Striatal dopamine nerve terminal markers in human, chronic methamphetamine users

Nat Med. 1996 Jun;2(6):699-703. doi: 10.1038/nm0696-699.


Methamphetamine is a drug that is significantly abused worldwide, Although long-lasting depletion of dopamine and other dopamine nerve terminal markers has been reported in striatum of nonhuman primates receiving very high doses of the psychostimulant, no information is available for humans. We found reduced levels of three dopamine nerve terminal markers (dopamine, tyrosine hydroxylase and the dopamine transporter) in post-mortem striatum (nucleus accumbens, caudate, putamen) of chronic methamphetamine users. However, levels of DOPA decarboxylase and the vesicular monoamine transporter, known to be reduced in Parkinson's disease, were normal. This suggests that chronic exposure to methamphetamine does not cause permanent degeneration of striatal dopamine nerve terminals at the doses used by the young subjects in our study. However, the dopamine reduction might explain some of the dysphoric effects of the drug, whereas the decreased dopamine transporter could provide the basis for dose escalation occurring in some methamphetamine users.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autopsy
  • Carrier Proteins / chemistry
  • Chronic Disease
  • Corpus Striatum / chemistry*
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects*
  • Dopa Decarboxylase / chemistry
  • Dopamine / chemistry*
  • Dopamine Agents / administration & dosage
  • Dopamine Agents / adverse effects
  • Dopamine Agents / pharmacology
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Transport Proteins*
  • Methamphetamine / administration & dosage
  • Methamphetamine / adverse effects
  • Methamphetamine / pharmacology*
  • Nerve Endings / drug effects*
  • Nerve Endings / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins*
  • Neuropeptides*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / chemistry
  • Putamen / chemistry
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / chemistry
  • Vesicular Biogenic Amine Transport Proteins
  • Vesicular Monoamine Transport Proteins


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Dopamine Agents
  • Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Vesicular Biogenic Amine Transport Proteins
  • Vesicular Monoamine Transport Proteins
  • Methamphetamine
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Dopa Decarboxylase
  • Dopamine