Adelaide researchers have discovered similarities in the brains of young people using ice, or methamphetamine, to those of older people with Parkinson's disease.
The similarity was uncovered in research by the University of South Australia (UniSA).
School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences senior researcher fellow Dr Gabrielle Todd said a part of the brain controlling movement called the substantia nigra was abnormally bright in brain scans of methamphetamine users and in Parkinson's patients.
"What is new is our demonstration that young people that use this drug already have clinical signs of Parkinson's and they have a brain change that we know is a significant risk factor for getting Parkinson's disease in humans," she said.
Dr Todd said the bodily movements of young methamphetamine users was also akin to those of people with Parkinson's disease.
She warned the clinical changes could be apparent after a relatively low level of methamphetamine use.
"So it doesn't appear that people have to use methamphetamine on lots of occasions to have changes in movement-related brain regions.
"The neurologist picks up these symptoms even though they're completely unaware of the person's drug history and yet that person is still able to detect Parkinson-like changes in the way that the person is moving."
UniSA was granted $230,000 from the Fay Fuller Foundation to continue its research into the long-term effects of methamphetamine use.