MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Substance abuse not only takes its toll on a person’s overall health, but it can cause significant — and potentially irreversible — damage on the brain. Rae Matsumoto, Ph.D., associate dean for research and graduate programs in the WVU School of Pharmacy and professor in the School’s Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences, wants to find a way to treat addiction to stop its harmful effects on the brain.

Dr. Matsumoto and her team are specifically focused on methamphetamine-induced damage to the brain as amphetamine-type stimulants are the second most abused drugs worldwide and can cause long-lasting brain damage that persists even when people stop using them. Unlike alcohol or opioids, there currently aren’t any FDA-approved treatments for those who use these substances.

After only one use of methamphetamine, changes start to occur in the brain, including how the brain processes information. The more methamphetamine is used, the more dramatic the changes in the brain become. Matsumoto’s research aims to treat the harmful changes that have occurred in the brain to stop and reverse the damage.

This research can also provide treatments for other types of brain damage. There are similarities in the cell death and damage in the brain of those who use methamphetamine as those who have damage in the brain because of health issues, such as stroke, traumatic brain injury or other brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

“The research we are conducting has implications for many diseases, not just addiction,” Matsumoto said. “Certainly, we are trying to create a treatment to help those who are addicted to these drugs, but through this research, we will also help those who are not addicted, who are trying to overcome the results of damage to the brain due to other health issues.”

For more information: Amy Newton, School of Pharmacy, 304-293-7192