New Study: Kids Doing Drugs in College Show Brain Changes, and Sometimes, Damage

Here's a really scary thought.  The brains of kids who do drugs in college show damage.

According to, a new study has found that "impaired neuronal activity in the parts of the brain associated with anticipatory functioning among occasional 18- to 24-year-old users of stimulant drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines and prescription drugs such as Adderall."

Anticipatory functioning are just big words for thinking about something before you do it.

The brain differences, detected using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), are believed to represent an internal hard wiring that may make some people more prone to drug addiction later in life, the Web site reports.

“If you show me 100 college students and tell me which ones have taken stimulants a dozen times, I can tell you those students’ brains are different,” said Martin Paulus, MD, professor of psychiatry and a co-senior author with Angela Yu, PhD, professor of cognitive science at UC San Diego, at “Our study is telling us, it’s not ‘this is your brain on drugs,’ it’s ‘this is the brain that does drugs.’”

The study revealed that occasional users have slightly faster reaction times, suggesting a tendency toward impulsivity, newswise explains. The most striking difference, however, occurred during one particular aspect of the trial. "Here, the occasional users made more mistakes, and their performance worsened, relative to the control group, as the task became harder."
The brain images of the occasional users showed consistent patterns of diminished neuronal activity in the parts of the brain associated with anticipatory functioning and updating anticipation based on past trials.
“We used to think that drug addicts just did not hold themselves back but this work suggests that the root of this is an impaired ability to anticipate a situation and to detect trends in when they need to stop,” said Katia Harlé, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Paulus laboratory and the study’s lead author.
I have some time (about five years) before I start worrying about my son doing drugs in college.  Of course, they are already there, at his middle school.  But with all the stress and pressure on kids to do well, to stay up late to study and work hard, and doing anything to make this possible, is it any surprise?  


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