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Methamphetamine Linked to Acute, Long-Term Brain Effects

Study of former users shows enlarged striatal structures and other neurobiological changes

TUESDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- Methamphetamine abuse is associated with numerous adverse neurobiological effects, some of which may persist after patients stop using the drug, according to research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in Toronto, Canada.

Linda Chang, M.D., of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, and colleagues used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and conventional in vivo proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (H MRS) to study the brain function of abstinent methamphetamine abusers.

The researchers found clear evidence of structural brain abnormalities, including enlarged striatal structures (putamen and globus pallidus). They also found evidence of decreased N-acetyl aspartate and increased myoinositol. By using a novel H MRS technique (TE-averaged PRESS sequence), they found they could reliably measure glutamate levels, which are decreased during early abstinence and may play a role in methamphetamine craving and relapse.

Physicians "should recognize possible brain changes in adults and adolescents who abused methamphetamine," the authors conclude. "These changes include abnormalities on neuropsychological test performance and on quantitative MRI measurements. Some of the MR measurements will include structural changes on morphometric analyses, brain metabolite abnormalities on proton MRS and brain activation abnormalities on blood-oxygenation dependent functional MRI."

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