Methamphetmine effect mind-blowing, study
MRIs show `forest fire' of brain
Comparable to deficits in early
NEW YORK TIMES
People who do not want to wait for old age to shrink
their brains and bring on memory loss now have a quicker
alternative — abuse methamphetamine for a decade or so and
watch the brain cells vanish into the night.
The first high-resolution MRI study of methamphetamine
addicts shows "a forest fire of brain damage," said Dr. Paul
Thompson, an expert on brain mapping at the University of
California, Los Angeles. "We expected some brain changes but
didn't expect so much tissue to be destroyed."
The image, published in the June 30 issue of The
Journal Of Neuroscience, shows the brain's surface and
deeper limbic system. Red areas show the greatest tissue loss.
The limbic region, involved in drug craving, reward,
mood and emotion, lost 11 per cent of its tissue.
"The cells are dead and gone," Thompson said.
Addicts were depressed, anxious and unable to
The brain's centre for making new memories, the
hippocampus, lost 8 per cent of its tissue, comparable to the
brain deficits in early Alzheimer's. The methamphetamine
addicts fared significantly worse on memory tests than healthy
people the same age.
The study examined 22 people in their 30s who had used
methamphetamine for 10 years, mostly by smoking it, and 21
controls matched for age.
On average, the addicts used four grams a week and said
they had been high on 19 of the 30 days before the study
Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant made in
clandestine laboratories throughout North America. When taken
by mouth, snorted, injected or smoked, it produces intense
pleasure by releasing the brain's reward chemical, dopamine.
With chronic use, the brains that overstimulate
dopamine and another brain chemical, serotonin, are
The study held one other surprise, Thompson said.
White matter, composed of nerve fibres that connect
different areas, was severely inflamed, making the addicts'
brains 10 per cent larger than normal.
"This was shocking," he said.
But there was one piece of good news. The white matter
was not dead. With abstinence, it might recover.
less than $3 per week for 7 day home