The siren call of addictive drugs can be hard to resist, and returning to the environment where drugs were previously taken can make resistance that much harder. However, addicts who exercise appear to be less vulnerable to the impact of these environmental cues. Now, research with mice suggests that exercise might strengthen a drug user’s resolve by altering the production of peptides in the brain, according to a study in the journal ACS Omega.
Re-exposure to drug-related cues, such as the location where drugs were taken, the people with whom they were taken or drug paraphernalia, can cause even recovered drug abusers to relapse. Prior studies have shown that exercise can reduce craving and relapse in addicts, as well as mice. Although the mechanism was unknown, exercise was thought to alter the learned association between drug-related cues and the rewarding sensations of taking a drug, possibly by changing the levels of peptides in the brain. Jonathan Sweedler, Justin Rhodes and colleagues at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign decided to explore this theory by quantifying these peptide changes in mice.