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This year more than a million Americans will indulge in a practice that impacts the nervous system and makes them much more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.
A study at the University of Utah demonstrates that using methamphetamine makes men three times more vulnerable to Parkinson’s. The risk for women increases by five times.
“Typically, fewer females use meth than males do,” says researcher Glen R. Hanson, a professor and interim dean of the University of Utah School of Dentistry and professor of pharmacology and toxicology. “Even though women are less likely to use it, there appears to be a gender bias toward women in the association between meth use and Parkinson’s.”
The Utah study examined the medical records of 40,000 people covering the years 1996 to 2011 that are contained in a database at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.
Parkinson’s disease affects the brain and impairs movement, getting gradually worse as you age. Often it begins in your 60s and slowly destroys the function of nerve cells.
Parkinson’s symptoms include shaking (often in the fingers and hands), tremors, slowed down movement, problems walking, muscle rigidity and disturbing alterations in the ability to blink or move the mouth. It can also make it more difficult to talk.
Globally, up to 6 million people suffer Parkinson’s. There is no cure for the condition although pharmaceuticals and surgery may relieve some of its symptoms.
Unfortunately, some women start using meth to help them lose weight.
“Female users in Utah may also get involved with meth because it’s seen as a relatively cheap and effective way to lose weight and have more energy,” says researcher Karen Curtin. “Normally, women develop Parkinson’s less often than men; however, women may not achieve the same improvement in symptoms from medications or surgery. If meth addiction leads to sharply increased incidence of Parkinson’s disease in women, we should all be concerned.”