A five year study conducted with thousands of local teenagers by University of Montreal researchers reveals that those who used speed (meth/ampthetamine) or ecstasy (MDMA) at fifteen or sixteen years of age were significantly more likely to suffer elevated depressive symptoms the following year. “Our findings are consistent with other human and animal studies that suggest long-term negative influences of synthetic drug use,” said co-author Frédéric N. Brière of the School Environment Research Group at the University of Montreal. “Our results reveal that recreational MDMA and meth/amphetamine use places typically developing secondary school students at greater risk of experiencing depressive symptoms.” Ecstasy and speed-using grade ten students were respectively 1.7 and 1.6 times more likely to be depressed by the time they reached grade eleven.
The researchers worked with data provided by 3,880 students enrolled at schools in disadvantaged areas of Quebec. The participants were asked a series of questions that covered their drug use – what they had used in the past year or ever in their life – and their home life. Depressive symptoms were established by using a standard epidemiological evaluation tool. 310 respondents reported using MDMA (8%) and 451 used meth/amphetamines (11.6%). 584 of all respondents were identified as having elevated depressive symptoms (15.1%). The range of questions that the researchers asked enabled them to adjust their statistics to take into account other factors likely to affect the psychological state of the student, such as whether there was any conflict between the parents and the participant. “This study takes into account many more influencing factors than other research that has been undertaken regarding the association between drugs and depression in teenagers,” Brière said. “However, it does have its limitations, in particular the fact that we cannot entirely rule out the effects of drug combinations and that we do not know the exact contents of MDMA and meth/amphetamine pills.”
The study’s authors would like to do further research into how drug combinations affect a person’s likelihood to suffer depression and they are keen to learn more about the differences between adults and adolescents in this area. “Our study has important public health implications for adolescent populations,” said Jean-Sébastien Fallu, a professor at the University of Montreal and study co-author. “Our results reinforce the body of evidence in this field and suggest that adolescents should be informed of the potential risks associated with MDMA and meth/amphetamine use.”
About this study
Frédéric N. Brière, Jean-Sébastien Fallu, Michel Janosz, and Linda S. Pagani published “Prospective associations between meth/amphetamine (speed) and MDMA (ecstasy) use and depressive symptoms in secondary school students” in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health on April 18, 2012. The study received funding from Fonds Québécois de Recherche sur la Santé et la Société (FQRSC, 2007-NP-112947). Frédéric Brière is affiliated with the University of Montreal’s School Environment Research Group. Jean-Sébastien Fallu is affiliated with the University of Montreal’s School Environment Research Group, School of Psycho-Education, and Public Health Research Institute. The University of Montreal is officially known as Université de Montréal.
University of Montreal scientists worked with ten year old children whose mothers exhibited symptoms of depression throughout their lives, and discovered that the children’s amygdala, a part of the brain linked to emotional responses, was enlarged. Similar changes, but of greater magnitude, have been found in the brains of adoptees initially raised in orphanages. The findings were published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Although their study cannot clarify the causes of enlarged amygdala, the researchers noted that other studies have shown that children who were adopted earlier in life and into more affluent families than others did not have enlarged amygdala. “This strongly suggests that the brain may be highly responsive to the environment during early development and confirms the importance of early intervention to help children facing adversity,” said lead author Sonia Lupien.
Scientists have established that the amygdala is involved in assigning emotional significance to information and events, and it contributes to the way we behave in response to potential risks. “Having enlarged amygdala could be protective and increase the probability of survival,” Lupien added. “The amygdala may be protective through a mechanism that produces stress hormones known as glucocorticoids.” The researchers noted that the glucocorticoids levels of the children of depressed mothers who participated in this study increased significantly when they were presented with unfamiliar situations, indicating increased reactivity to stress in those children. Adults who grew up in similar circumstances as these children show higher levels of glucocorticoids and a greater glucocorticoid reaction when participating in laboratory stress tests.
“What would be the long term consequences of this increased reactivity to stress is unknown at this point, ” Lupien said, adding that further studies would be necessary.
Image: This image show the position of the amygdala in the brain. This image was made out of, or made from, content published in a BodyParts3D/Anatomography web site. The content of their website is published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.1 Japan license. The author and licenser of the contents is Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, and Technology(MEXT) Integreated Database Project.