Methamphetamine (METH) abuse is an increasing public health problem worldwide. Many of the METH-induced physical and mental problems are associated with the neurotoxic effects of METH. Animal studies have shown that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) decreased after repeated amphetamine administration and increased at 30 and 90 days from psychostimulant withdrawal, suggesting that there might be a psychostimulant-induced neuroprotective dysfunction followed by a neuroadaptive process in the brain. However, current research on the role of BDNF in human METH addiction is limited, particularly during early withdrawal. The aim of this study was to assess the serum BDNF levels in METH abusers during the early withdrawal stage. Two groups of subjects were enrolled: (1) 59 DSM-IV METH abusers confirmed by board-certified psychiatrists during the first 3 weeks of withdrawal; (2) 59 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. We found that serum BDNF levels were significantly and constantly lower in the METH abusers during early withdrawal than those of the healthy controls. This indicates that METH abusers might have severe BDNF dysfunction and an impaired neuroprotective function after repetitive METH misuse.
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