Joshua GulleyScientists from the University of Illinois have found that amphetamine used in adolescence could result in long-term impairments in memory.

Rats exposed to increased doses of amphetamines at an age that corresponds to the later years of human adolescence seem to show considerable memory deficiencies as adults – long after the exposure ends. According to the study, the decline in short-term or ‘working’ memory seems to be most definite when the rats are exposed during adolescence, rather than as adults.

“Animals that were given the amphetamine during the adolescent time period were worse at tasks requiring working memory than adult animals that were given the same amount of amphetamine as adults. This tells us that their working memory capacity has been significantly altered by that pre-exposure to amphetamine.” says lead author of the study, Joshua Gulley, and psychology professor at University of Illinois.

For the purpose of the study, scientists were believed to have analyzed two types of amphetamine exposure namely intermittent and ‘binge-escalation’, followed by a simulated binge. Intermittent is known to be a steady dose given every new day whereas binge-escalation seems to be a high dose given every two hours for approximately eight hours on the fifth day. Moreover, a simulated binge is a drug which is given over a period of four days in increasing amounts.

Gulley further elucidated that, “Adolescence is a time when the brain is continuing to develop into its mature form, so drug exposure during this critical period could have long-lasting, negative consequences. Our findings reveal that adolescents are particularly sensitive to the adverse effects of amphetamine on cognitive function and that these effects can persist well after drug use is discontinued.”

The concerns are most robust for adolescents who abuse amphetamines as they could perhaps make use of much higher doses in contrast to those who are prescribed drugs that contain amphetamines.

The findings revealed some of the possible long-term results of amphetamine abuse by adolescents. Additionally, it may perhaps be applicable to those taking amphetamines for therapeutic purposes, such as for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Gulley cautions that the doses given to the rats are observed to be on the high end of what an older, larger adolescent might receive as a therapeutic dose. He further said that additional study is required in order to mock out the implications for human health.

The findings of the study have been presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago.