(ECNS) -- A Chinese research team has found that addiction to cough syrup causes structural and functional abnormalities very similar to illegal drugs like heroin, reported the Science and Technology Daily.
Studies of addiction to drugs for chronic disease, especially nonprescription cough medicines, seriously lag behind in China, while abuse of cough medicine has become distinctively popular among young males, according to Tian Junzhang, director of Guangdong No. 2 Provincial People's Hospital.
Tian's research team studied 30 heroin addicts aged 20 to 50, and 80 cough-syrup addicts in the same age range, as well as 30 heroin addicts who received methadone.
The eight-year study showed that brain function and structure are affected in cough-syrup addicts, especially in the brain region related to reward circuits, cognitive control and decision-making.
Tian said a better understanding of the physiological mechanisms of cough-syrup addiction can help improve diagnosis and treatment.
Jiang Guihua, director of the medical imaging department at the hospital, also said abuse of medicine and other drugs thins the brain's cortex—the area of the brain involved in conscious and complicated thinking—and addicts tend to be impulsive and enjoy gambling.