Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) is safe and effective for heroin addiction, but the neural basis of the length effects of long-term MMT on brain activity during craving in former heroin addicts is unclear. This study explored it by comparing the brain activations of heroin addicts with different length of MMT during pictorial presentation of heroin-related cue. Fifteen male former heroin addicts successfully treated by MMT less than 1 year (Group A), 15 matched patients with 2-3 year MMT (Group B) and 17 healthy controls underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while heroin-related and neutral stimuli were present to them. Subjective cue-elicited craving was measured with visual analog scale before and after imaging. Then, partial correlation analysis to reveal the relationship between drug-related blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signal intensity and heroin or methadone use history. Finally, self-reported craving was not different between Group A and B before and after scanning. Compared with Group A, Group B had a significant reduced brain activity to heroin-related minus neural cues in the bilateral caudate. After controlling for the variable heroin use history, the drug-related BOLD signal intensity in the bilateral caudate was negatively correlated with MMT duration and total methadone consumption. When MMT history was controlled, the drug-related activity intensity in right caudate had a positive correlation with heroin daily dosage. Long-term MMT may improve heroin-craving response by modulating the impaired function in the bilateral dorsal striatum caused by former heroin use.
Keywords: Craving, Caudate, Functional magnetic imaging (fMRI); Heroin addiction; Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT).
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