The brain on meth

Neurotoxicity – or toxicity to the brain – of drugs and other chemicals has traditionally been very difficult to establish in humans. In animals, neurotoxicity can be demonstrated by giving a rat or other test animal a drug before sacrificing it and then looking at its brain under a microscope.

For humans this is obviously not an option, and since the effects of toxic drugs in humans can be subtle – or may only occur years after exposure – establishing cause and effect can be close to impossible.

The effects of methamphetamine (meth) on the brain had previously only been studied in rats. We have dramatic photographs of sections from normal rat brains alongside the brains of rats pretreated with meth that show widespread scarring and loss of brain cells. Some of these pictures were published in the excellent book “ADD and ADHD, Complementary Medicine Solutions” by Charles Gant MD, PhD.

You may wonder, “What is the relevance of rat brains on meth to ADD and ADHD?” The fact is that all of the stimulant medications used to treat these conditions are either classified as amphetamines or are related comp ounds that resemble cocaine more closely. So if it can be established that meth causes damage to the human brain, it isn’t much of a stretch to deduce that prescription stimulants could cause it as well.

Using MRI technology, a recent study finally proved that meth does in fact damage human brains as well. To prove this, researchers performed MRI studies of the brains of habitual meth users. The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience (2004; 24: 6028-6036) and was also reviewed in a New York Times article that can be found at (registration required).

The extent of the damage was shocking, even to the brain-imaging experts who performed the study. Dr. Paul Thompson of the University of California at Los Angeles described it as a “forest fire of brain damage” and added that “we expected some brain changes but didn’t expect so much tissue to be destroyed.” The addicts exhibited depression, anxiety, inability to concentrate, and memory loss comparable to early Alzheimer’s.

Anxiety, poor focus, forgetfulness – aren’t these some of the very reasons why children are labeled with ADHD and medicated in the first place? The study clearly indicates that these can be signs of toxicity in the brain. It is not a big surprise that so many children have these symptoms given that most of them received multiple vaccine shots containing mercury – the most brain-toxic substance on earth – as the preservative thimerosal. In addition, as I have discussed in previous newsletters, children are being exposed to mercury, as well as other toxic metals and chemicals, at an increasing rate and from multiple sources.

Many affected children can be nursed back to health through a steady and gradual effort to nourish their bodies and brains and promote detoxification. What sense does it make to drug them, only to mask the problem and probably compound it over time? In severe cases medicating may be unavoidable, but even then there is a possibility of reestablishing health and eventually overcoming the need for medication given time and consistency.

Unfortunately the “experts” have chosen to deny the obvious in favor of an unlikely and unproven genetic theory that does, however, justify medicating millions of American children. When parents take their children for a specialized evaluation, they might be told “your child is a classic case of ADHD” and handed a prescription. They are also given a flier and phone number of a drug company-sponsored support group that will spare no means to recruit even the most reluctant of parents.

To learn more about natural treatments for ADHD it is a good idea to start by reading a book like the one mentioned above or “Healing the Hyperactive Brain” by Michael Lyon, MD. Then, if you are serious about finding a non-drug solution, you should work with a qualified healthcare professional who has experience in this field.

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