Does substance abuse cause brain changes?

"This study detected brain changes among substance dependent individuals."

Does substance abuse cause brain changes?

An age-old question among recreational substance users, especially teens, is whether or not substance use and abuse causes deleterious effects on the brain and whether those effects are long-standing.  Another study by the ENIGMA Addiction Working Group performed a mega-analysis to look at whether there were gray matter (brain cell) volume differences in the brains of substance abusers and non-abusers.  The notion here is that a detectable difference in brain volume is due to a reduction of brain cells or of brain cellular matter. They took their study one step further and also looked at whether different substances caused substance-specific brain region differences in volumes.  In other words, would cocaine abuse lead to a cocaine-specific change in volume of the nucleus accumbens, while alcohol caused an alcohol-specific change in the hippocampi?

The working group examined a population of 3,240 individuals, 2,140 of whom had a diagnosis of substance dependence to one of five substances: alcohol, nicotine, methamphetamine, cannabis, or cocaine. The results demonstrated a significant difference in various brain regions in all substance dependent individuals including the hippocampi, amygdala, nucleus accumbens, and others.   There was also evidence for substance-specific brain region changes, especially involving alcohol.

Scott Mackey, Ph.D., Nicholas Allgaier, Ph.D., Bader Chaarani, Ph.D., Philip Spechler, B.A., Catherine Orr, Ph.D., Janice Bunn, Ph.D., Nicholas B. Allen, Ph.D., Nelly Alia-Klein, Ph.D., Albert Batalla, M.D., Ph.D., Sara Blaine, Ph.D., Samantha Brooks, Ph.D., Elisabeth Caparelli, Ph.D., Yann Ying Chye, Ph.D., Janna Cousijn, Ph.D., Alain Dagher, M.D., Sylvane Desrivieres, Ph.D., Sarah Feldstein-Ewing, Ph.D., John J. Foxe, Ph.D., Rita Z. Goldstein, Ph.D., Anna E. Goudriaan, Ph.D., Mary M. Heitzeg, Ph.D., Robert Hester, Ph.D., Kent Hutchison, Ph.D., Ozlem Korucuoglu, Ph.D., Chiang-Shan R. Li, M.D., Ph.D., Edythe London, Ph.D., Valentina Lorenzetti, Ph.D., Maartje Luijten, Ph.D., Rocio Martin-Santos, M.D., April May, M.A., Reza Momenan, M.D., Angelica Morales, Ph.D., Martin P. Paulus, M.D., Godfrey Pearlson, M.A., M.B.B.S., Marc-Etienne Rousseau, M.Sc., Betty Jo Salmeron, M.D., Renée Schluter, Ph.D., Lianne Schmaal, Ph.D., Gunter Schumann, M.D., Ph.D., Zsuzsika Sjoerds, Ph.D., Dan J. Stein, Ph.D., Elliot A. Stein, Ph.D., Rajita Sinha, Ph.D., Nadia Solowij, Ph.D., Susan Tapert, Ph.D., Anne Uhlmann, Ph.D., Dick Veltman, M.D., Ph.D., Ruth van Holst, Ph.D., Sarah Whittle, Ph.D., Reinout Wiers, Ph.D., Margaret J. Wright, Ph.D., Murat Yücel, Ph.D., Sheng Zhang, Ph.D., Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, Ph.D., Derrek P. Hibar, Ph.D., Neda Jahanshad, Ph.D., Alan Evans, Ph.D., Paul M. Thompson, Ph.D., David C. Glahn, Ph.D., Patricia Conrod, Ph.D., Hugh Garavan, Ph.D., the ENIGMA Addiction Working Group

Mega-Analysis of Gray Matter Volume in Substance Dependence: General and Substance-Specific Regional Effects,  Am J Psychiatry. 2019 Feb 1;176(2):119-128. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17040415. Epub 2018 Oct 19.

https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17040415

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