Technische Universität München

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Cocaine and heroine activate the inflammatory response, including the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines like TNF-α. Cocaine induces suppression of thymus dependent T-lymphocyte response as well as increases IFN-γ production. The stimulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines without a parallel stimulation of innate immune cell function (such as phagocytosis) can exacerbate inflammatory diseases and it could increase the susceptibility to infections.
Amphetamines influence the immune functions as a potent immunosuppressor. Several investigations indicate that amphetamines and its derivatives cause a decrease in leukocyte and lymphocyte (particularly T helper lymphocyte) numbers in the peripheral blood. In addition, amphetamines were found to suppress cytokine and antibody production, lymphoproliferative response, as well as to decrease natural killer cells cytotoxicity (NKCC) and the induction of cytotoxic T lymphocytes. In addition, amphetamines decrease in vitro and in vivo phagocytosis. The immunosuppressive effects of amphetamines however are not standardized. Some authors reported a possible stimulation of the immune system responses. It was demonstrated that amphetamines can lead to an increase in NKCC and the number of large granular lymphocytes identified with NK cells. Nevertheless, the precise mechanism of amphetamine-immune interactions is still not fully understood, above all with respect to biomedical side effects. In fact, stimulants also affect the neuroendocrine system which is linked to the immune system. Alterations in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis would also affect the immune response, because many changes on the immune response are mediated by catecholamines and glucocorticoids.
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