Neuroimaging in drug and substance abuse part II: opioids and solvents

Top Magn Reson Imaging. 2005 Jun;16(3):239-45. doi: 10.1097/01.rmr.0000192154.34563.6b.


The central nervous system is one of the primary targets for the detrimental effects of drugs of abuse. Diagnostic imaging, especially MRI, plays an important role in the detection of complications associated with drug abuse. We present the imaging findings associated with the abuse of opioids and other morphine derivatives, as well, as solvents. Of the morphine derivatives, heroin is the most commonly abused. Several CNS pathologic effects have been described in association with its abuse. These include neurovascular complications such as microvascular ischemic changes or ischemic stroke. A rare form of leukoencephalopathy has been described in those abusers who inhale heroin vapors. Other neurologic complications include atrophy and various infectious processes. Solvent inhalation is a common practice among adolescents and young adults secondary to its ease of access and low cost. The most important component of industrial solvents is toluene. Complications of toluene abuse may be either acute, showing no neuroradiological changes, or chronic, characterized by cerebral and cerebellar demyelination as well as atrophy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Atrophy
  • Brain Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / complications
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Solvents / toxicity*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Toluene / toxicity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Solvents
  • Toluene