Does Substance Abuse Speed Up Motor Onset of Huntington Disease?

The researchers compared tobacco, alcohol and drug abusers for average age of motor onset
The researchers compared tobacco, alcohol and drug abusers for average age of motor onset

A study published in Neurology reported that substances of abuse appeared to have a strong effect on the age at motor onset in patients with Huntington disease (HD)

Researchers from The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, conducted a retrospective, observational study of the Enroll-HD database to explore the relationship between substance abuse and age at motor onset in HD patients. The study patients were categorized into one of three abuse groups: tobacco abusers (n=566), alcohol abusers (n=374), and drug abusers (n=217). A cohort of 692 patients with no substance abuse served as the control group. Researchers compared the average age at motor onset of patients in the substance abuse groups vs. the control group. 

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Compared to the control group, the average difference in age at motor onset of tobacco abusers was 2.3 years (P<0.0001), 1.0 year (P=0.04) for alcohol abusers, and 3.3 years (P<0.0001) for drug abusers. "In all substance abuse groups, the age at motor onset was lowered to a greater degree in female participants than it was in male participants," added study author Jordan L. Schultz, PharmD.

In conclusion, substance abuse had a strong impact on the age at motor onset in HD patients with a more pronounced effect in female patients vs. male patients. Findings from this study "may provide a safe intervention capable of adding disease-free years to patients with HD," noted Dr. Schultz.

For more information visit neurology.org.