Drug Tales from the Crypt: Case of the Frozen Addicts

Heroin addict paralyzed by Parkinson's

Who knew the history of Parkinson’s research was so interesting?

In 1982, a hospital in California reported several cases of mysterious Parkinson’s disease in young heroin addicts.  It was later determined that the substance causing the condition was MPTP, an industrial toxin and by-product of the synthetic opiate MPPP, a Demerol-like drug.  MPTP attacks the dopamine-containing neurons in the substantia nigra–the same part of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease.

While not much could be done for the paralyzed addicts, this discovery allowed researchers to induce Parkinson’s disease in lab animals for the first time, which opened the door to new treatments.  Today, the case of the frozen addicts is viewed as a major breakthrough in Parkinson’s research.  There was even a book written on the subject titled–you guessed it–Case of the Frozen Addicts.

Here’s the espanol version of the story with some excellent footage of the patients known as “Estatuas Humanas” (Human Statues):

<object width=”480″ height=”392″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.dailymotion.com/swf/video/x6xgso?additionalInfos=0″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”always”></param></object><br /><b><a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6xgso_mptp-1-estatuas-humanas_school”>MPTP (1): Estatuas humanas</a></b><br /><i>Uploaded by <a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/raulespert”>raulespert</a&gt;. – <a href=”http://www.dailymotion.com/us/channel/school”>More college and campus videos.</a></i>

Source:

New England Journal of Medicine:  http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199612263352618

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