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Mark Mattson mpm at seqanal.mi.uky.edu
Fri Nov 5 12:27:52 EST 1993

Bill Skaggs (bill at nsma.arizona.edu) wrote:
: goetz at acsu.buffalo.edu (Philip S. Goetz) writes:

:    >In article <CFGx04.F9E at umassd.edu>, rleary at UMASSD.EDU writes:
:    >|>    Also - has physical evidence of brain damage attributable to drug abuse - 
:    >|> cocaine, LSD, amphetamines, etc. - ever been demonstrated using imaging 
:    >|> techniques?
:    >|> .........
:    >|> about a group of young people who literally blew their minds with some designer 
:    >|> drug - and I believe there were pictures/images showing this type of damage 
:    >|> in a real human brain.

: There is at least one very well established example, a hallucinogenic
: designer drug called MPTP that turned out to cause Parkinsonian
: symptoms, such as tremor, slowness of movement, or even paralysis.  It
: causes these things by destroying neurons in a part of the brain
: called the substantia nigra, which is the same part damaged in
: Parkinson's disease.  In fact, MPTP is now being used in an animal
: model for Parkinson's disease.

: To my knowledge there is no convincing evidence for brain damage
: resulting from cocaine, amphetamine, LSD, marijuana, or heroin.
: Cocaine, amphetamine, and heroin are known to lead to long-lasting
: changes in the chemistry of the brain, but most likely the doses
: necessary to kill brain cells would be lethal by other mechanisms,
: such as heart arrest.   

: Of course there are many ways drug abuse could cause brain damage
: indirectly.  For example, an overdose of many drugs could cause
: respiratory depression, reducing the oxygen flow to the brain and thus
: killing neurons.  Or, even more obviously, driving a car while stoned
: could lead to severe head trauma.

: 	-- Bill

My impression was that MPTP was a contaminant in the prep of a designer
drug.  This means the cell loss that occurred was probably not the result
of the activity of the hallucinogenic compound.  Also, I'm not sure that
any histology was ever done on the humans involved -- could be that loss
of the substantia nigra in experimental primates was the only evidence
ever obtained.

Steven W. Barger, Ph.D.
Sanders-Brown Center on Aging


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