Amphetamine use linked to Parkinson's disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

New evidence suggests amphetamine use increases the risk of developing Parkinson's disease 60 percent.

The drugs Benzedrine and Dexedrine, prescribed for hyperactivity disorder, narcolepsy, traumatic brain injuries, and in the past for weight loss were found in a study to boost the chances of Parkinson's disease, compared to study participants who never used the drugs.

For the study, 66,348 people in northern California who were Multiphasic Health Checkup Cohort Exam were asked whether they ever used weight loss drugs and specifically, Benzedrine and Dexedrine.

The study participants, whose average age 36 years old, were evaluated from 1964 and 1973 and again in 1995. By the end of the research, 1,154 people had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.


Participants who reported using Benzedrine and Dexedrine were 60 percent more likely to have developed Parkinson's disease. No association between weight loss drugs and the disease was found.

Study author Stephen K. Van Den Eeden, PhD, with the Division of Research at Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, California said “If further studies confirm these findings, the potential risk of developing Parkinson’s disease from these types of amphetamines would need to be considered by doctors before prescribing these drugs as well as be incorporated into amphetamine abuse programs, including illicit use."

The findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 63rd Annual Meeting in Honolulu April 9 to April 16, 2011.

The authors say more research is needed to understand how amphetamines increase the chances of developing Parkinson's disease. Van Den Eeden explains it may be the result of dopamine uptake in the brain, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in Parkinson's disease that is also affected by amphetamines.