'Speed' May Cause Long-Term Damage to the Brain
WebMD News Archive
Methamphetamine damage may not occur in patients who receive the drug in the
small doses used to treat hyperactivity disorders in children or sleep
disorders in adults. This is because lower doses of the drug may have an
opposite effect than those seen with the large doses taken for recreational
Rat studies by neurobiologist Wayne A. Cass, PhD, at the University of
Kentucky in Lexington, show that methamphetamine does not necessarily kill
brain cells, but instead damages them so that they stop working. Recent studies
show that the rats' damaged cells can get better over time, and the rats
eventually recover from toxic doses of methamphetamine.
In an interview with WebMD, Cass says that his rat model may not duplicate
the effects of long-term methamphetamine use in humans, as the drug damages the
rat brain after only one day of heavy exposure. Even so, his findings are not
good news for former users of the drug. "Even though it took the rats only
a year to recover, that is a third of their life," Cass points out.
"Even if this recovery happens in humans it could take a long time, and
whether humans could recover as well as rats is unknown."
- Methamphetamine is an illegal, recreational drug also known as meth, speed,
crank, crystal, glass, chalk, or ice.
- Researchers have found that former meth users experience long-term brain
damage, and it is unknown whether the damage can ever be reversed.
- The finding may explain why meth users can have long-lasting behavioral
problems, such as violence, psychosis, and personality defects, for years after
the last time they used the drug.