Did Cocaine Abuse Give Robin Williams Parkinson’s?

When Robin Williams committed suicide last week, his publicist announced he had been suffering from severe depression. Within days, his wife revealed he had also been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and was experiencing the early stages of the deadly disease.

Shocked experts and fans believed that the combination of the two ailments pushed the beloved comedian over the edge and caused him to take his own life.

For years, Williams had openly discussed his battle with depression and also with substance abuse. Board-certified neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock believes that Williams’ substance abuse — specifically his use of cocaine — was at the root of his Parkinson’s disease. In fact, a major study has found that cocaine users are at much higher risk for the brain illness.

“Robin said in interviews that he used a lot of cocaine in his youth and for many years,” Dr. Blaylock tells Newsmax Health. “Cocaine triggers excitotoxicity in the area of the brain pathological for Parkinson’s disease (PD).”

Excitotoxicity is the process by which nerve cells in the brain are damaged and killed by the excessive release of certain neurotransmitters, such as glutamate, that cause brain cells to become overexcited and die.

With PD, the brain cells that produce dopamine die, which affects the nervous system causing shaking and difficulties with balance. Some patients may have problems walking and talking. In addition, symptoms may include depression.

A 2005 study at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital found that people who abuse cocaine increase their risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. They found that cocaine altered nerves in the substantia nigra region of the brain, making them more vulnerable to a toxin (MPTP) known to cause symptoms of PD.

Williams admitted he suffered cocaine addiction in the 70s and early 80s, but the untimely death of his friend John Belushi from a drug overdose caused him to quit using drugs and drinking. He never took cocaine again, he told the Guardian newspaper.

“I knew (cocaine) would kill me,” he said.   Not only that, he didn’t enjoy the drug. “Cocaine – paranoid and impotent, what fun,” he said sarcastically. “There was no bit of me thinking, ‘Ooh, let’s go back to that.’ Useless conversations until midnight, waking up at dawn feeling like a vampire on a day pass. No.”

Still, alcohol and depression were constant battles, although his wife said he was sober at the time of his death.

However, the heavy cocaine use of his past may have already done its damage, setting up Williams to develop Parkinson’s in the future, said Dr. Blaylock.

“I have tried many times to warn foolish youth of the association of Parkinson’s with cocaine,” says Dr. Blaylock. “Cases like Robin Williams are tragic.”

Source:  NewsmaxHealth.   19th August 2014

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