Ann N Y Acad Sci 2010 Jun;1199:52-68
Scientific & Medical Affairs, Sigma tau, Pomezia 00040, Roma, Italy.
Encephalopathy is evidenced as an altered mental state with various neurological symptoms, such as memory and cognitive problems. The type of a substance-evoked encephalopathy will depend on the drug, substance, or combination being abused. The categories into which we could place the various abused substances could be tentatively divided into stimulants, amphetamines, hallucinogens, narcotics, inhalants, anesthetics, anabolic steroids, and antipsychotics/antidepressants. Other factors that may underlie encephalopathy, such as infectious agents, environmental, and other factors have also to be taken into account. Drugs of abuse can be highly toxic to the CNS following acute, but more so in chronic exposure, and can produce significant damage to other organs, such as the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. The damage to these organs may be at least partially reversible when drug abuse is stopped but CNS damage from repeated or prolonged abuse is often irreversible. The major pathways for the organ and CNS toxicity could be related to ischemic events as well as increased cell damage due to metabolic or mitochondrial dysfunction resulting in increased excitotoxicity, reduced energy production, and lowered antioxidant potential. These susceptibilities could be strengthened by the use of antioxidants to combat free radicals (e.g., vitamin E, lipoic acid); trying to improve energy generation by using mitochondriotropic/metabolic compounds (e.g., thiamine, coenzyme Q10, carnitine, riboflavin); by reducing excitotoxicity (e.g., glutamate antagonists) and other possible strategies, such as robust gene response, need to be investigated further. The drug-abuse-evoked encephalopathy still needs to be studied further to enable better preventative and protective strategies.