Drug users damaging their brains: Australian doctors

13:29, September 05, 2010      

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A study of Australian ecstasy, ice and speed users on Sunday uncovered signs of brain damage, adding to concerns over the long-term impact of drug use.

Doctors at Royal Perth Hospital scanned the brains of 30 patients who were treated in the emergency department for problems related to their amphetamine use.

In interviews, a majority reported having concentration and mood problems, while half admitted to suffering memory problems.

Six patients showed signs of brain damage, often an " unidentified bright object" on their scan which indicated a point of damage usually in their brain's frontal lobe.

"Abnormalities on brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were identified in six patients, most commonly an unidentified bright object (UBO)," professor of emergency medicine Daniel Fatovich told Australian Associated Press on Sunday.

"... While the significance of this is uncertain it is congruent with evidence that amphetamines cause brain injury, and therefore could have public health implications."

The patients were mostly men, with an average age of just over 26 years, and most had a history of ice, speed or ecstasy use that spanned several years.

The research indicated one in five had suffered a likely drug- related brain injury.

Prof Fatovich said the finding added to "emerging evidence of serious long-term effects of amphetamine use, including depression, anxiety, psychosis and memory disturbance".

Drug-related brain injury could also increase a drug user's long-term risk of stroke, he said.

The research, by Prof Fatovich and fellow colleagues at the hospital, is detailed in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia.



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