Cocaine Use Drastically Speeds Up Brain Aging

Scientists at the University of Cambridge report that the brains of chronic cocaine users age at a significantly faster rate than the brains of persons without substance abuse problems.[1]

Ersche and colleagues conducted a study in which the brains of 120 persons were scanned, all of whom were of similar age, gender, and verbal IQ; however, half of the participants were cocaine dependent and half did not have a history of substance abuse.1 They found that individuals dependent upon cocaine lost about 3.08 ml of brain volume per year, while their healthy counterparts only lost about half of that at 1.69 ml.1 The accelerated decline was most prominent within the prefrontal and temporal cortex, which are associated with attention, decision-making, self-regulation, and memory.1 Previous studies also state that the decline is also associated with cognitive decline, brain atrophy, and immunodeficiency.1

Ersche and colleagues state that this is an emerging public health problem, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimate that cocaine is used by 21 million people world-wide, with one percent becoming dependent.1

[1] Freeman, J. (April 24, 2012). Cocaine Use Dramatically Speeds Up Brain Aging. In Sci-News.com. Retrieved April 26, 2012, from http://www.sci-news.com/medicine/article00277.html.

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