Methamphetamine abuse linked to long-term damage to brain cells

March 26, 2000

New research shows that those who use methamphetamine, often called "meth" or "speed," risk long-term damage to their brain cells similar to that caused by strokes or Alzheimer's disease. In an article published in the March 28 issue of Neurology, scientists at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California, used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to take measurements of three parts of the brains of 26 participants who had used methamphetamine and then compared them with measurements of the same regions in the brains of 24 people who had no history of drug abuse.

"While the meth users in this study hadn't used the drug for some time--anywhere from two weeks to 21 months, this research strongly suggests that methamphetamine abuse causes harmful physical changes in the brain that can last for many months and perhaps longer after drug use has stopped," said Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In their study, Dr. Linda Chang and Dr. Thomas Ernst measured levels of brain chemicals that indicate whether brain cells are healthy or are diseased or damaged.

"We found abnormal brain chemistry in the methamphetamine users in all three brain regions we studied. In one of the regions, the amount of damage is also related to the history of drug use--those who had used the most methamphetamine had the strongest indications of cell damage," Dr. Chang said.

The researchers found that levels of one chemical marker, N-acetyl-aspartate, were reduced by at least five percent in the methamphetamine abusers. "Many diseases associated with brain cell loss or damage, such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and epilepsy, are also associated with reduced N-acetyl-aspartate," said Dr. Ernst. "Reduced concentrations of N-acetyl-aspartate in the drug users' brains suggest that long-term methamphetamine abuse results in loss or damage to neurons, the cells we use in thinking." Two other chemical markers, myo-inositol and choline-containing compounds, are associated with glial cells, which act to support neurons. "Methamphetamine abusers showed increases of 11 percent and 13 percent in levels of these markers compared with normal individuals," Dr. Ernst said. "This suggests an increased number or size of glial cells as a reaction to the injurious effects of methamphetamine."

The researchers, who received funding from NIDA, plan to conduct more extensive studies to determine if these brain changes caused by methamphetamine abuse might be reversed or corrected by treatment.
-end-
The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports more than 85 percent of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to ensure the rapid dissemination of research information and its implementation in policy and practice. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and other topics can be ordered free of charge in English and Spanish by calling NIDA Infofax at 1-888-NIH-NIDA (644-6432) or 1-888-TTY-NIDA (889-6432) for the deaf. These fact sheets and further information on NIDA research and other activities can be found on the NIDA home page at http://www.drugabuse.gov .

NIDA CONTACTS: BEVERLY JACKSON, MICHELLE MUTH, 301-443-6245

NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse

Related Brain Articles from Brightsurf:

Glioblastoma nanomedicine crosses into brain in mice, eradicates recurring brain cancer
A new synthetic protein nanoparticle capable of slipping past the nearly impermeable blood-brain barrier in mice could deliver cancer-killing drugs directly to malignant brain tumors, new research from the University of Michigan shows.

Children with asymptomatic brain bleeds as newborns show normal brain development at age 2
A study by UNC researchers finds that neurodevelopmental scores and gray matter volumes at age two years did not differ between children who had MRI-confirmed asymptomatic subdural hemorrhages when they were neonates, compared to children with no history of subdural hemorrhage.

New model of human brain 'conversations' could inform research on brain disease, cognition
A team of Indiana University neuroscientists has built a new model of human brain networks that sheds light on how the brain functions.

Human brain size gene triggers bigger brain in monkeys
Dresden and Japanese researchers show that a human-specific gene causes a larger neocortex in the common marmoset, a non-human primate.

Unique insight into development of the human brain: Model of the early embryonic brain
Stem cell researchers from the University of Copenhagen have designed a model of an early embryonic brain.

An optical brain-to-brain interface supports information exchange for locomotion control
Chinese researchers established an optical BtBI that supports rapid information transmission for precise locomotion control, thus providing a proof-of-principle demonstration of fast BtBI for real-time behavioral control.

Transplanting human nerve cells into a mouse brain reveals how they wire into brain circuits
A team of researchers led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen and Vincent Bonin (VIB-KU Leuven, Université libre de Bruxelles and NERF) showed how human nerve cells can develop at their own pace, and form highly precise connections with the surrounding mouse brain cells.

Brain scans reveal how the human brain compensates when one hemisphere is removed
Researchers studying six adults who had one of their brain hemispheres removed during childhood to reduce epileptic seizures found that the remaining half of the brain formed unusually strong connections between different functional brain networks, which potentially help the body to function as if the brain were intact.

Alcohol byproduct contributes to brain chemistry changes in specific brain regions
Study of mouse models provides clear implications for new targets to treat alcohol use disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Scientists predict the areas of the brain to stimulate transitions between different brain states
Using a computer model of the brain, Gustavo Deco, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, and Josephine Cruzat, a member of his team, together with a group of international collaborators, have developed an innovative method published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Sept.

Read More: Brain News and Brain Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.