Cholesterol has repercussions for recovering heroin addicts

Published on October 1, 2012 at 9:15 AM · No Comments

By Piriya Mahendra, medwireNews Reporter

Cholesterol levels may be negatively associated with heroin craving in patients on methadone maintenance therapy (MMT), researchers suggest.

Kao Chen (National Cheng Kung University Hospital, Taiwan) and colleagues believe the results of their study show that cholesterol is associated with the cognitive aspect of craving and may be a potential marker for drug addiction relapse.

Correlation analyses showed a significantly negative correlation between total cholesterol (mean 170.64 mg/dL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol (mean 103.64 mg/dL) with Chinese Craving Scale (CS) score, where a higher score indicates stronger craving tendency.

However, the effect of triglycerides and high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol on CS score was not significant.

"As the total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol were highly correlated, two partial correlations were conducted to examine the effect of total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol separately, controlling for the group effect (short-term MMT group vs long-term)," write the authors in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

In this analysis, they found that both total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels negatively correlated with metacognition of heroin craving, which was assessed using the partial correlation coefficient.

Supplemental analysis revealed that the association between both cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol and CS score were not moderated by the duration of MMT.

The study included 70 heroin users who were undergoing or had undergone MMT. Participants receiving MMT at the time of the study were classed as the short-term group, while those who had been treated with methadone for more than 2 months were classed as the long-term MMT group.

"Preventing relapse is an important issue for the treatment of heroin dependency," Chen et al say. "Applying plasma and other compact biomarkers associated with treatment effect… might provide a useful adjunct to predicting and ultimately mitigating relapse."

They conclude: "The findings of the present study may indicate that additional attention should be paid to heroin-dependent patients with an unusually low level of cholesterol."

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