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  1. #1

    This Is Your Brain on Meth: A 'Forest Fire' of Damage

    This Is Your Brain on Meth: A 'Forest Fire' of Damage
    July 20, 2004
    By Sandra Blakeslee, New York Times

    People who do not want to wait for old age to shrink their brains and bring on memory loss now have a quicker alternative - abuse methamphetamine for a decade or so and watch the brain cells vanish into the night.

    The first high-resolution M.R.I. study of methamphetamine addicts shows "a forest fire of brain damage," said Dr. Paul Thompson, an expert on brain mapping at the University of California, Los Angeles. "We expected some brain changes but didn't expect so much tissue to be destroyed."

    The image, published in the June 30 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, shows the brain's surface and deeper limbic system. Red areas show the greatest tissue loss.

    The limbic region, involved in drug craving, reward, mood and emotion, lost 11 percent of its tissue. "The cells are dead and gone," Dr. Thompson said. Addicts were depressed, anxious and unable to concentrate.

    The brain's center for making new memories, the hippocampus, lost 8 percent of its tissue, comparable to the brain deficits in early Alzheimer's. The methamphetamine addicts fared significantly worse on memory tests than healthy people the same age.

    The study examined 22 people in their 30's who had used methamphetamine for 10 years, mostly by smoking it, and 21 controls matched for age. On average, the addicts used an average of four grams a week and said they had been high on 19 of the 30 days before the study began.

    Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant made in clandestine laboratories nationwide. When taken by mouth, snorted, injected or smoked, it produces intense pleasure by releasing the brain's reward chemical, dopamine. With chronic use, the brains that overstimulate dopamine and another brain chemical, serotonin, are permanently compromised.

    The study held one other surprise, Dr. Thompson said: white matter, composed of nerve fibers that connect different areas, was severely inflamed, making the addicts' brains 10 percent larger than normal. "This was shocking," he said. But there was one piece of good news: the white matter was not dead. With abstinence, it might recover.

  2. #2

    meth

    my son is 24, he is a smart/ funny/ good looking boy ( Young man) i am not sure how long he has used Meth. But it is destroying him and our family. He has been in and out of county jails/prison twice and a state hospital twice now. He was just admitted almost 2 weeks ago. The destruction this drug does is unbelievable. My son has always showed me and our family love and respect ( short of using drugs). I know that i am nieve to drugs and what they do to people. But this drug is so awful, that it causes my son to become completely psychotic. I don't know how to help him. I don't know if tough love can do it, or not. I am so afraid of him, when he is or has been using. I know some will say that they don't know people that stay psychotic after the drug wears off, but with my son, the psychosis, does not go away. without the help of professionals. and the use of strong anti-psychotic drugs. it is heart breaking to see my young vibrant son, completely doped up with drugs, just to get him back to reality. And when he uses again, will that be the time that he wont be able to be brought back? No body can tell me these answers. Nor can anyone but he change this. I would die for my kids, but i can not keep him from using. my son has always denied depression, but the last time i seen him, he came to our home begging us to borrow a gun. He told us that he was tired of all the suffering going on and that he wanted to end it. He spent almost one month in a county jail in this psychotic state, and our county servants would not get him help. then he was released to society in the same shape. I feel that we need more help in our community to take care of the problems of drugs and recovery. i am not blaming anyone for this problem. But just want to share my experiences with others. If anyone has any helpful ideas of how i can help my son. Please reply! I am totally desperate for knowledge to this problem

  3. #3

    This Is Your Brain on Meth: A 'Forest Fire' of Damage

    Hi, saving-mike:

    Your story is unfortunately not an uncommon one -- I don't know of anything a parent might be called upon to do that is more difficult than watching your child struggle with something self-destructive and life-threatening and feel powerless to do anything to intervene.

    Sadly, someone in the grips of an addiction is often unreachable. Often the best you can hope for is that he will do something that gets him hospitalized or even incarcerated for long enough that he gets through the detox phase, and then try to get him to listen to you long enough to convince him that there is another way to live his life.

    I don't know anything about the laws in Kansas. I do know that these days in many jursidictions, there is little that family members can do to intervene in terms of involuntary committal or involuntary treatment -- in most cases, what little power you may be able to set into motion rests on the concept of "imminent harm to self or others", meaning that there is a significant and immediate danger of risk of serious bodily harm or death to the individual or to a third party. Addictive behaviors usually do not meet the criteria, except perhaps for an overnight stay at detox if their behaviors become excessively unruly. Even when the person does meet the "imminent harm" criteria, in Canada that is only good for an initial 24 - 72 hour hospitalization, depending on the "form" used for involuntary hospitalization.

    The only thing I can suggest is that you talk to your family doctor or to a local addictions support group in your area to find out what options may be available to you under US Federal law or Kansas state law.

    Your son may reach a point where he himself seeks treatment: This would be the best possible outcome, of course, because at that point he is motivated for himself to help himself, and at that time he is most amenable to treatment that will be effective over the long-term. Even then, some addicts find that they need to participate in treatment, go back out into the real world overly confident, and experience a relapse and return to treatment before they can be healthy over the long term.

    I know a little bit about how painful all this must be for you. You have my sympathies but honestly your options at this time are probably quite limited -- your son is an adult and that means all the power is in his hands, the hands of a young man who is thinking like an addict.

  4. #4

    saving a loved one on meth

    Mr Baxter, thank you for your prompt reply. It always help's just talking about what lays heavy on ones heart. I have been reading a lot of how meth has destroyed lives, so i know that i am not alone. That in it self, makes me feel less alone. I am sure I'm not alone in praying that the self-destructive behavior caused from the use of this drug, could be fixed easily with a simple solution. I spent 18 years raising my children in a small community, in hopes that they would not be subjected to the wrongs of the world. Little did i know how easily those "wrongs" were every where. And no way can we protect our children from it all.
    Often i am angry with myself for not seeing the problem earlier, I am a nurse and feel that i let my most cherished patient down. I have warned my children all their lives that addiction runs very high in our family. And that they of all people could not afford to even play in something that would cause them addiction. Addiction on both sides of the family. and the family history of suicide. I knew my my son's were at risk, but the warnings were just mom being overly protective.
    Last year my son was in the state hospital for almost 4 months, and he came out excited and vibrant for a new clean and sober life. He fell quickly, and promised himself that he would stay clean. I am not sure when he started again, but i am afraid it has been a while.
    Now that we are at square one again, i am just praying for the best to come of it.
    Something that I am always having to do, is convince myself that it is not my fault. I think of his childhood and wonder if i could of done things differently, if that would of made a difference. I wonder if a childhood illness maybe predisposed him to a delicate make-up. i know of people that use, and they have never had to be admitted to a mental hospital. SO why does my son always fall so far down, when he uses. He seemed so normal growing up, i never imagined i would have to deal with a psychotic child.
    Well, i just wanted to thank you for your reply. Again, it is just nice to be able to share the weight a heavy burden. And i thought maybe by being involved on a forum site, i would get some input from others that might help. If nothing else, maybe it would help me get rid of some of the quilt that i carry so heavily. My loved ones are here for me, but i feel that i am the only one needing to kick this dead horse around.

    Thanks again! Mike's Mom

  5. #5

    Re: saving a loved one on meth

    Quote Originally Posted by saving-mike
    I spent 18 years raising my children in a small community, in hopes that they would not be subjected to the wrongs of the world. Little did i know how easily those "wrongs" were every where. And no way can we protect our children from it all.
    Life would be so much easier in some ways if we could see future, but we can't... that's perhaps a good thing sometimes...

    Often i am angry with myself for not seeing the problem earlier, I am a nurse and feel that i let my most cherished patient down.
    I know how that feels -- I work quite a bit with teens and yet when one of my sons was having a rough time I wasn't able to help him, or at least that's the way it seemed at the time, and it was precisely because of my profession -- he was determined not to let himself be my patient. As it turned out, what I was doing, basically being there when he needed me and never giving up on him, was exactly what he wanted and needed from me but it was a few years before I understood that; at the time, I just felt helpless. You may well find the same: What you are doing now may well make the difference... eventually.

    Last year my son was in the state hospital for almost 4 months, and he came out excited and vibrant for a new clean and sober life. He fell quickly, and promised himself that he would stay clean. I am not sure when he started again, but i am afraid it has been a while.
    Now that we are at square one again, i am just praying for the best to come of it.
    You and he are probably NOT back to square one -- it only seems like it. Most addicts seem to need one or two relapses before it "takes" -- maybe they need to learn how easy it is to become re-addicted and how vigilant they need to be to stay away from high-risk situations.

    Something that I am always having to do, is convince myself that it is not my fault. I think of his childhood and wonder if i could of done things differently, if that would of made a difference. I wonder if a childhood illness maybe predisposed him to a delicate make-up.
    You can drive yourself crazy with all those what-if's -- you'll never really know. And by the way, often it is the good things in the person's personality makeup, the things that make him most human, which are the same things that can make him vulnerable to things like depression and anxiety and addictions.

    Another way to look at it is that it really doesn't matter now what might have been or what you might or might not have done or even if you were a good or bad parent (which is unlikely anyway) -- the only thing that matters now is what happens from today on, not what happened last year or the year before or 10 years ago.

    Again, it is just nice to be able to share the weight a heavy burden. And i thought maybe by being involved on a forum site, i would get some input from others that might help.
    I hope so too... I think many people do find places like this helpful, at least to a point... that's why this place exists.

    I wish you and your son well. Come back and talk some more, Mike's mom...

  6. #6

    how mike was yesterda

    My mother and I went to visit Mike yesterday at the Hospital. He and other patients were outside, when we arrived. When he finally noticed that it was us, he stood up and smiled at us. He met us as we walked up to where they were. He gave me a good/loving hug and did the same to my mom.
    We were not allowed to stay outside to visit d/t confidentiality reasons, so the staff escorted him back inside to a visiting area, we went to another door and was let in to meet him in the designated meeting area also.
    It only took a matter of a couple of minutes to get to this area. Mike was still smiling and happy that we were there to visit. I brought him a bag of goodies to keep him until my next visit. I encouraged him to look over what i had brought him. He seemed pleased with what i had brought to him.
    We talked small talk for a very short time. ( how everyone is/ chiefs Game coming up on sunday/etc. Mike then said that he and the Doctor had discussed weather or not he would be able to come home. SO that was one of his concerns. " would I let him come home" I told him that of course he can come home when the doctor thinks that he is ready. Suddenly Mike was different. Asking me if i could tell if his speech was slurred. I explained that i could. He asked if i was doing it to him. And i explained that it was not me, but the medication. He then wanted to know why he was no longer happy that i was there to see him, as he was when he first seen me. I explained to him that it was because of the drugs that he had taken. He wanted to know if i felt the same way, not as happy as i was when i first seen him. Again i told him that i was still happy to see him. And that i had never taken drugs to alter my thought process, so my mood is always the same. That i don't experience Highs and low mood swings. I don't know if this is the correct way to deal with someone that has drug induced psychosis, but just being myself is the only way i know how to be.
    Mike explained that he still has suicide tendencies, and that he hopes he can be happy again., without thinking of ways to finish himself. He quickly told us to " Go on and get out of here" laughing by now. He kissed and hugged us and went on his way. Our visit lasted less then 5-10 minutes.
    Hours later i received a call from a social worker at the Hospital. She was calling to get some History on my son. What he had done for the past year since his last admission to the Hospital. She also informed me that his doctor is wanting him put up for review to be evaluate for a drug rehab. She explained that he is no more ready to be released then anything. And was curious to know how i felt. I told her of our visit that day, and how he had not had much improvement. She is also curious about his mental health history. She believes by his record and his conversation and last stay at that Hospital that he may be suffering from a mental illness and not just a matter of drug induced condition.
    I know that his father has mental problems, but he is also a abuser of drugs and a huffier ( paint). Mike was never raised by this man, so it it is mental health issues, i could not say. Like the question goes, which came first " the chicken or the egg"
    This is all to complicated for me to understand or make sense of. But i know that it would be a unjustly act if his doctor releases him right now. The social worker has great concern. She is totally against him leaving, she is unable to carry on a sensible conversation with him at all. He is still delusional and having hallucinations.
    well! i just wanted to get it off my chest, so this is now where i come to do that. Thanks for listening. Mikes Mom

  7. #7

    This Is Your Brain on Meth: A 'Forest Fire' of Damage

    Mike's mom:

    Just a quick reply -- on my way out for a while again. But don't be dismayed by what the social worker said: Yes, it's possible this is something more than a drug-induced reactive psychosis... but it's far too soon to conclude that at this point. If it is drug-induced, it may well be temporary but while the reaction is active it's virtually impossible to distinguish the symptoms accurately from those of another psychotic illness.

    He is in hospital currently -- so he's safe for now. One day at a time... for him and for you.

  8. #8

    Re: how mike was yesterday

    Quote Originally Posted by saving-mike
    When he finally noticed that it was us, he stood up and smiled at us. He met us as we walked up to where they were. He gave me a good/loving hug and did the same to my mom.... Mike then said that he and the Doctor had discussed whether or not he would be able to come home. SO that was one of his concerns. " would I let him come home" I told him that of course he can come home when the doctor thinks that he is ready. Suddenly Mike was different. Asking me if i could tell if his speech was slurred. I explained that i could. He asked if i was doing it to him. And i explained that it was not me, but the medication. He then wanted to know why he was no longer happy that i was there to see him, as he was when he first seen me. I explained to him that it was because of the drugs that he had taken.
    Remember, he has only been in the hospital for a couple of weeks -- that is not a very long time to stabilize someone who has reached the point he has reached...

    He wanted to know if i felt the same way, not as happy as i was when i first seen him. Again i told him that i was still happy to see him. And that i had never taken drugs to alter my thought process, so my mood is always the same. That i don't experience Highs and low mood swings. I don't know if this is the correct way to deal with someone that has drug induced psychosis, but just being myself is the only way i know how to be.
    I think that was an appropriate response to his question...

    Mike explained that he still has suicide tendencies, and that he hopes he can be happy again., without thinking of ways to finish himself. He quickly told us to " Go on and get out of here" laughing by now. He kissed and hugged us and went on his way. Our visit lasted less then 5-10 minutes.
    At this point, the rapid mood changes and shifts from confusion to clarity are probably to be expected... take comfort in knowing that he obviously still feels connected to you and that he was happy you were there...

    She also informed me that his doctor is wanting him put up for review to be evaluate for a drug rehab. She explained that he is no more ready to be released then anything. And was curious to know how i felt. I told her of our visit that day, and how he had not had much improvement... This is all to complicated for me to understand or make sense of. But i know that it would be a unjustly act if his doctor releases him right now. The social worker has great concern. She is totally against him leaving, she is unable to carry on a sensible conversation with him at all. He is still delusional and having hallucinations.
    I'm confused here... it didn't sound to me as if the doctor were thinking of releasing him; rather that he is thinking a drug rehab treatment program might be more appropriate. He could be right. I'm not sure why you or the social worker are worrying about him being released...

    She is also curious about his mental health history. She believes by his record and his conversation and last stay at that Hospital that he may be suffering from a mental illness and not just a matter of drug induced condition.
    I addressed this above -- it is impoprtant not to jump to a conclusion that this is only a drug-induced illness but to consider other possibilities doesn't necessarily mean that the simpler and more obvious explanation (given his substance abise history) isn't correct.

    I know that his father has mental problems, but he is also a abuser of drugs and a huffier ( paint). Mike was never raised by this man, so it it is mental health issues, i could not say.
    You don't say what "mental problems" his father had -- but there may be inherited vulnerabilities to both mental illness and addictions, which doesn't mean that either outcome is inevitable. And either way, if the addictions issues can be successfully treated, even if there is some sort other problem, the prognosis for your son would definitely improve.
    Last edited by Cat Dancer; October 22nd, 2008 at 11:16 AM. Reason: fixed quotes

  9. #9

    This Is Your Brain on Meth: A 'Forest Fire' of Damage

    Mr Baxter
    Thanks for your reply. I just wanted to make myself clear about mike being released. First of all, Mike has been in this rehab facility before. Last year after spend 4 months in this hospital he was sent to rehab. It was about 2 weeks, when he stoped being compliant with the rehab regimen. this was the second time he had been in this type of rehab setting. ( It was not court ordered) and being non-compliant is how you can leave. Being non-compliant consist of not taking your medication or not attending meetings set forth by the facility. Last time the facility let him run out of much needed medications, and as he was without them long enough, that when he was restarted, Mike felt like the side effects were worse for him then doing illegal drugs. So my fear is that Mike knows the system. And Mike knows that once he gets out of there, getting out of the entire system will be a breeze. I just feel that NOW is too soon. And you are right, he is safe right now, and that is what lets me sleep at nights. It took me a month and half to get him in the hospital. So prematurely letting him out worries me to death.
    I was a young mother, met his father and became pregnant very quickly
    ( my mistake) but i do not regret Mike at all. The marriage lasted just about 1 year. He moved on and so did I. He came in to Mikes life maybe a half a dozen times as he was growing up. He remarried and had more children. That marriage did not last d/t him using paint. He has history of drug use before i was with him. His psychotic behavior consisted of threating injury to his Mother and father, they had to have him arrested for chasing them around with deadly weapons. And i am not sure that he has not been incarcerated every since. I have little to no contact with his mother.
    I believe that the social workers concern is that of mine. If you set and talk to this boy long enough, it is quite obvious that he is not ready to be in a different setting.
    I really understand what you are saying, and i want to be positive, but last year still burns doubt in my heart and mind. The family history of mental problems could be something to worry about. Other then his dad.
    I can not even tell you how many alcoholic/ and drug addicts that are in my family. Depression & anxiety is prevalent in my family also. geez! what a family mess.
    My mother's brother shot himself 3 years ago christmas eve, my mother also had two uncles that shot themselves. One died from his injury, the other spent the rest of his life in a nursing home, and she had a cousin shoot himself about a two yrs ago. My father was a alcoholic and addict and worse of all a sex offender! He died several years ago. Sexual addiction ( perversion) and alcoholism seemed to be there mental disfunctions.
    So as you can see the history is there.

    When being asked by the social worker when was the last time that i found Mike to be normal, i replied, that he always seemed to be normal. He was a vibrant boy, that did the normal boy things. And seemed to be fine until he started using. So maybe she is grasping for straws.
    I don't want to be quick to assume the worse or let someone convince me that there is other problems to boot. At this point i have to rely on those that have the education to deal with him as they are qualified to do. But she truly makes me wonder.
    One more thing in closing, what you said about him only being in the hospital for a couple of weeks and it being too soon. That he has not had time to be stabilized! That is my feelings.......... Way too soon!
    Well thanks for listening ~~~~~~~~Mike's Mom

  10. #10

    This Is Your Brain on Meth: A 'Forest Fire' of Damage

    I do understand your reasons for worrying, Mike's Mom, even more now that you have added the details above.

    And you're correct - by now, I'm sure Mike does know how to manipulate the system if he chooses to do so -- we can only hope that he wants something different this time.

    I'd also reiterate that for many addicts each time they start a program, even those they don't finish, they do learn something and for many of them it does accumulate.

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