Tag Archives: brain

Tainted Cocaine Causing Brain Damage

brain damage

A dangerous new substance that’s used as an anti-worming agent has been found in recent cocaine samples taken by Swiss researchers, according to a report by Big Think.

Cocaine is the second-most popular drug worldwide, and it’s almost always “cut” with another drug or substance so that the drug is more profitable. In some cases, medications like fentanyl are added to cocaine to make it more addictive – but it’s also more dangerous. Usually, it’s baking soda or ammonia that’s added with the simple goal of thinning out the drug content.

Now, however, two studies from the University of Zurich (UZH) discovered that levamisole, a powerful animal anti-worming agent, has been turning up in the cocaine supply. Scientists speculate that it is being used by chemists to make the effects of cocaine last longer.

It’s also possible that it’s leaving brain damage in regular cocaine users. The long-term effects are impaired cognitive performance and the thinning out the prefrontal cortex. Levamisole is also leading to changes in blood counts and blood vessels, and in animals, it has been shown to attack the nervous system.

Two Studies Show Damage From Levamisole

A team from the Psychiatric Hospital and the Institute of Forensic Medicine identified people who had ingested the levamisole-tainted cocaine through a hair drug test. The higher levamisole levels in their body, the more they exhibited impairment of cognitive functions.

A second study had users who took the drug with levamisole in it had MRI’s to view the effects of the drug on their brain. The MRI study showed that people who ingested the cocaine with a high level of levamisole had a very clear thinning of the prefrontal cortex. This finding is significant because it’s the part of the brain responsible for executive functions.

Where is the Brain Damage?

Executive function is the part of the brain that provides self-control, working memory, and mental flexibility. Most of these functions are needed when you are problem-solving, and without them, people make poor choices.



Using Science to Fight Addiction

According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 21 million Americans currently need treatment for a substance abuse disorder. Ninety percent of them will not receive treatment; many will end up incarcerated because of crimes related to their addiction.

nora volkow NIDA

Since that report was released, an increasing number of doctors and scientists are calling for more recognition of addiction as a brain disorder. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of Drug Control Policy and the leading drug authority in the government, spoke out against current perceptions of addiction in a speech delivered at the Betty Ford Center. Kerlikowske characterized addiction as a “chronic disease of the brain” rather than a moral failing on the part of the individual.

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Study Finds Brain Differences in Internet Addicts are Similar to Alcoholics

internet addictionAccording to a recent study, addiction to the Internet might cause the same changes to the brain that occur with alcoholism and cocaine addiction.

The study involved 17 Chinese teenagers who were given MRI brain scans.  The results of the study, which were published in the journal PLoS One, found that teens who were self-described Internet addicts had abnormal amounts of “white matter” surrounding the wiring between some neurons in the brain.  The teenagers with brain abnormalities admitted to being preoccupied with the Internet and to being unable to control their use of the Internet.  They also said they felt depressed, restless and irritable when they tried cut down on their use.

According to Jonathan Wallis, associate professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley, the areas of the brain that the study pinpointed are known to be involved with compulsive behavior and addiction.  Gordon Harris, a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, said that the new research provides insight into why some people become addicted.  Instead of being due to weakness or a lack of will power, addiction may have more to do with brain chemistry.

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