Mood altering drugs like Prosac also alter the wiring of the brain.
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A new study has founded that adolescents who are frequently exposed to high doses of amphetamine, a stimulant that is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, are at-risk of developing long …
High Doses Of ADHD Drugs Can Lead To Long-Term Changes In The Brain, Study Says
Adolescents who are repeatedly exposed to large amounts of the stimulant amphetamine might be at risk of developing long-term brain changes, according to a new study.
By Cheri Cheng | Mar 31, 2016 12:10 AM EDT
"The dopamine system, which continues to develop throughout adolescence and young adulthood, is a primary target of psychostimulant drugs like amphetamine," said Joshua Gulley, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois and the lead investigator of the study. "Changes in dopamine function in response to repeated drug exposure are likely to contribute to the behavioral consequences - addiction and relapse, for example - that abusers experience."
The researchers could not pinpoint how the stimulant was affecting brain function, but they reasoned that since the adolescent brain is still developing, early exposure can impact the brain's development process. To understand this link further, the researchers analyzed the effects that amphetamine had on the prefrontal cortex, which is one of the last regions in the brain to fully develop in adolescence. The researchers found that repeated exposure affected how cells responded to dopamine.
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The research team noted that the changes in dopamine signaling lasted for 14 weeks. At this point, the rats would represent people in their 30s.
"This shows pretty clear evidence that drug use during adolescence, a time when the brain is still developing, has extremely long-lasting consequences that go far beyond the last drug exposure," Gulley said.
The researchers acknowledged that since their study was done in rats, the findings might not apply to human children. However, Gulley noted that "rats [can] exhibit many of the characteristics that human adolescents do." This is not the first time that Gulley has studied the effects of amphetamine abuse. In a 2013 study, Gulley found that frequent amphetamine exposure affected the working memory in rats.
The findings were published recently in the journal Neuroscience.