July 7, 2009

Meth recovery may take at least one year

With patience, there is hope for recovery from methamphetamine addiction, U.S. researchers say.

The study, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, says it takes at least one year for former methamphetamine users to regain cognitive functions like impulse control and attentional focus.

We used to think most, if not all, effects of meth addiction were permanent, lead study author Ruth Salo of the University of California, Davis, said in a statement.

This study adds to the growing evidence that this assumption is not true. I can confidently tell patients that the longer they stay in a structured rehabilitation program and remain drug free, the more likely it is that they will recover some important brain functions.

Salo used the computer-based Stroop attention test to measure the abilities of 65 recovering methamphetamine abusers to use cognitive control. Study participants had been abstinent for a minimum of three weeks and a maximum of 10 years, after using the drug from 24 months to 28 years. The data for the 65 individuals were compared to Stroop attention test data from 33 participants who had never used methamphetamine.

The researchers find that those who were recently abstinent -- three weeks to six months -- performed significantly worse on the Stroop test than those who had been abstinent one year or longer. In addition, there was no statistical difference between test results for those abstinent at least one year and non-drug using controls, the study says.