Many studies have shown that exercise is an excellent outlet for stress and can be…
Exercise Immediately Curbs Drug Cravings in Rats
Recent findings from a group of American researchers indicate that people who use the stimulant drug methamphetamine, the stimulant-hallucinogen MDMA or the stimulant “bath salt” ingredient methylone may reduce their susceptibility to substance intake when they exercise, even if exercise is not a previously established habit.
Exercise is known to produce a range of physical and mental health benefits for the average person; it may also have specific benefits in an individual affected by substance abuse and/or substance addiction. In a study published in March 2015 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from the Scripps Research Institute used laboratory experiments on rats to estimate the effects of exercise on people who consume methamphetamine, MDMA (Ecstasy, Molly) or methylone.
Methamphetamine, MDMA and Methylone
Methamphetamine is a chemical relative of the stimulant amphetamine. Most people know about the illegal street version of this substance; however, doctors sometimes use a legal, medicinal form of methamphetamine as a treatment for morbid obesity or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). MDMA is the common abbreviation for 3,4-methylenedioxy–methamphetamine, a substance that combines some of the classic stimulant effects of the amphetamine family with some of the perception-altering qualities of certain hallucinogens. Methylone, a close structural relative of MDMA, belongs to a group of manmade chemicals called synthetic cathinones, a family of “bath salt” ingredients based on substances found in a plant-based stimulant drug called khat.
Because of their stimulant properties, methamphetamine, MDMA and methylone all produce a mind- and body-altering effect by speeding up the baseline rate of communication inside the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). All three substances also produce euphoria in a brain area called the pleasure center. This is important, since any euphoria-producing substance can trigger physical dependence and/or addiction by making long-term alterations in the pleasure center’s chemical environs. Like the street version of methamphetamine, all forms of MDMA are illegal to sell or possess throughout the U.S. Federal authorities outlawed the sale and possession of methylone and several other common bath salt ingredients in 2011-2012.
Exercise and Substance Use
People with diagnosable substance problems commonly undergo dysfunctional change in various parts of the brain. In addition to pleasure center alteration, examples of potential changes include reduced communication between certain brain regions and damage to nerve cells responsible for carrying out critical brain functions. Exercise can offset some of the brain issues caused by substance addiction and/or substance abuse, the National Institute on Drug Abuse notes. Specifically, exercise can lead to improved strength of communication between the brain’s nerve cells, blood vessel creation that supports or enhances brain health and more effective repair of damaged brain areas. Exercise can also lead to improved mental/emotional health in a substance consumer by enhancing the ability to cope with everyday and extraordinary stress.
Exercise’s Impact on Stimulant Consumption
In the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the Scripps Research Institute researchers used rat experiments to help determine if exercise can potentially lead to a reduction in substance intake in people who consume methamphetamine, MDMA or methylone. During this project, one group of rats received open access to intravenously delivered methamphetamine. A second group of rats received open access to intravenously delivered MDMA, while a third group of rats received open access to intravenously delivered methylone. After establishing a pattern of substance intake in each of the three groups, the researchers gave all of the rats access to an exercise wheel for 22 hours. Next, they compared the rate of stimulant intake in each group after exercise access to the rate of intake prior to exercise access.
After completing their comparisons, the researchers concluded that the methamphetamine-using rats, the MDMA-using rats and the methylone-using rats significantly reduced their level of substance consumption after having the opportunity to exercise. Interestingly, they also concluded that the specific level of reduced intake in any given rat was not directly related to how much that animal exercised during the 22-hour period of access.
The study’s authors note that exercise access had an immediate impact on the amount of stimulants consumed by the rats, not a delayed impact. They believe this fact indicates that human consumers of methamphetamine, MDMA and/or methylone may benefit rapidly from the effect that exercise has on substance intake levels. They also believe that the benefits of exercise in a human user of the stimulant drugs under consideration may not hinge on a previously established habit of exercise involvement.