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CAMH study suggests increased risk of schizophrenia in heavy methamphetamine users
Date:11/7/2011

archers then identified patients who were readmitted with a schizophrenia diagnosis in each drug group.

There has been a longstanding debate as to whether there is a connection between methamphetamine use and schizophrenia. Many Japanese clinicians have long believed that methamphetamine might cause a schizophrenia-like illness, based on their observations of high rates of psychosis among methamphetamine users admitted to psychiatric hospitals. However, they lacked long-term follow-up studies of methamphetamine users initially free of psychosis. In North America, this link has mostly been discounted, as psychiatrists believed that the psychosis was already present and undiagnosed in these methamphetamine users.

"We really do not understand how these drugs might increase schizophrenia risk," says Dr. Stephen Kish, senior scientist and head of CAMH's Human Brain Laboratory. "Perhaps repeated use of methamphetamine and cannabis in some susceptible individuals can trigger latent schizophrenia by sensitizing the brain to dopamine, a brain chemical thought to be associated with psychosis." Dr. Kish also cautions that the findings do not apply to patients who take much lower and controlled doses of amphetamines or cannabis for medical purposes.

Since this is the first such study showing this potential link, the researchers emphasize that the results need to be confirmed in additional research involving long-term follow-up studies of methamphetamine users.

"We hope that understanding the nature of the drug addiction-schizophrenia relationship will help in developing better therapies for both conditions," says Dr. Callaghan.

In an earlier study using California hospital records, the researchers found evidence for a possible association between heavy methamphetamine use and Parkinson's disease.


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Contact: Michael Torres
media@camh.net
416-595-6015
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Source:Eurekalert

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