Drug addiction in young people may cause similar kind of brain damage as happens in Alzheimer's disease.
Young people who are drug addicts in the age group of 17 to 26yrs may be three times more likely to suffer brain damage than their non-addicted counterparts, said a study done by scientists of University of Edinburgh. The extent of their brain damage will be equivalent to that happens in the early stage of Alzheimer's disease or in very aged people.
Researchers had looked into the brains of 34 drug abusers after their deaths. These people had used heroin and methadone intravenously. There were presence of damaged nerve cells in areas of the brain that are the seat of learning, memory and emotional satisfaction. There was evidence of increase in key proteins related to brain damage in the brains of the drug abusers. One protein called Tau protein had turned insoluble in cells causing nerve cell damage and affecting the nerve cell functions in brain.
Researchers report that the brain damage can be significantly related to opiate abuse, as they had no history of head injury.
Reference: Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology, June 2005