Methamphetamine users in sustained abstinence: A proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy study

Thomas E Nordahl, Ruth Salo, Yutaka Natsuaki, Gantt P. Galloway, Christy Waters, Charles D. Moore, Shawn Kile, Michael H. Buonocore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Background: Abnormal patterns of metabolite levels have been detected by magnetic resonance spectroscopy in frontostriatal regions of individuals meeting DSM-IV criteria for methamphetamine dependence, but less is known about the effects of drug abstinence on metabolite levels. Objective: To assess the effects of long-term methamphetamine use and drug abstinence on brain metabolite levels. Design: To assess regional specific metabolite levels using magnetic resonance spectroscopy imaging techniques in 2 groups of currently abstinent methamphetamine users: methamphetamine users who recently initiated abstinence and methamphetamine users who had initiated abstinence more than 1 year prior to study. Setting: Participants were recruited from outpatient substance abuse treatment centers. Participants: Eight methamphetamine users with sustained abstinence (1 year to 5 years) and 16 recently abstinent methamphetamine users (1 month to 6 months) were compared with 13 healthy, non-substance-using controls. Main Outcome Measures: Magnetic resonance spectroscopy measures of N-acetylaspartate-creatine and phosphocreatine (NAA/Cr), choline-creatine and phosphocreatine (Cho/Cr), and choline-N-acetylaspartate (Cho/ NAA) ratios were obtained in the anterior cingulate cortex as well as in the primary visual cortex, which served as a control region. Results: The absolute values of Cr did not differ between controls and methamphetamine users. Methamphetamine users had abnormally low NAA/Cr levels within the anterior cingulate cortex, regardless of the time spent abstinent (F2,34=12.61; P<.001). No NAA/Cr group differences were observed in the primary visual cortex (F 2,33=0.29; P=.75). The Cho/NAA values for the anterior cingulate cortex were abnormally high in the methamphetamine users who recently initiated abstinence but followed a normal pattern in the methamphetamine users who had initiated abstinence more than 1 year prior to study (F2,34=7.31; P=.002). Conclusions: The relative choline normalization across periods of abstinence suggests that following cessation of methamphetamine use, adaptive changes occur, which might contribute to some degree of normalization of neuronal structure and function in the anterior cingulum. More research is needed to elucidate the mechanisms underlying these adaptive changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)444-452
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of General Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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