Young adults who use methamphetamine could be more prone to age-related brain diseases long after they stop using the drug, according to new research funded by the U.S. Army and National Institutes of Health.

Scientists made the discovery while working on a previous hypothesis that early meth abuse can cause the same symptoms as those experienced by Parkinson's disease patients who are missing a key protein, according to a report on News.com.au.

For the study, researchers gave two groups of young mice either methamphetamine or saline injections four times over an eight-hour period, said the findings in the journal, Neuroscience.

Click here to read the News.com.au story

One group of mice was normal, the other had a partial depletion of glial derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), a protein that protects and repairs the neurotransmitter dopamine in areas of the brain related to motor control.

Loss of nerve cells that produce dopamine is a major contributor to Parkinson's disease. The mice were 2-months-old, or adolescents, at the start of the study.

At 12-months-old, the GDNF-depleted mice moved significantly less than the normal mice that got the same meth injections, according to the study.