Aerobic Exercise to Improve Outcomes of Treatment for Methamphetamine Dependence

Richard A. Rawson, Principal Investigator
Christopher Cooper, Edythe London, & Larissa Mooney, Co-Investigators
Joy Chudzynski, Project Director (

This five-year study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), seeks to assess the efficacy of aerobic and resistance exercise for the treatment of methamphetamine dependence in a population of 150 individuals seeking residential treatment. After signing consent and satisfying all inclusion/exclusion requirements, participants are enrolled into the study and undergo baseline assessments during approximately two weeks of treatment as usual. After randomization, participants enter either the Education condition, consisting of 45- to 50-minute health education sessions three times per week for 8 weeks (n=75), or the Exercise condition, consisting of aerobic and resistance exercise three times per week for 8 weeks (n=75).

The institutional diet for all randomized participants will be supplemented with a commercially available ready-to-drink supplement (Protein Rush, VPX, Weston, FL) to ensure caloric and protein adequacy. Participants will be asked to consume a Protein Rush drink after each exercise and education session. In addition, a review of weekly institutional menus will be conducted to assess nutritional components. Incentives for participation in either condition activity (thrice weekly) are fixed at $10 per session.

The primary goal of the study is to rigorously and comprehensively determine whether inclusion of aerobic and resistance exercise within a residential program improves treatment outcomes in terms of reduced methamphetamine use during the first 12 weeks after discharge and at a 26-week follow-up, as well as to characterize effects of exercise on health, psychiatric symptoms and cognition compared to the control (education) group at pre/post intervention.

Of the 150 participants, a subset of voluntary participants will take part in a brain imaging sub-study. This sub-study is a part of the greater UCLA study, and its goals are to use Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans to see if cells in the brain change after therapy and treatment for methamphetamine dependence.

The purpose of this imaging sub-study is to evaluate how participation in the exercise or education group affects subjects’ brains. Participants will be scanned before the study (baseline) and after the 8-week study. Specifically, we will use a PET scanner and a drug called fallypride to see if group participation (exercise or education group) changes the availability of dopamine in the brain. We are also interested in whether, after 8 weeks of treatment, there is improvement in the participants’ mental processing, including memory and thinking, and how these improvements are associated with dopamine levels.

Aerobic Exercise to Improve Outcomes of Treatment for Methamphetamine Dependence was funded by NIDA, Grant 1R01DA027633-01 (September 2009 to August 2014).

Last Updated: 08/23/2010

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