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Studying the Link between Exercise and Drug Addiction Treatment

Many studies have shown that exercise is an excellent outlet for stress and can be very beneficial in preventing drug abuse relapse. Researchers at the University of Georgia and Emory University will receive $1.9 million over the next five years from the National Institutes of Health to study how regular exercise can help prevent relapse. The findings could be very helpful for addiction treatment centers.

Philip Holmes, professor of psychology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and a co-investigator for the study, said that drug abuse is closely linked to stress, and that preventing stress is one of the biggest challenges in addiction treatment.

Previous research has shown that exercise exerts anti-stress effects, because galanin, a chemical that increases in the brain during exercise, seems to reduce drug cravings associated with stress.

Holmes explained that stress activates norepinephrine, which activates dopamine, thus inducing drug cravings. Because galanin decreases norepinephrine, someone with high levels of galanin should experience fewer drug cravings.

In the study, the researchers will measure exercise-induced increases of the galanin gene activity in the brains of rats. Holmes explained that these studies should establish the relationship between galanin and exercise, supporting the idea that regulating galanin through exercise protects against over-activation of the norepinephrine system, preventing stress-related relapse for those with addiction problems. He added that the study could lead to the development of drugs that enhance galanin for addiction treatment.

David Weinshenker, associate professor of human genetics in Emory University's School of Medicine, and a co-principal investigator on the project, says the research should provide new insight into how exercise can reduce drug cravings and drug abuse.

Source: Eurekalert, UGA, Emory to study how exercise may prevent drug abuse relapse, April 29, 2010.

Posted on April 28th, 2010

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