Can Resveratrol Cut Meth Cravings?

Posted on December 13th, 2013
Posted in Abused Drugs

Resveratrol is a chemical compound found in grapes, red wine and certain other foods and beverages. In recent years, this substance has gained public notice for its potential ability to reduce the risks for heart disease. In a study published in October 2013 in the journal Neuroscience Letters, researchers from the University of Missouri assessed the ability of resveratrol to limit the impact of methamphetamine’s effects inside the brain. Such a limitation could significantly reduce any given person’s susceptibility to this highly addictive drug during the addiction recovery process.

Resveratrol Basics

In addition to grapes and grape products such as red wine and purple grape juice, resveratrol occurs naturally in foods that include cranberries, blueberries, bilberries, peanuts and peanut butter. The compound first came to widespread attention when scientists identified it as the potential source of reduced heart disease risks among red wine consumers in France. While it is known that moderate alcohol consumption can indeed lower the chances for heart disease in many people, no one knows for sure if resveratrol provides a benefit above and beyond that associated with limited alcohol intake in general. Other possible, but unproven, benefits of a diet that contains resveratrol include reduced risks for certain forms of cancer and reduced risks of dying prematurely. Most studies on the compound’s properties have included rats, mice or other laboratory animals, not humans. Such studies may (or may not) produce results that also apply to people.

Methamphetamine Basics

Chemically speaking, methamphetamine closely resembles amphetamine, a powerful stimulant that served as the original inspiration for the scientists who first produced the drug. Like amphetamine and another well-known stimulant, cocaine, methamphetamine creates an intense form of pleasure known as euphoria by boosting the brain’s levels of dopamine. However, compared to amphetamine and cocaine, meth has a significantly stronger ability to increase dopamine levels, and therefore has the ability to trigger a more intense form of short-term drug intoxication. In addition, methamphetamine lingers in the body for relatively extended amounts of time. As is true with the vast majority of all substances of abuse, repeated use of the drug can change the way the brain reacts to dopamine; over the long run, this altered reaction helps set the stage for the onset of a methamphetamine addiction. Methamphetamine exposure also leads to an unusually hyperactive mental/physical state.

Resveratrol’s Impact on Methamphetamine Use

In the study published in Neuroscience Letters, the University of Missouri researchers assessed the ability of resveratrol to limit the dopamine increases that normally occur in people who use methamphetamine. Rather than using human beings for their work, they relied on laboratory experiments involving rats. These rats received an amount of resveratrol roughly equal to the amount contained in the diet of a human who drinks red wine moderately on a weekly basis. Initially, this weekly equivalent was given in a single large dose. The researchers then gave the rats smaller doses of resveratrol spread out over a seven-day time period. All of the rats involved in the experiment received daily doses of enough methamphetamine to trigger increased dopamine levels, an associated feeling of euphoria and increased hyperactivity.

When given a single large dose of resveratrol, the study’s rats did not show any signs of a decrease in the impact of methamphetamine exposure. However, when the rats received smaller daily doses of the compound, they showed signs of a substantial decrease in both their symptoms of methamphetamine-related hyperactivity and the methamphetamine-related increases in their normal dopamine levels.

Significance and Considerations

Resveratrol appears in generally healthful foods and comes with a relatively small risk for side effects. For these reasons, the authors of the study believe that consumption of the compound is likely suitable for people receiving treatment for methamphetamine addiction. During the treatment process, its use could lead to a substantial reduction in the drug cravings that typically complicate and interfere with achieving and maintaining abstinence from methamphetamine use. Further research will be needed to verify the usefulness of resveratrol in human populations. The study’s authors also tested the ability of resveratrol to reduce the impact of cocaine exposure in rats. Whether given in a single dose or in smaller daily doses, the compound did not diminish the effects of this stimulant drug.

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