Neurobehavioral and biochemical consequences of chronic, low-dose methamphetamine exposure in male and female mice

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Although prescription psychostimulants are effective in reducing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptomology, misuse of these drugs can pose serious risks such as potential abuse, dependence, and/or neurotoxicity. Of particular concern is that young adults have the highest prevalence of prescription stimulant misuse, with almost 10% of college students admitting to using amphetamine (e.g. Adderall) or methylphenidate (e.g. Ritalin) products. Despite these drugs being widely used for therapeutic and recreational use, the long-term effects of prescription stimulants have not been systematically evaluated in controlled clinical trials. Therefore, it is critical to conduct this research because young adults may be a vulnerable, at-risk population to the potential adverse consequences of long-term amphetamine use. This dissertation research evaluates the biochemical and behavioral consequences of chronic exposure of the prototypical psychostimulant, methamphetamine (METH), in a rodent model. It is hypothesized that repeated doses of METH, within the therapeutic dosing range used in a clinical setting, will induce neurotoxicity through the interplay of biological mechanisms of oxidative stress, glutamate excitotoxicity, neuroinflammation and epigenetic alterations and increase susceptibility to addiction that will be exacerbated by aging processes. Overall, the body of results showed short-term alterations in brain biochemistry and behavioral function, that do not necessarily persist past 5 months after METH treatment. In conclusion, this dissertation highlights the importance of long-term studies in addressing prescription stimulant misuse in an adult population to better understand the safety of these widely used and prescribed psychostimulants.