In Animal Study, Cold Turkey Withdrawal Can Trigger Mental DeclineA new animal study has found that quitting drugs cold turkey — without treatment — could trigger a decline in mental health.

Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center say their observations of animals addicted to morphine suggest that managing withdrawal could promote a healthier mental state in people.

“Over time, drug-abusing individuals often develop mental disorders,” said Italo Mocchetti, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience. “It’s been thought that drug abuse itself contributes to mental decline, but our findings suggest that quitting cold turkey can also lead to damage.”

In the study published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity, Mocchetti and his research team treated the animals with morphine, or allowed them to undergo withdrawal by stopping the treatment.

They then measured pro-inflammatory cytokines, which can promote damage and cell death, and the protein CCL5, which has various protective effects in the brain.

“Interestingly, we found that treating the addicted animals with morphine both increased the protective CCL5 protein while decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokines, suggesting a beneficial effect,” Mocchetti said.

He noted that the animals that weren’t treated during withdrawal had the opposite results — decreased CCL5 and increased levels of the damaging cytokines.

“From these findings, it appears that morphine withdrawal may be a causative factor that leads to mental decline, presenting an important avenue for research in how we can better help people who are trying to quit using drugs,” he concluded.

Source: Georgetown University Medical Center

Hand holding a syringe photo by shutterstock.