Protracted abstinence revisited

February 1, 2011, Elsevier

Opiate abuse is a chronic disorder and maintaining abstinence represents a major challenge for addicts.

Individuals recovering from opiate dependence have long reported that while the acute withdrawal symptoms from may pass relatively quickly, they do not feel quite right for several weeks or even months thereafter. Called the "protracted abstinence syndrome," this cluster of vague depressive-like symptoms can include reduced concentration, low energy level, poor sleep quality, and anhedonia.

New data in animals, reported in , now implicates the serotonin system in this phenomenon.

French researchers found that mice with chronic morphine exposure showed decreasing physical dependence during a period of abstinence, with no physical withdrawal symptoms after 4 weeks. In contrast, low sociability and despair behavior clearly developed after 4 weeks of abstinence.

Remarkably, treatment during the abstinence period with the antidepressant prevented the development of both social aversion and despair behavior.

This is important because fluoxetine targets the serotonin system, which is known to influence mood.

Senior author Dr. Brigitte Kieffer explained that this study "establishes a direct link between abstinence and depressive-like symptoms, and strongly suggests a causal effect of serotonin dysfunction in depressive features associated with abstinence."

"The greatest risk associated with protracted abstinence is relapse to drug use," comments Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. "This study provides new insights into a process that may contribute to relapse."

These findings should foster novel research along serotonergic pathways in drug abuse. It is hoped that these findings can lead to real-world clinic use, since serotonergic medication is already broadly available.

More information: The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 69, Number 3 (February 1, 2011) www.sobp.org/journal

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

How past intentions influence generosity toward the future

January 17, 2018
Over time, it really is the thought that counts – provided we know what that thought was, suggests new research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Tracking the impact of early abuse and neglect

January 17, 2018
Children who experience abuse and neglect early in life are more likely to have problems in social relationships and underachieve academically as adults.

Study: No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour

January 16, 2018
Researchers at the University of York have found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.