The prevalence, severity, and location of white matter signal hyperintensities (WMH) on brain magnetic resonance images were compared in patients with cocaine or opiate dependence and healthy subjects. Patients with cocaine (n=32) and opiate dependence (n=32), whose diagnoses were confirmed with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV, and age- and sex-matched healthy subjects (n=32) were scanned using a 1.5 T whole body GE magnetic resonance scanner. Axial proton-density and T2-weighted images were obtained as well as fluid-attenuated inversion recovery axial images. The severity of WMH was assessed separately for deep (and insular) and periventricular WMH, using a modified composite version of the rating scales of Fazekas and Coffey. The cocaine-dependent group had greater severity of WMH than the opiate-dependent group, which in turn had greater severity of WMH than the healthy comparison group (odds ratios=2.54 and 2.90, respectively). The cocaine-dependent group had greater lesion severity of deep and insular WMH than the opiate-dependent group and the healthy comparison group (odds ratio>3.25 for deep WMH; odds ratio>4.38 for insular WMH). For periventricular WMH, there were no significant differences between the three groups. The frontal lobes were the predominant locations of WMH in both substance-dependent groups. The greater prevalence and severity of WMH in cocaine-dependent subjects than in opiate-dependent subjects may reflect the fact that cocaine induces more ischemia via vasoconstriction than opiates. Also, there was a trend for lower WMH severity in substance-dependent women relative to the healthy comparison group, possibly due to estrogen's protective effect against cerebrovascular accidents.
- Brain magnetic resonance imaging
- Cocaine-related disorders
- Opiate-related disorders
- White matter hyperintensities