Professor discusses meth addiction

About 100 residents turned out at Carson Valley United Methodist Church on Thursday to find the answer to the question, "Why can't they just stop?"

The Partnership of Community Resources hosted a family prevention night presentation, "Understanding Methamphetamine."

Dr. Melissa Piasecki, associate professor of psychiatry, University of Nevada, Reno, School of Medicine, gave a lecture about how the brain gets addicted to methamphetamine.

Piasecki referenced the 30-minute anti-meth documentary, "Crystal Darkness," that aired on Northern Nevada TV stations Jan. 9. Most people in the audience indicated they had seen it.

"In the movie, they said doing meth was better than any other drug they tried - better than chocolate, better than sex," Piasecki said. "It has to be great to walk away from your family and your life.

"It's so potent and addictive because our brains are hard-wired for rewards."

The linking of pleasurable feelings connected with food and sex became important in continuing the species in mammals and this reward system dominates the brain.

Piasecki said that lab mice whose reward centers of their brains are stimulated will forego food, water and other "natural" rewards until they die.

"The brain says, 'Whoa, stop the presses. This is the only thing I want,'" she said.

Dopamine is the chemical released in the brain during rewarding experiences and Piasecki said the brain receives more than 1,000 percent stimulation of the reward center on methamphetamine.

"Meth is neuro-toxic to brain cells," she said. "We're not supposed to have excessive amounts of dopamine dumped into the brain."

Methamphetamine is a difficult addiction to treat because of the damage it does to the brain and memory function and for this reason, Piasecki indicated the need for longer treatment periods.

"We need more longer-term treatment and four weeks won't do it," she said.

Martie Washington, prevention coordinator for the partnership, said there are no treatment facilities for methamphetamine addiction in the Valley although there is Sierra Recovery in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., and an in-patient treatment center, Carson Detox, in Carson City. The partnership keeps a counselor directory on site.

Washington said people are curious about methamphetamine because it's all over in the newspaper and they came to have their questions answered at the lecture. She said she received a lot of good feedback about the presentation and that people are curious about methamphetamine because it's all over in the newspaper. They came to have their questions answered at the lecture.

"In the questionnaire where we asked if you'd come to another of these events, almost everyone checked 'yes,'" Washington said.

More information is available at Partnership of Community Resources, or 782-8611.

Winners of the Holiday Card Design contest were announced at the Friends and Family Prevention Night.

First place: Johnnie Saletti, Nathan Tripp, Elizabeth Vineis, Kevin Roberts

Second place: Zoe L.M. Behar, Alex Tessmann, Dana Christensen, Allison Andraski

Third place: Caitlyn Bidart, Courtney West, Sandy Lopez, Sydney Mackey


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