Cocaine Abuse Linked to Brain Aging
Aging is a natural process and it happens to everyone, no matter what. But we’ve long known that certain activities can increase the aging process – the appearance of the skin, the functionality of different body organs, et cetera. A new study out, however, says that chronic cocaine use can speed up the aging process of the brain, an issue that affects both quality of life and life span.
The University of Cambridge study published in the April 25 issue of the journal Molecular Psychiatry used the brain scans from 60 people who were dependent upon cocaine and 60 people with no history of drug or alcohol abuse and determined that those who abused cocaine had a much higher degree of brain matter loss related to age than their healthy counterparts.
The rate of brain matter loss due to age was significantly higher among cocaine users: study participants lost an average of about 3.08 milliliters as compared to a loss of about 1.69 milliliters – almost twice as much.
Most of the brain loss occurred in the areas of the brain associated with memory, self regulation, attention, and decision making.
Dr. Karen Ersche works at the Behavioral and Clinical Neuroscience Institute at University of Cambridge where the study was conducted. She said in a news release: “As we age, we all lose gray matter. However, what we have seen is that chronic cocaine users lose gray matter at a significantly faster rate, which could be a sign of premature aging. Our findings therefore provide new insight into why the [mental] deficits typically seen in old age have frequently been observed in middle-aged chronic users of cocaine.”
Cocaine Abuse and Treatment
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that about 21 million people around the world abuse cocaine and about 1 percent of the population becomes dependent upon the drug. The risks of aging prematurely may be a deterrent to those who experiment with the drug, and learning more about the effects of the drug on the brain can increase the effectiveness of drug addiction treatment. Older drug users especially may feel the effects of the brain aging process of decades of abuse and their treatment may be improved if it reflects this new understanding of how cocaine abuse affects the body.
Women who are fighting cocaine abuse may be able to stop the premature aging process associated with the drug when they seek treatment. Contact us at The Orchid to find out how we can help.