Meth Addiction & Parkinson’s Disease
A new study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that meth users are three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. As if that wasn’t enough, researchers also concluded that female meth users are five times more likely to develop Parkinson’s than males.
This study, published in mid-December, draws on information from more than 40,000 medical records in the Utah Population Database. Researchers focused in on the years between 1996 and 2011.
Researchers also sorted the records according to individuals’ drugs of choice. They gathered the records into three groups: meth users, cocaine users, and a control group of those who didn’t abuse drugs.
This rigorous structure has led researchers to conclude that meth alone is responsible for an increase in Parkinson’s. In fact, senior author of the study Glen R. Hanson stated,
“We feel comfortable that it’s just the meth causing the risk for Parkinson’s, and not other drugs or a combination of meth and other drugs” (Medical News Today).
The Dangers of Meth Use
Meth use, abuse, and addiction are dangerous on many levels. Placing users at an increased risk for Parkinson’s is only the newest danger added to a long list.
Consider the classic depiction of a meth addict: a toothless, confused, and disheveled man, howling about shadow people spying on him. While this is an almost comical stereotype, it has a basis in reality.
Meth mouth is a real condition. It’s caused by the acidity of meth smoke, coupled with poor dental hygiene and persistent teeth grinding.
Confusion and disorientation are also common to meth use. These result from the long periods that meth keeps users awake. After a few days of not sleeping, individuals struggle to keep a grip on reality. Prolonged periods without sleep also cause hallucinations.
Meth is also a potent neurotoxin. Over time, it actually destroys the brain’s dopamine receptors. Prolonged meth use has also been shown to cause Rhabdomyolysis, or a breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue.
Injecting meth introduces a unique set of concerns into the picture. Unsafe injection practices (think sharing needles or injection equipment) puts users at risk for blood borne disease. These include Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS.
Hep C and HIV can also be spread through unsafe sex. Two of meth’s more unfortunate side effects are increased sexual arousal and decreased inhibitions. These, in turn, can lead users to have unprotected sex.
All of the above is to say nothing of the dangers present in cooking meth. It’s made from toxic chemicals, including anhydrous ammonia and sulfuric acid. Underground labs and makeshift chemists are playing with fire every time they produce the drug.
Okay, we can all agree that the link between meth and Parkinson’s disease is only one of many concerns for meth users.
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Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
Parkinson’s is a degenerative central nervous system disease. It caused by a twofold punch: the death of dopamine producing cells in the brain and the build up of Alpha-synuclein proteins in neural pathways.
It’s my personal belief that meth contributes to Parkinson’s disease due to its toxicity. That is to say, meth kills dopamine receptors in the brain. While dopamine receptors and dopamine producing cells are two different things, they’re intrinsically linked. After all, fewer dopamine receptors means the brain has less of a need to produce dopamine.
Remember, I’m not a scientist or doctor. The above opinion is just that, an opinion. More research needs to be done before science can definitively say why meth use puts individuals at an increased risk of Parkinson’s.
Common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include:
• Slow Movement
• Difficulty Walking
• Sensory Problems
• Emotional Problems
• Cogitative Problems
• Loss of Sleep
What’s the Solution?
Here we come to the million-dollar question. What’s the solution to “meth-induced Parkinson’s?” Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. This new study, however, does suggest a few proactive measures.
First, don’t use meth! While this is obvious, it bears repeating. If you’re worried that you or a loved one may develop Parkinson’s due to meth use, stop getting high! Once addiction enters the picture, however, this is much easier said than done.
Second, don’t use meth if you’re a woman! This may sound sexist, but remember male meth users are three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s, while female meth users are five times more likely. Are you a female meth user? Switch to cocaine or some other stimulant. Better yet, seek help and stop using altogether!
Finally, these new findings highlight the need for more research. Why is meth linked to an increased risk of Parkinson’s? How exactly does it work on the brain? Can “meth-induced Parkinson’s” symptoms be reduced by surgery? Theses are the questions we need answered.
Thankfully, there are researchers and scientists who are out there right now, working away to provide us with these very answers.