Research: Can Exercise Impact Relapse When Going Through Meth Withdrawal?

woman exercising at weight lifting gym - meth

woman exercising at weight lifting gym - meth

The DAWN Report features interesting methamphetamine stats

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) publishes The DAWN Report. DAWN is an acronym for Drug Abuse Warning Network. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) created DAWN in 1972 to track emergency department visits resulting from drug abuse.

The topic of the June 19, 2014, issue of The DAWN Report emergency department visits which involved methamphetamine (meth) between 2007 and 2011. We found these statistics worth noting:

  • Methamphetamine use began as a West Coast phenomenon in the early 1990s.
  • It gained national attention in the late 1990s, when use increased and expanded to the east.
  • This trend tapered off by 2008 but has since begun to increase again.
  • According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), methamphetamine use fluctuated between 1.6 and 1.9 million persons between 2002 and 2006.
  • After declining to between 0.7 and 0.8 million users between 2006 and 2008, the number of users rose to 1.0 million in 2011 and 1.2 million in 2012.
  • The average age of first use has ranged between 17.8 and 22.2 years for the period from 2002 to 2012.

Researchers continue to discover clues which may unlock meth addiction treatment

This week The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) issued a press release which addressed the findings of research conducted on rats withdrawing from methamphetamine:

Scientists…have found that even brief workouts can reduce the risk of relapse in rats withdrawing from methamphetamine. In addition, the team found that exercise affected the neurons in a brain region that had never before been associated with meth withdrawal, suggesting a new direction for drug development.

The results of this study were published online October 2, 2014, in the journal Brain Structure & Function  – Chronic wheel running-induced reduction of extinction and reinstatement of methamphetamine seeking in methamphetamine dependent rats is associated with reduced number of periaqueductal gray dopamine neurons.

Senior author for this study was TSRI Associate Professor Chitra Mandyam and this is a follow-up study to one her team worked on in 2013 where they demonstrated that if rats were running on a wheel during meth use, then the rats chose to consume less of the drug. With the current study the researchers wanted to document if exercise could impact the rats during withdrawal.  Through the course of their experiment they observed the following:

  • To find out, they set up an experiment using two groups of rats. 
  • One group had access to running wheels during withdrawal; the other did not. 
  • During the addiction stage, the rats were allowed to choose how much methamphetamine to consume. 
  • During the withdrawal stage, they could also choose how often to run on a wheel.  
  • The rats given access to running wheels, however, showed a reduction in drug-seeking behavior, meaning that they were less likely to press a lever to request a dose of methamphetamine after the drug had been withdrawn. 
  • This finding echoes observations of decreased drug-seeking in cocaine and nicotine-addicted rats given access to running wheels during withdrawal.

Let’s talk about exercise…

Right out of the gate, TSRI researchers address exercise in their research abstract: Exercise (physical activity) has been proposed as a treatment for drug addiction.” 

At Cottonwood Tucson our philosophy of care presumes that physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of life are closely interconnected and equally important to the overall health and wellness of a human being. We believe that achieving and maintaining good health requires more than just treating a disease or disorder. Our goal of wellness encompasses the whole person and focuses on helping the person bring the mental, emotional, physical, social and spiritual dimensions of his or her being into greater balance and harmony.

We appreciate the fact that physical activity is key in attaining physical and emotional balance and is also necessary for optimizing the brain’s ability to think well and produce a calm and happy mood. In our addiction treatment programs, we have found that exercise has been proven to increase the activity of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, the brain’s primary mood-regulating chemical messengers. A skillful exercise regime allows those who suffer from addictions and mood disorders to positively affect the biological component of mood and emotional difficulties.

Going forward…

Thankfully scientists are seeking ways to treat drug addiction and promote fewer relapses. Most of this research is a function of studying the brain and how it changes during drug use and physical behavior. If you have had a family member addicted to meth, then you are all too aware of how their lives are impacted in every way…physically, emotionally, psychologically and behaviorally.

It is important to remember how debilitating and deadly meth is. It is real…it is not about a television series that dramatically romanticizes meth, so much in fact…Toys’ R Us elected to sell Breaking Bad action dolls. Thankfully parents stepped up and petitioned to have these dolls removed from stores and the Toys R Us website.  If you are interested in learning more, you can visit The Meth Project.

Related Posts

Call for more information and daily rates:

(888) 727-0441


CARF - Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities NATSAP | National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs NAADAC newsweek