addict smokes a cigarette as he sits for an observation after having his dose of methadone during Methadone Maintenance Treatment at Saarathi Nepal in Kathmandu June 25, 2011.
(Photo : Reuters)

Quitting drugs "cold turkey" may trigger a decline in mental health, a study of morphine addiction in animals suggests.

Led by Georgetown University Medical Center researchers, the report's findings suggest that a careful managing of morphine withdrawal may help individuals' facing withdrawal maintain a healthy mental state.

"Over time, drug-abusing individuals often develop mental disorders," Italo Mocchetti, a professor of neuroscience, said in a statement. "It's been thought that drug abuse itself contributes to mental decline, but our findings suggest that 'quitting cold turkey' can also lead to damage."

Published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity and presented at Neuroscience 2013, the researchers treated animals with morphine, initiating withdrawal by stopping treatment. They then measured pro-inflammatory cytokines, capable of causing cell death and damage, and the protein CCL5, known to have protective effects in the brain.

"Interestingly, we found that treating the addicted animals with morphine both increased the protective CCL5 protein while decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokines, suggesting a beneficial effect," Mocchetti said. In contrast, those that were not treated during withdrawal showed decreased CCL5 levels and an increase in the level of harmful cytokines.

"From these findings, it appears that morphine withdrawal may be a causative factor that leads to mental decline," Mocchetti concluded, "presenting an important avenue for research in how we can better help people who are trying to quit using drugs."

The study was presented by Lee Campbell, a Ph.D. student in pharmacology. Other authors included Dr. Valeriya Avdoshina and Summer Rozzi, a Ph.D. student in Interdisciplinary Program.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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