Meth abuse causes essential element disorders as hair analysis reveals

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  • Published: Feb 19, 2015
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Base Peak / Atomic
thumbnail image: Meth abuse causes essential element disorders as hair analysis reveals

The analysis of hair taken from methamphetamine drug users shows that the normal levels of several essential elements are altered, risking health problems as a result.

Scientists in China used ICPMS to measure the concentrations of 16 elements in the hair of people who had been meth addicts for at least two years and compared them to those of healthy people. The results, reported in Forensic Science International, showed that the addicts had reduced levels of calcium, magnesium and copper and strontium and increased amounts of arsenic and gold.

It is generally accepted that the levels of trace elements in hair reflect those in the body as a whole, so these findings could reflect the types of illnesses that meth users suffer from. For instance, low calcium and magnesium levels could be the source of osteoporosis as well as several metabolic disorders.

Magnesium deficiency is also associated with electrolyte imbalances and electrical instability, which could explain the higher incidence of cardiac arrhythmia experienced by addicts. In addition, low magnesium can cause hypertension. Low strontium could be a direct result of the poor diet of meth users who tend to eat poorly and omit fruit and vegetables, the main sources of strontium.

Raised concentrations of arsenic and gold might point to the disturbed metabolism of meth addicts, preventing these toxic elements from being excreted.

Regardless of the consequences of these elemental imbalances, direct analysis of hair could be used for their detection in recovering addicts and to help devise treatment strategies that will restore the trace elements to normal levels.

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