HealthDay News — Long-term use of methamphetamine causes more brain damage in teens than adults, a new study finds.

Researchers conducted MRI brain scans of 51 teen and 54 adult chronic methamphetamine abusers. They compared those scans to those of 60 teens and 60 adults who didn’t use the drug. The study participants were all from South Korea.

Compared to the adult methamphetamine users, the teen methamphetamine users had greater and more widespread changes in their brains, the researchers reported in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

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The damage was especially evident in the frontal cortex, an area believed to be involved in people’s ability to organize, reason and remember things (cognitive ability).

“Damage to that part of the brain is especially problematic because adolescents’ ability to control risky behavior is less mature than that of adults,” study author In Kyoon Lyoo, MD, PhD, of Ewha W. University in Seoul, South Korea, said in a University of Utah Health Sciences news release. “The findings may help explain the severe behavioral issues and relapses that are common in adolescent drug addiction,” Lyoo said.

Teens typically use smaller amounts of methamphetamine than adults, so these findings suggest that it takes much less methamphetamine to cause greater damage in teens’ brains than it would in adults, according to the authors of the study.


Lyoo IK, et al. Predisposition to and effects of methamphetamine use on the adolescent brain. Mol Psychiatry. 2015; doi:10.1038/mp.2014.191.