Is Parkinson’s disease in the future for Jesse Pinkman of ‘Breaking Bad’?
| October 08, 2013
AMC's television series "Breaking Bad" depicted diverse characters on both sides of the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine. The popular series, which ended its six-year run with a series finale Sept. 29, was known for its raw, graphic and violent depiction of the culture and science behind the making and distribution of illicit drugs.
One character key in the manufacturing of the street drug, Jesse Pinkman, was initially shown as a burnout, corrosive drug addict. There were also numerous times throughout the series that he was shown having his head pummeled.
As his character evolved over six seasons, viewers discovered how sensitive and vulnerable Jesse is. Audiences became sympathetic to Jesse's plight. A Washington Post review of the finale stated, “Some of us wanted nothing more from Sunday night than a happy-ish end for Jesse.”
Series creator Vince Gilligan describes his vision for Jesse's future: “The romantic in me wants to believe that he gets away with it and moves to Alaska and has a peaceful life communing with nature."
What is in Jesse Pinkman's future?
For starters, methamphetamine users have been found to have a greater likelihood of developing Parkinson’s disease. Given that head injuries also may predispose a person to developing Parkinson’s disease, Jesse's future is grim.
Parkinson’s disease symptoms start to occur when 60 to 80 percent of the brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for smooth movements, are damaged. The majority of cells producing dompamine are in the brain region called the substantia nigra, and the substantia nigra is what is damaged in Parkinson’s disease.
Dopamine is also involved in the brain structures caudate and putamen. These structures are damaged by the use of methamphetamine, where up to 97 percent of cells have been found to be damaged in the caudate and 50 percent in the putamen.
The caudate is involved in cognitive functions, and the near complete destruction of the dopamine function in the caudate would explain reports of cognitive dysfunction — frequently disabling — in some drug users. Scientific models demonstrating methamphetamine use and the movement disorders associated with Parkinson's disease show that an increased body temperature increases the risk of the movement dysfunctions.
Researchers conclude that methamphetamine-induced Parkinson's disease may depend on a disrupted thermoregulatory mechanism. This has serious implications as methamphetamine use often occurs in venues such as dance raves where activity and environment can cause higher than normal body temperature.
A survey in 2012 into the use of methamphetamine reported that approximately 1.2 million people reported using methamphetamine in the past year, and 440,000 reported using it in the past month. The average age of new methamphetamine users in 2012 was 20 years old.
Methamphetamine can reduce the levels of dopamine neurotransmitters long before any movement symptoms appear. This is why in the early stages of meth consumption, a drug user will not show symptoms of motor decline.
Given the vast numbers of methamphetamine users in the United States, the potential for increased Parkinson’s disease is likely to become a huge public health problem. It is going to impact users that match the profile of actor Aaron Paul's fictional character in "Breaking Bad," Jesse.
A review for the New York Daily News took a cynical approach to Jesse Pinkman’s future, "Jesse careened off in a car, driving well over the speed limit ... The suggestion was that Jesse also was unlikely to live to collect Social Security, which is presumably part of his punishment.”
What's more likely is that if Jesse survives, he will be collecting disability.
- 7 gifts your customers want this holiday season
- 10 Great office holiday decorating ideas
- Express your gratitude with unique trucker gifts!
- The ultimate office holiday gift guide