SOURCE: University of Utah, news release, Dec. 16, 2014
FRIDAY, Dec. 26, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- People who use methamphetamine have a greatly increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease, a new study warns.
Researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 40,000 people in Utah. About 5,000 of that group were methamphetamine -- or "meth" -- users. Around 1,800 were cocaine users, and about 34,000 didn't use drugs, according to the researchers.
The study found that methamphetamine users were three times more likely to develop Parkinson's disease. Cocaine users didn't have an increased risk of Parkinson's, the researchers said.
The study wasn't designed to prove that methamphetamine caused Parkinson's disease, but it did find a strong association between use of the drug and the development of the disorder.
The study was published recently in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
The researchers also found that women who use methamphetamine appear to be nearly five times more likely to develop Parkinson's than those who don't use drugs. However, further research is needed to confirm the gender difference, and to figure out why such a difference might exist, the study authors said.
"Typically, fewer females use meth than males do," senior study author Glen Hanson, interim dean of the University of Utah School of Dentistry and a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Utah, said in a university news release.
"Even though women are less likely to use it, there appears to be a gender bias toward women in the association between meth use and Parkinson's," he added.
The findings support a previous study that found a similar risk for Parkinson's among methamphetamine users in California.
Meth use is linked with a number of physical and mental health issues, including memory loss and serious dental problems, the study authors noted.
Parkinson's is a progressive movement disorder that typically begins at age 60 or older. Symptoms include tremors, rigid muscles and slowed movement. There is no cure for the disease, but medications and surgery can ease symptoms, the researchers said.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about Parkinson's disease.