Boy Scouts see effects of drug abuse

Computer graphics show long-term effects of different substances on the human brain.

The Fairfield Ledger/December 4, 2003
By Erik Gable

A group of Boy Scouts got a lesson in drug abuse they wouldn't soon forget Wednesday night.

Many schoolchildren have heard the standard "drugs are bad" lecture at some point in their lives. In a presentation to members of Boy Scout Troop 108 and Pack 108, Alarik Arenander, director of the Brain Research Institute at Maharishi University of Management, went a step farther, showing the boys exactly what effect different drugs have on the human brain.

Arenander used images from a technology called Single Photon Emission Computer Tomography, in which a person's brain is scanned and "slices" of the brain are mapped by a computer.

The images showed how much blood was flowing to different parts of the brain, assigning different colors to different levels of blood flow.

A normal brain has more or less equal blood flow throughout, Arenander explained, whereas drugs can cause blood flow to be reduced to certain areas, creating the appearance of "holes" in the computer image.

The areas with reduced blood flow, Arenander said, are the ones that control decision-making, impulse control and feelings -- and the effects can last beyond when a person is directly under the influence.

"Drugs hijack your brain," Arenander told the audience, displaying two computer images side by side on a television set. "On the left is a normal-looking brain. On the right is a nasty brain."

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