Perhaps it’s already well known that methamphetamine, also known as meth, is an incredibly harmful drug. However, a recent study confirmed this to be true especially for teens. Researchers of the study administered MRI brain scans on 51 teen and 54 adult methamphetamine users. Then, the researchers compared those scans to approximately 60 teens and 60 adults who do not use the drug.
The comparison revealed that the teen users of meth had greater and more widespread changes in the brain. The damage was particularly noticeable in the frontal cortex, an area associated with reason, logic, organization, and memory. “It’s particularly unfortunate that meth appears to damage that part of the brain, which is still developing in young people and is critical for cognitive ability,” study author Dr. In Kyoon Lyoo, of Ewha W. University in Seoul, South Korea, said in a University of Utah Health Sciences news release. Furthermore, senior author of the study, Dr. Perry Renshaw, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah commented, “There is a critical period of brain development for specific functions, and it appears that adolescents who abuse methamphetamine are at great risk for derailing that process.”
Meth is very toxic and can be incredibly addictive for anyone, teen or adult. It can cause severe damage to the brain and central nervous system. However, as the lead researcher pointed out, meth may have more significant damage on a teen’s brain because it is still in development. One of the reasons why teens make irrational, impulsive decisions is because their frontal cortex is still developing. “Damage to that part of the brain is especially problematic because adolescents’ ability to control risky behavior is less mature than that of adults. The findings may help explain the severe behavioral issues and relapses that are common in adolescent drug addiction,” Lyoo said.
Methamphetamine is a stimulant that can be smoked, snorted, injected, or ingested orally. The high that meth produces includes excited speech, decreased appetite, increased physical activity, and elevated levels of energy. Consequences of meth use include memory loss, aggression, violence, psychotic behavior, and agitation. Meth can also cause irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain which can lead to strokes. These are only some of the severe health consequences associated with this drug.
Because of its addictive quality and the danger of being abused, meth is classified as a Schedule II drug and is legally only available through prescription. When prescribed by a doctor for medical use, its dosages are significantly lower than when the drug is abused. This drug is man-made and produced in laboratories for medical purposes. However, those who abuse the drug mimic its production in small, unsafe laboratories, which are illegal.
According to a 2012 survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 6% of teens, ages 12-17, used the drug at least once in their lifetime, 3% of teens used the drug in the last year, and 2% of teens used meth in the last month. Fortunately, the abuse rates for methamphetamine have decreased in the last year. The rate for lifetime use among 10th graders decreased from 18% in 2012 to 16% in 2013, and among 12th graders the rate for lifetime use also decreased from 17% in 2012 to 15% in 2013. Furthermore, the abuse rate among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders declined significantly between 1999-2007. Despite these decreases, there are certain parts of the country where use of the drug remains to be a significant problem, such as in Hawaii, the West Coast, and the Midwest.
If you or another adolescent you know is using meth, contact a mental health provider today. Doing so can save his or her life.
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