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Research Shows Meth Use is Similar to Alzheimer's Disease August 9, 2005 - wistv.com
(National-NBC) August 8, 2005 - Methamphetamine abuse has become the fastest growing drug problem in the world, touching communities large and small.
To help fight the epidemic, many stores have restricted sales of over the counter cold medications, which contain a key ingredient used to manufacture meth.
The latest research paints a grim picture of recovery for the addict. For UCLA professor of psychiatry and pharmacology Doctor Edythe London, it's what you cannot see about the meth addict that's most alarming, "What we see in the brain of the meth user is different than what we've seen with any other drug before."
London's latest research shows that prolonged use of methamphetamines appears to waste away crucial parts of the brain, similar to Alzheimer's disease. What's more, it harms the part that controls impulses that lead to addiction and compulsive behavior. And, some of this damage may not be reversible.
Dr. Edythe explains, "We know there are long term effects of the drug. We don't know the effect to which there may be permanent damage."
Holly Copeland knows. The 40-year old stay-at-home mom managed to raise two children during 12 years of meth use. Her family never found out, despite the permanent scars to her mind and body.
Former methamphetamine addict Holly Copeland, "I lost almost all of my teeth. I lost my eyebrows, my eyelashes, I had marks all over my face." Despite six years of sobriety, she can't seem to shake the daily impulse to do it again. "It's still a battle. If I make the wrong decision in my life, I will end up where I was and probably a lot worse off."
Treating the meth addict is proving to be a dilemma for healthcare workers everywhere. Counseling centers must come up with a new approach to make the user control their impulses.
Copeland uses a method called thought-stopping. She also counsels other meth addicts while attending recovery meetings herself. She will do this, she believes, for the rest of her life.
Thought-stopping is a process of concentrating on an unwanted urge or thought and then suddenly stopping and clearing your mind. Over time, the unwanted thought happens less often, and eventually may not occur at all. Meth can also cause severe depression and rapid weight loss.
Rehab experts believe that's why 50 percent of all users are women.