Study finds greater risks attached to teen use of Methamphetamine

study finds greater risks attached to teen use of methamphetamine

Methamphetamine has demonstrated itself to be a severely damaging drug to both an abuser’s physical and psychological health. Yet a new study has now found that this illicit drug is even more of a threat to teenage users, specifically in terms of brain damage. As the teenage brain is still developing and reaching full maturity, the likelihood of a chronic negative impact caused by meth use is imminent.

Methodology and results

The study used MRI scans to compare the brains of study participants’ which included more than 50 adults and more than 50 teens who abused methamphetamine. The results were compared with a control group of 60 adults and 60 teens who did not abuse meth. The research found more damage occurred in the adolescents who took the drug than the adults. The greatest damage was shown in the frontal cortex, where skills such as memory, organization and reason are thought to take place.

These results are alarming because teens are more prone to risk-taking behavior than adults. The drug has the potential to cause greater harm overall for younger users. Moreover, adolescents typically take this substance in smaller amounts than adults so the sensitivity of a young person’s brain to meth may be especially strong when compared to that of older users.

Other associated risks of methamphetamine use

Of course, there are many other troubling dangers associated with adolescents who become involved with methamphetamine. Nerve cells may be damaged, including those that play a role in levels of serotonin production. This is notable, as serotonin plays a key role in managing sleep, appetite, mood states and more. Those who inject the drug will also be at an increased risk for receiving transmittable diseases such as HIV. Such drug abuse will also limit the amount of brain cells that carry dopamine, creating a much weakened ability for those without the drug to experience pleasure.

An adolescent who becomes dependent on meth will come to develop sores on many areas of the body. These are often a result of scratching and picking at the skin. Violence and paranoia are also common, along with extreme dental disease. One may be much more likely to display irrational or illogical types of behavior or nervous responses such as twitching of body parts. Smoking the drug may lead to the appearance of burning on the lips or hands. Persistent insomnia may also occur, followed by a crash period of extended sleep.

There is also research that indicates a higher risk of stroke for young adults who abuse methamphetamine. This risk is even greater than for those who abuse crack or cocaine. There are two different types of strokes that may occur: ischemic or hemorrhagic. An ischemic stroke is caused by a blockage in the blood vessels that lead to the brain while a hemorrhagic stroke is caused when a blood vessel ruptures in the brain, which will lead to internal bleeding. Those who exhibited binge behavior in this drug use were considerably more likely to have a stroke.


Unfortunately, treatment is often not easy for teens who have become significantly dependent on meth, thus it will need to be quite intensive. Inpatient treatment will often be a requirement, so that the client does not have access to the drug. Having the encouragement of family in stopping use of the drug has been shown to be an important factor in allowing the abuser to overcome the dependence. The teen may also benefit from a support group in which they will communicate with others whose lives have also been ravaged by this drug.

White River Academy has a solid and thorough background in helping adolescents overcome substance abuse, mental health disorders or cases of dual diagnosis. Our goal is to assist all of our patients in being able to better adjust to health and productiveness in adulthood. For more information on how we can best assist you or a loved one today, please contact our admissions team today at 866-520-0905.

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