A nondrug approach to beating addiction
In 40 years of research, Marilyn Carroll, Ph.D., has worked to show how substituting healthier forms of gratification can curb drug addiction.
As a postdoctoral student, Carroll, along with her adviser, discovered evidence that less food availability boosted opiate abuse while increased access to palatable food and liquids reduced it.
“There is an inverse relationship between food- and drug-rewarded behavior,” says Carroll, who is now a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School. “Food and drugs can substitute for each other.”
More recently, Carroll and her U team found that the “reward” of exercise could prevent and reduce drug-seeking behavior. Based on this discovery, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles employed exercise as a way to treat addiction to methamphetamine. Sure enough, exercise during recovery reduced relapse rates compared with the control condition, under which the study volunteers received only general health education.
Clinical studies at the U of M are planned or under way to employ exercise to help people reduce or stop using nicotine, marijuana, and heroin, and also to test the effectiveness of progesterone (a natural female hormone)—alone and in combination with exercise—to reduce drug-seeking behavior and cravings.