Cocaine use doubles the speed of brain aging; Research

Loss of gray matter

Researchers have found that the cocaine usage speeds up the brain aging.

[hana-code-insert name=’StumbleUpon’ /][hana-code-insert name=’Reddit’ /]This research has been published online in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Researchers worked on two groups of 60 people each; one group with cocaine dependence and the other without any substance abuse. They have found that cocaine dependence has greatly affected the brain’s gray matter. The affect was very much similar to the age-related loss.

Researchers have found that the users of cocaine lost about 3.08 milliliters (ml) of brain volume annually that is almost twice that of the healthy people in which the loss was about 1.69 ml per year. Most affected parts of the brain, in cocaine users, were prefrontal and temporal cortex, which are related to the decision-making, attention, memory and self-regulation.

“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,” Dr. Karen Ersche, one of the authors of research work from Behavioral and Clinical Neuroscience Institute at University of Cambridge, said in the news release.

“Our findings shed light on the largely neglected problem of the growing number of older drug users, whose needs are not so well catered for in drug treatment services. It is timely for health care providers to understand and recognize the needs of older drug users in order to design and administer age-appropriate treatments,” Ersche further said.


K D Ersche, P S Jones, G B Williams, T W Robbins and E T Bullmore, (2012). Cocaine dependence: a fast-track for brain ageing? Molecular Psychiatry, doi:10.1038/mp.2012.31

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