April 06 2017
The use of methamphetamine or ‘ice’ in South Australia has doubled in the past four years, with the latest National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program Report showing there were more than 500 standard doses of methamphetamine each week per 1,000 people in December 2016.
The long term effects of this steady increase in the use of methamphetamine are not yet known but research has revealed a concerning similarity between the brains of young methamphetamine users and older people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
To try and find some answers the Fay Fuller Foundation is investing more than $230,000 in UniSA Senior Lecturer in the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, Dr Gabrielle Todd, and her colleagues’ investigations into the long-lasting effects of methamphetamine (‘ice’) on the brain regions that control movement.
“Brain scans show that the appearance of a movement-related brain region, called the substantia nigra, is abnormally bright and enlarged in methamphetamine users and in patients with Parkinson’s disease,” Dr Todd says.
“The abnormality is a well-established risk factor for Parkinson’s disease and is used to help diagnose the disease in other parts of the world so it’s very concerning to see this abnormality in young people that use methamphetamine.
“Of even greater concern, is that young methamphetamine users already show changes in the way that they move, and some of these changes resemble those that occur with Parkinson’s disease.”
Young methamphetamine users may have no idea about the long-lasting health consequences of their drug use.
“The risk is not just related to heavy methamphetamine use, we are seeing movement and brain changes in young people who may have only taken the drug as few as five times,”Dr Todd says.
“Knowledge is a powerful tool and raising awareness about the link between methamphetamine use and the way that we move may help discourage young people from using this drug.”
The project outcome will be a new evidence-based, ready-to-use health message that increases community knowledge of the long-lasting consequences of methamphetamine use, changes attitudes towards methamphetamine, and discourages use of the drug in young people. This will be achieved with a four step approach:
Step 1: Measure existing knowledge of and attitudes to the long-lasting consequences of methamphetamine use on health.
Step 2: Measure the types of movement changes that occur as a result of use of methamphetamine and how common these changes are among methamphetamine users.
Step 3: Create the new health message to inform young adults about the long-lasting consequences of methamphetamine use on movement, in collaboration with drug and alcohol treatment service providers, researchers that specialise in methamphetamine-related harm and prevention, Parkinson’s South Australia, and a marketing and communications company.
Step 4: Test the effectiveness of the new health message in improving knowledge about the long-lasting consequences of methamphetamine use.
Published: Tuesday 4 April 2017
(The Key here, is to create an environment during abstinence where the neural rebuild is attached to new and healthy reward memory creating activities – it’s not so much what you put down, rather what you take up! No Brainer D.I)
New research from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) suggests that the reason methamphetamine users find it so hard to quit - 88 percent of them relapse, even after rehab - is that meth takes advantage of the brain's natural learning process. The TSRI study in rodent models shows that ceasing meth use prompts new neurons to form in a brain region tied to learning and memory, suggesting that the brain is strengthening memories tied to drug-seeking behavior.
"New neuronal growth is normally thought of as a good thing, but we captured these new neurons assisting with 'bad' behaviors," said Chitra Mandyam, who led the research as an associate professor at TSRI before starting a new position at the Veterans Medical Research Foundation and the University of California, San Diego.
The scientists discovered that they could block relapse by giving animals a synthetic small molecule to stop new neurons from forming. This molecule, called Isoxazole-9 (Isx-9), also appeared to reverse abnormal neuronal growth that developed during meth use.
The new research was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
Young Neurons Gone Bad
Neurons are born all the time in a process called neurogenesis. In a 2010 study, Mandyam and her colleagues at TSRI showed that increased neurogenesis is tied to a higher risk of drug relapse, but they weren't sure of the new neurons' role in the process. The researchers were especially curious about a "burst" of neurogenesis that occurs during abstinence from meth.
The new study may explain why the brain is so eager to make neurons during abstinence: meth hijacks the natural neurogenesis process.
Normally, new neurons help us learn by forming new circuits to connect rewards, like food, to reward-associated memories. For example, we learn early on that the refrigerator holds food. "In a non-drug environment, this is a healthy process," said Mandyam.
But the brain isn't good at separating healthy rewards from the dangerous high of drug use.
Using rat models of meth addiction, the researchers showed that forced abstinence prompted the development of new neurons called granule cell neurons in a brain region called the dentate gyrus, which is associated with memory formation. These new neurons drove compulsive-like drug seeking and relapse by strengthening drug-associated memories. The rats learned to associate a particular location in their environment with meth use. Returning to this location during abstinence later served as a triggering cue - prompting a recovering addict to relapse.
Andrew Fisher 23/3/17 Cowra Guardian
NSW Police Commissioner Scipione
“I remember when I was a kid it was cool to smoke, no one wore seat belts and everyone thought it was okay to have a drink and drive, but we had to educate people about the dangers of those things.”
“Supply and demand is supreme in this business.
“(Ice) can destroy families, you can tear the fabric of family so that it is almost not recoverable.
“You can destroy generations of harmony in a family in the blink of an eye. It’s a terrible, insidious drug,” he said.
He went on to point out ice can turn normal healthy people into a person with serious mental health issues.
“It can take normal healthy people and turn them into psychotic, paranoid, crazy people. Police officers get injured trying to control superhuman strength, it takes its toll on everyone,” he said.
Bringing down the dealers is always only going to be part of the solution, not the entire solution
“It might not be tomorrow, might not be in a year, but it will get you and when it does it could destroy you,” he said.
“How much do you care about your kids? Do you care enough to confront them? I think that’s the discussion you need to have around that table,” he said. You owe it to your kids, have that discussion now.
A Queensland community lawyer says grandparents are contacting her daily seeking custody of their grandchildren and requests for information are increasing.
The chair of the Elder Law Committee of the Queensland Law Society and a lawyer with the Suncoast Community Legal Service, Kirsty Mackie, said she was "astounded" at the surge in the number of grandparents seeking help.
She said addiction was at the crux of the majority of cases.
"It's probably one or two a day that I'm advising on parenting issues for their grandchildren," Ms Mackie said.
"Unfortunately in every matter I've seen in the last month there's been an addiction, generally ice, of one or both of the parents and the grandchildren are being neglected and abused."