2 August 2011
Methamphetamine dependence may lead to an increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease, US addiction specialists warn.
In a study of more than 40,000 Californians admitted to hospital due to methamphetamine use and a control (comparison) group of patients admitted with appendicitis, researchers found a 76 per cent increased risk of Parkinson's disease in the drug users. The methamphetamine users – who were older than 30 years and were followed up for as long as 16 years – also had a higher risk of Parkinson's disease compared with people with cocaine-related disorders.
The study suggested Parkinson symptoms may develop in long-term methamphetamine users when they reach middle or older age and have experienced an age-related loss of dopamine nerve cells in the brain, the authors said (Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2011, online 25 Jul).
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) in the brain that is responsible for smooth and controlled body movements. A shortage of dopamine causes many of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, such as tremor, stiffness and slow movements.
The findings of the study however may not be applied to people taking stimulant medicines as treatment for medical problems, the authors added.
Last Reviewed: 02 August 2011