"Smart drugs" could lead to long-term brain damage
Recent animal studies suggest that young people who take unprescribed “smart drugs,” such as Concerta and Ritalin, may be raising their risk of long-term impairments in brain function. Researchers say that while these drugs may improve brain performance in the short term, they might also make still-developing brains less adaptable for multi-tasking, planning, and organizing in the future.
These drugs, which are prescribed to treat people with ADHD, have been misused by approximately 1.3 million American teenagers in just the past month, according to Drugfree.org and the MetLife Foundation.
Studies in juvenile rats have shown that even low doses of methylphenidate can affect developing brains by impairing nerve activity, working memory and the ability to switch between tasks.
Dr. Wen-Jun Gao, a neuroscientist at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, says that human brains continue developing into a person's 20s and 30s, particularly the prefrontal cortex, an area involved in planning and decision-making. When these drugs are abused, he says, a person could overstimulate the nervous system and damage or even kill cells.
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