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Utah Study: Meth Use Substantially Increases Risk for Parkinson’s Disease

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New research out of the University of Utah shows that the use of methamphetamine increases the risk of developing a neurological disease later in life. The study published this month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence also suggests that gender may influence that risk.

The short term consequences of using methamphetamine are already well known – from dental problems to memory loss. But new research shows that meth users are more at risk for getting the neurological disease known as Parkinson’s later in life.

“Many of these people are no longer using these drugs but here, 20 or 30 years later, this disease pops up,” says Glen Hanson, a pharmacology professor at the University of Utah, and senior author on the study.

Using more than 40,000 records in the Utah Population Database, researchers found that male meth users are 3 times more at risk for getting Parkinson’s disease than non-illicit drug users, and female risk was even greater – nearly 5 times. “Our data suggests that females are more vulnerable to this long term damage than males, and this is something we need to follow up on and confirm,” Hanson says.

This is particularly relevant in Utah where Hanson says female use of meth tends to be higher than other states. But he credits a statewide awareness campaign for significantly reducing female use.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Boston.com. Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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