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Stress triggers relapse in meth abuse, OHSU study finds

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon Health & Science University research showing stress triggers a relapse of methamphetamine abuse in mice could be a step toward developing a drug to curb this frustrating obstacle to recovery.

Results of the study, headed by Gregory Mark, Ph.D., associate professor of behavioral neuroscience in the OHSU School of Medicine, not only validate earlier studies on the effects of stress on drug relapse in humans, they also show a compound researchers used in the study to mimic metabolic changes that occur during periods of stress creates a useful model for studying this effect in the laboratory.

"One of the big problems we have in treating addiction is relapse. The incidence of relapse is really high," said Mark, an investigator with the Methamphetamine Abuse Research Center (MARC) at OHSU and the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "What we want to do is see if we can inhibit this response to stress."

The results are being presented today during a poster session at Neuroscience 2006, the Society for Neuroscience's 36th annual meeting in Atlanta. The session is at 5 a.m. (Pacific time) at the Georgia World Congress Center, Halls B3-B5.

Mark and study co-authors Deborah Finn, Ph.D., OHSU associate professor of behavioral neuroscience and VAMC research pharmacologist, and Larry Huang, OHSU research technician of behavioral neuroscience, trained mice to optionally administer small doses of meth to themselves by pressing a lever during daily four-hour sessions over three weeks.

"We structured the drug availability for the mice to be relative to the model that we commonly see meth addicts following," Mark said. "This is an animal model for drug-seeking behavior. We found that getting the drug was rewarding to them."

The drug was then taken away and replaced with harmless saline solution. This caused the lever-pressing rate by the mice to immediately increase.

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Contact: Jonathan Modie
modiej@ohsu.edu
503-494-8231
Oregon Health & Science University
18-Oct-2006


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