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Cognitive and neuroanatomical impairments associated with chronic exposure to levamisole-contaminated cocaine


Vonmoos, Matthias; Hirsiger, Sarah; Preller, Katrin H; Hulka, Lea M; Allemann, Daniel; Herdener, Marcus; Baumgartner, Markus R; Quednow, Boris B (2018). Cognitive and neuroanatomical impairments associated with chronic exposure to levamisole-contaminated cocaine. Translational Psychiatry, 8:235.

Abstract

Currently, levamisole is the most common cocaine adulterant worldwide and it is known to induce a variety of adverse side effects. Animal studies and human case reports suggest potential neurotoxicity of the compound but neither neuroanatomical nor cognitive effects of levamisole have been systematically investigated in cocaine users so far. We examined cognitive performance and cortical structural differences between chronic cocaine users with low and high recent exposure to levamisole objectively determined by quantitative toxicological hair analyses. In Study 1, we compared 26 chronic cocaine users with low levamisole exposure (lowLevCU), 49 matched cocaine users with high levamisole exposure (highLevCU), and 78 matched stimulant-naive controls regarding cognitive functioning employing a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery. In Study 2, we investigated cortical thickness by use of T1-weighted MRI in a subgroup of 12 lowLevCU, 17 highLevCU, and 38 stimulant-naive controls. In Study 1, both cocaine user groups showed significant impairments in the cognitive domains of attention and working memory as well as in the global cognitive index. However, highLevCU showed significantly worse executive functions compared to lowLevCU although both groups did not differ in severity of cocaine consumption and other clinical dimensions. Study 2 revealed that highLevCU, displayed reduced cortical thickness specifically in the middle frontal gyrus compared to both controls and lowLevCU. Our results suggest that levamisole exposure during the last months in cocaine users is associated with increased executive function impairments and pronounced thinning of the lateral prefrontal cortex. Consequently, prevention and drug policy-making should aim to reduce levamisole contamination of street cocaine.

Abstract

Currently, levamisole is the most common cocaine adulterant worldwide and it is known to induce a variety of adverse side effects. Animal studies and human case reports suggest potential neurotoxicity of the compound but neither neuroanatomical nor cognitive effects of levamisole have been systematically investigated in cocaine users so far. We examined cognitive performance and cortical structural differences between chronic cocaine users with low and high recent exposure to levamisole objectively determined by quantitative toxicological hair analyses. In Study 1, we compared 26 chronic cocaine users with low levamisole exposure (lowLevCU), 49 matched cocaine users with high levamisole exposure (highLevCU), and 78 matched stimulant-naive controls regarding cognitive functioning employing a comprehensive neuropsychological test battery. In Study 2, we investigated cortical thickness by use of T1-weighted MRI in a subgroup of 12 lowLevCU, 17 highLevCU, and 38 stimulant-naive controls. In Study 1, both cocaine user groups showed significant impairments in the cognitive domains of attention and working memory as well as in the global cognitive index. However, highLevCU showed significantly worse executive functions compared to lowLevCU although both groups did not differ in severity of cocaine consumption and other clinical dimensions. Study 2 revealed that highLevCU, displayed reduced cortical thickness specifically in the middle frontal gyrus compared to both controls and lowLevCU. Our results suggest that levamisole exposure during the last months in cocaine users is associated with increased executive function impairments and pronounced thinning of the lateral prefrontal cortex. Consequently, prevention and drug policy-making should aim to reduce levamisole contamination of street cocaine.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics
04 Faculty of Medicine > Neuroscience Center Zurich
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Legal Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:27 October 2018
Deposited On:14 Nov 2018 15:45
Last Modified:01 Dec 2018 01:17
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2158-3188
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-018-0279-3
PubMed ID:30368522

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