Scary photo shows drug ‘eating away’ brain


These brain scans show the frightening reality of taking too much cocaine.

The images show how the class A drug can "eat away" at your brain, leaving you with disabilities - and at worst, dead.


It's a rare but severe side-effect of taking the drug, doctors have warned after they treated a man who was taken to hospital by his parents in Msida, Malta, The Sun reports.

The 45-year-old was confused and behaving bizarrely, before medics realised he was suffering cocaine-induced toxic leucoencephalopathy.

Dr Ylenia Abdilla, who treated the unnamed man, explained: "It's a rare disorder which can cause significant disability."

Sharing the medical case report, she added: "This case study is intended to increase awareness of this condition.

"The prognosis is generally poor and can be rapidly fatal, however some rare cases recover fully, as is seen in this case report."


Dr Abdilla and colleagues at the Mater Dei Hospital in Malta, treated the man two to three days after he had last taken cocaine.

The 45-year-old regular coke user was rushed into A&E by his parents after two days of being confused.

The MRI scans of a regular cocaine user reveal the damage the drug can cause over time. Picture: BMJ Publishing Group Limited 2019
The MRI scans of a regular cocaine user reveal the damage the drug can cause over time. Picture: BMJ Publishing Group Limited 2019

Doctors noted his pupils were dilated and "briskly reactive to light", and that the patient was "not cooperative, unable to perform simple tasks and was not following commands".

Dr Abdilla's team sent their patient for MRI scans on his brain.

They revealed damage to the white matter in the brain, and doctors diagnosed him with the rare condition cocaine-induced toxic leucoencephalopathy.


Dr Abdilla said: "It may present in several different ways.

"These include an altered level of consciousness, confusion, impaired language, altered vision, fever or spasticity.

"Prognosis is poor - the condition progresses rapidly and often leads to death.

"Rarely it has been reported to result in complete recovery, as in our case."

Doctors treated the man, giving him steroids, a plasma exchange and antibodies.

He was transferred to a rehab facility, where he showed signs of improving.

After four months, he was walking independently, and coping with most aspects of daily life.

The patient was treated for anxiety and managed to stay off drugs - meaning he was allowed home a month later.

One year after he was admitted to hospital, the man returned for a follow up.

He had not used drugs for a year, and while his brain scan still showed "persistent white matter changes", neurological tests were normal.

Dr Abdilla's team noted: "Apart from some complaints of low mood, he was fully independent and had returned to his previous functional status."

According to The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre's (NDARC) 2018 Drug Trends report, Australians are consuming record levels of cocaine.

Researchers found nearly 60 per cent of respondents (59 per cent) reported using cocaine in the past six months, up from 48 per cent during the last phase of interviews in 2017.

It's the highest-ever recorded level since the annual Drug Trends reports began in 2003.

This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission