Spontaneous recurrence of methampetamine psychosis: increased sensitivity to stress associated with noradrenergic hyperactivity and dopaminergic change
Yui K, Ishiguro T, Goto K, Ikemoto S, Kamata Y
Department of Psychiatry,
Jichi Medical School, Tochigi, Japan.
Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 1999; 249(2):103-11


We studied the factors precipitating spontaneous recurrences of methamphetamine (MAP)-induced paranoid-hallucinatory states (referred to as "flashbacks") in 28 flashbackers, along with 18 non-flashbackers with a history of MAP psychosis. Plasma levels of catecholamines and their metabolites were assayed in the 28 flashbackers, the 18 non-flashbackers, 8 subjects with persistent MAP psychosis, and 33 normal controls (22 MAP users and 11 non-users). The flashbackers had been exposed to significantly higher numbers of stressful events, and/or MAP-induced frightening paranoid-hallucinatory states during previous MAP use, than the non-flashbackers. Factors triggering the flashbacks met the DSM-III-R criteria for a mild psychosocial stressor. During flashbacks, plasma norepinephrine levels increased and plasma levels of 3-methoxytyramine, which is an indicator of dopamine release, showed a smaller increase. It follows that stressful experiences together with MAP use may induce sensitization to mild psychosocial stressors. Noradrenergic hyperactivity and some degree of increased dopamine release may be involved in this process. Stress sensitization may elicit memories of MAP psychosis associated with stressful experiences in response to mild psychosocial stressors, leading to the occurrence of flashbacks. Sensitization to stress associated with noradrenergic hyperactivity, involving increased dopamine release may be central to spontaneous recurrences of MAP psychosis.

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