Meth Even More Toxic To Adolescent Than Adult Brain Interview with:
Kyoon Lyoo, M.D., Ph.D
Ewha W. University
Seoul, South Korea

MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Lyoo: Recent studies increasingly suggested that the developing brain shows unique characteristics of neuroplasticity to environmental stimuli. Still, it remains unclear whether the adolescent brain would undergo adaptive or dysfunctional changes when exposed to highly neurotoxic substances including methamphetamine. However, despite an increasing prevalence of methamphetamine use in this population, human studies have not yet found clear answers to these questions regarding the effects of methamphetamine exposure on the adolescent brain.

This study reports novel in vivo findings in adolescent methamphetamine users, and thus provides a new perspective regarding adolescent-specific brain correlates of methamphetamine-induced neurotoxicity. Using cortical thickness and diffusion tensor image analyses, we found greater and more widespread gray and white matter alterations, particularly affecting the frontostriatal system, in adolescent methamphetamine users compared with adult users. Our findings highlight that the adolescent brain, which undergoes active myelination and maturation, is much more vulnerable to methamphetamine-induced neurotoxicity than the adult brain. This may help explain why adolescent-onset methamphetamine users show more severe and chronic clinical course than adult-onset users.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Lyoo: The current study shows that the magnitude of the detrimental effects of methamphetamine on the brain was far greater in adolescence than in adulthood. This poses even greater problems since the top-down control over risky and addictive behavior is less mature in adolescence than in adulthood when the brain reaches its full maturity. Through this neurobiological evidence, clinicians and adolescents should be more aware of how dangerous stimulant use can be even at a low dose.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Lyoo: We believe that the future longitudinal follow-up studies on adolescent drug users will provide a new insight on whether prolonged abstinence may reverse the drug-induced neurotoxic effects on the adolescent brain.

Moreover, based on the finding that the methamphetamine use-related deficits in the frontostriatal system and executive function were particularly evident in adolescent users, the future studies will be necessary to examine potential efficacy of the therapeutic strategies targeting these neural markers.


I K Lyoo, S Yoon, T S Kim, S M Lim, Y Choi, J E Kim, J Hwang, H S Jeong, H B Cho, Y A Chung, P F Renshaw. Predisposition to and effects of methamphetamine use on the adolescent brain. Molecular Psychiatry, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/mp.2014.191 Interview with:, & Kyoon Lyoo, M.D., Ph.D (2015). Meth Even More Toxic To Adolescent Than Adult Brain

Last Updated on February 13, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD