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Long-Term Meth Use Causes Extensive Brain Damage

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The first high-resolution MRI study of individuals addicted to methamphetamine (meth) finds that the drug causes extensive brain damage among long-term users, the New York Times reported July 20.

Dr. Paul Thompson, an expert on brain mapping at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the MRI study showed “a forest fire of brain damage.” He added, “We expected some brain changes, but didn't expect so much tissue to be destroyed.”

The study involved 22 individuals in their 30s who used methamphetamine for 10 years. The MRI showed an 11-percent loss of tissue in the brain's limbic region, which is involved in drug craving, reward, mood, and emotion. “The cells are dead and gone,” Dr. Thompson said.

Furthermore, the study found an 8-percent loss in the hippocampus region, which is involved in making new memories.

The study is published in the June 30 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

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