Tobacco manufacturers are moving into the manufacture and sale of electronic cigarettes, according to CNBC. The business, Bonnie Herzog at Wells Fargo said, brought in $400 million to $500 million in sales in 2012 and will "at least" double in 2013.
“We’re actually predicting that consumption of e-cigs could surpass consumption of traditional cigarettes in the next decade,” said Bonnie Herzog of Wells Fargo. Last year, tobacco giant Lorillard paid $135 million for the e-cigarette company Blu, while RJ Reynolds created its own e-cigarette brand.
E-cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine in the form of a vapor, which is inhaled by the user. They usually have a rechargeable, battery-operated heating element, a replaceable cartridge with nicotine or other chemicals and a device called an atomizer that converts the contents of the cartridge into a vapor when heated. E-cigarettes often are made to look like regular cigarettes.
John Cameron, CEO of the e-cigarette company Safecig, says people who want to quit smoking often are not satisfied by using nicotine gum or patches, because they miss the act of smoking.
E-cigarettes do have potential downsides, Herzog notes. She says some critics are concerned there could be potential health risks. The products are expensive, she added. One e-cigarette made by the company Njoy cost almost $9 at a California convenience store. The product claims to be the equivalent of two packs of cigarettes.
Almost one-quarter of the nation’s high school seniors say they have smoked marijuana in the past month, and just over 36 percent admit to using the drug in the past year, according to the 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey. Researchers at the University of Michigan who conducted the annual survey found 6.5 percent of high school seniors smoked marijuana daily.
Among 10th graders, 3.5 percent say they use marijuana daily, while 17 percent report using the drug in the past month, and 28 percent in the past year.
“We are increasingly concerned that regular or daily use of marijuana is robbing too many young people of their potential to achieve and excel in school or other aspects of life,” National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow said in a news release. “THC, a key ingredient in marijuana, alters the connectivity of the hippocampus a brain area related to learning and memory. In addition, we know from recent research that marijuana use that begins during adolescence can lower IQ and contribute to reduced cognitive abilities during adulthood.”
The survey of approximately 45,000 eighth, 10th and 12th graders found fewer students perceive marijuana as harmful, compared with previous years, Bloomberg.com reports. Researchers found 41.7 percent of eighth graders view occasional use of marijuana as dangerous, and 66.9 percent view regular use as harmful. These rates are the lowest since the survey began asking this age group about their perceptions of marijuana in 1991.
Among 12th graders, 20.6 percent view occasional marijuana use as risky, the lowest rate since 1983. Among this age group, 44.1 percent view regular use as harmful, the lowest rate since 1979.
“Yet another year of increases in childhood marijuana use is deeply disturbing as these can spell real trouble for young kids later on,” Steve President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org said in a statement. “Heavy use of marijuana – particularly beginning in adolescence – brings the risk of serious problems and our own data have shown it can lead to involvement with alcohol and other drugs as well. Kids who begin using drugs or alcohol as teenagers are more likely to struggle with substance use disorders when compared to those who start using later in life. This is of particular concern because we know that 90 percent of addictions have roots in the teenage years.”
A controversial surgical procedure being studied in China attempts to cure addiction by destroying parts of the brain’s “pleasure centers,” Time.com reports. The research is being conducted on alcoholics and people addicted to heroin.
The Chinese Ministry of Health banned the procedure in 2004. Some doctors were allowed to continue to perform the operation for research purposes. In a recent study published in the journal Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery, researchers called the surgery “a feasible method for alleviating psychological dependence on opiate drugs.”
They note more than half of the 60 patients in the study had lasting side effects. These included memory problems and loss of motivation. After five years, 47 percent of participants were still drug free.
That compares with a 30-40 percent rate of significant recovery with conventional addiction treatment, the news outlet states. Experts feel the small increase in success rates with the surgery is not worth the large risk.
Patients are awake during the procedure, to minimize the risk of destroying parts of the brain involved in movement, consciousness or sensation. A surgeon uses heat to destroy cells in small sections of the part of the brain containing large amounts of brain chemicals called dopamine and endogenous opioids, which are involved in desire and pleasure.
The article notes that the procedure risks permanently damaging a person’s ability to have longings and feel joy.
Experts say they are opposed to using the procedure to treat addiction. “To lesion this region that is thought to be involved in all types of motivation and pleasure risks crippling a human being,” Dr. Charles O’Brien, head of the Center for Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania, told Time.com.
A study reported in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication; show how overuse of alcohol can produce lasting changes in the brain, even after alcohol abuse stops. Fly larvae fed on alcohol-spiked food for a period of days grow dependent on those spirits for learning.
The report also provides evidence that the very human experience of alcoholism can be explored in part with studies conducted in fruit flies and other animals, the researchers say.
"Our evidence supports the long-ago proposed idea that functional ethanol tolerance is produced by adaptations that counter the effects of ethanol, and that these adaptations help the nervous system function more normally when ethanol is present," says Brooks Robinson of The University of Texas at Austin.
"However, when ethanol is withheld, the adaptations persist to give the nervous system abnormal properties that manifest themselves as symptoms of withdrawal."
Robinson and his colleagues found that alcohol consumption, at a level equivalent to mild intoxication in humans, at first impeded learning by fly larvae. More specifically, those larvae had some trouble in associating an unpleasant heat pulse with an otherwise attractive odor in comparison to larvae that had not been drinking alcohol.
After a six-day drinking binge, however, those larvae adapted and could learn as well as normal larvae could. In fact, the alcohol-adapted animals learned poorly when their ethanol was taken away from them. And, when given alcohol back, their learning deficit was erased.
Robinson says that the findings are the first proof of cognitive ethanol dependence in an invertebrate, suggesting that some of ethanol's ability to change behavior must begin at the cellular level. After all, flies and humans share many of the same features at the level of individual neurons, and not so much in terms of the way those neurons are put together into working circuits.
The study also shows that the "responses to ethanol that addict and plague us" have a very long evolutionary history, Robinson says. And that means that genetic analysis in flies might yield some very important answers.
HealthDay reports a study in the journal Biological Psychiatry suggests a specific genetic variation may increase the risk of developing marijuana-related psychosis.
Researchers found people with the variation were twice as likely to develop a psychotic disorder when using marijuana. The risk increased up to sevenfold if they used marijuana daily.
The findings could help lead to new treatments for marijuana-induced psychosis, the researchers say.
Researchers noted that evidence is increasing that marijuana use during the teenage years may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia.
Their study of more than 700 people found marijuana-related psychosis was linked with a variation in the AKT1 gene. The gene is involved in the regulation of the brain chemical dopamine, which plays an important role in mental health, the article notes.
“Our findings help to explain why one cannabis user develops psychosis while his friends continue smoking without problems,” the researchers from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry note in a news release.
A study published last year suggested marijuana may accelerate the onset of psychotic disorders in some young users. Researchers conducted a review of the literature examining the effects of marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs on the onset of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. They found patients with psychotic disorders who smoked marijuana at an early age developed symptoms almost three years sooner than those who did not. The link was strongest among those who started smoking at ages 12 to 15 or younger.
According to the Massachusetts Health Council, Massachusetts continues to struggle with the use of illegal drugs including heroin, while tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the commonwealth, reports the Associated Press.
Eastern Massachusetts appears to have been particularly hard hit by the use of illicit drugs, according to the report released Wednesday, which brings together findings from recent studies by state and federal agencies.
The report points to a federal 2011 study that found the Boston area had the highest rate of emergency department visits involving illicit drugs of any large metropolitan region in the U.S., topping New York City, Chicago and Detroit.
The Boston region — which includes Suffolk, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth and Essex counties, plus two counties in New Hampshire — also ranked first among the 11 major metropolitan regions for hospital visits specifically involving heroin, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration study that summarized findings from 2009.
The Boston region’s rate of emergency room visits involving heroin was 251 per 100,000 residents. That’s nearly four times the national rate of 69 per 100,000 residents.
Gov. Deval Patrick called the report ‘‘worrisome,’’ and said part of the problem was the ready availability of more potent heroin.
‘‘As long as we have a problem and a problem of the scope that was reported on, there is more work to be done,’’ he told reporters Tuesday.
‘‘I'm sure that the public health folks in Boston and I would suspect and indeed encourage our team at the state level to see what those other cities are doing that might teach us some things,’’ he added.
The report also stated that nearly 9,000 Massachusetts residents die each year from the effects of smoking, despite efforts to curb nicotine use.
A Los Angeles Times investigation finds a small number of doctors are linked to a large percentage of prescription drug-related deaths in Southern California.
The newspaper found that in almost half of the 3,733 deaths from prescription drugs in four Southern California counties, those who died had a doctor’s prescription for at least one drug that caused or contributed to the death. In many cases, deaths were caused by use of multiple drugs, sometimes prescribed by more than one doctor. In some cases, prescription drugs were mixed with alcohol or illicit drugs.
The investigation found 71 doctors, or 0.1 percent of all practicing physicians in the four counties, wrote prescriptions for drugs that caused or contributed to 298 deaths. Each of those doctors prescribed drugs to three or more patients who died, the newspaper found. Four of the doctors had 10 or more patients who died from prescription drug overdoses.
Most of the doctors linked with three or more fatal overdoses were pain specialists, general practitioners or psychiatrists. They tended to work alone, without the scrutiny of peers. Four have been convicted of drug offenses in connection with the prescriptions they wrote; a fifth is awaiting trial on charges of second-degree murder in the overdose deaths of three patients.
Experts said the findings should lead to closer scrutiny of physicians’ prescribing practices.
R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said, “Do I think this has the potential to change the game in the way it’s being looked at and being addressed, both at the state and federal level? Yes, I do.”
Over the past two decades, methamphetamine has become one of the most common drugs of abuse around the world. In the United States alone there are said to be more than 400,000 current users, and in some states, including California, meth accounts for more primary drug abuse treatment admissions than any other drug. Meth has characteristics that make it more addictive than other common drugs of abuse, and partly for this reason, there are no approved treatments for meth addiction.
In recent years, scientists at TSRI and other institutions have taken the innovative approach of developing vaccines against addictive drugs. These vaccines evoke antibody responses against drug molecules, just as traditional vaccines evoke antibody responses against viruses or bacteria. Anti-drug antibodies are meant to grab hold of drug molecules and keep them from getting into the brain - preventing the drug from giving the user a high and removing the incentive for taking the drug. Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have performed successful tests of an experimental methamphetamine vaccine on rats. Vaccinated animals that received the drug were largely protected from typical signs of meth intoxication. If the vaccine proves effective in humans too, it could become the first specific treatment for meth addiction, which is estimated to affect 25 million people worldwide.
"This is an early-stage study, but its results are comparable to those for other drug vaccines that have then gone to clinical trials," said Michael A. Taffe, an associate professor in TSRI's addiction science group, known as the Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders. Taffe is the senior author of the study, which is currently in press with the journal Biological Psychiatry.
In the new study, members of Taffe's laboratory, including Research Associate Michelle L. Miller, who was lead author of the study, investigated the MH6 vaccine in more depth.
Using a different experimental setup, they found again that it prevented a rise in body temperature and burst of wheel-running hyperactivity that otherwise occur after meth exposure. Underlying these promising effects on behavioral measures was a robust antibody response, which in vaccinated rats kept more of the drug in the bloodstream and out of the nervous system, compared to control rats. "These are encouraging results that we'd like to follow up with further animal tests, and, we hope, with clinical tests in humans some day," said Miller.
"I think that this vaccine has all the right features to allow it to move forward in development," said Janda. "It certainly works better than the other active vaccines for meth that have been reported so far."
Reuters reports that teens who try menthol cigarettes are more likely to become smokers than those who start experimenting with regular cigarettes, a new study finds. The research included more than 47,000 students in middle school and high school.
The study appears in the journal Addiction, and found that young people who try menthol cigarettes are 80 percent more likely to become regular smokers, according to researchers from RTI International, a research institute in North Carolina.
About 19 million Americans smoke menthol cigarettes. While sales of menthol cigarettes in the U.S. have risen between 4 and 5 percent during the past decade, sales of most regular cigarettes have decreased during the same period. Newport and KOOL are the two most popular menthol brands.
Critics of menthol cigarettes say the additive makes them more appealing to new smokers, and may be likely to lead to addiction.
“This study adds additional evidence that menthol cigarettes are a potential risk factor for kids becoming established, adult smokers,” said study leader James Nonnemaker, of the research institute RTI International in North Carolina.
An analysis of two medications used to treat alcoholism concludes they are a good first option for people who want treatment but wish to avoid an inpatient program.
The analysis looked at acamprosate (Campral) and naltrexone (ReVia), Reuters reports. The medications may be helpful for people in different stages of recovery, because they have different effects on the brain, the researchers report in the journal Addiction.
The researchers looked at 64 trials of the two drugs, which included a total of 11,000 people. They found acamprosate was better at helping people who were not current drinkers stay sober, while naltrexone was more effective in helping people cut back on heavy drinking and avoid cravings.
Both drugs were more effective when used after participants had not been drinking for at least a few days before starting treatment, or had been through a detox program, the article noted.
Lead researcher Natalya Maisel from the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in Menlo Park, California, found that eight people dependent on alcohol would need to be treated with acamprosate in order for one additional person to quit drinking. Nine people would need to take naltrexone in order to keep one from starting to drink heavily again.
Veterans who smoke while trying to stop drinking have a more difficult time becoming sober than their peers who don’t smoke, a new study published in Frontiers in Neuropharmacology, concludes.
According to Medical News Today, researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco, found smoking while trying to stop drinking impairs memory, learning and other cognitive skills. And this interferes with achieving sobriety.
“Given our strong and consistent research findings in both veterans and civilians on the ill effects of chronic smoking, we truly hope to see smoking cessation programs become increasingly available for our current active-duty war fighters,” lead researcher Timothy Dr. Durazzo said in a news release.
He noted that active duty U.S. soldiers smoke at around a 10 percent higher rate than the civilian population.
After serving in the military, they are more likely than the general population to abuse alcohol. In 2007, over 375,000 VA patients had a substance use disorder diagnosis, and nearly 500,000 additional patients had a nicotine dependence, Dr. Durazzo noted. He added that alcohol and cigarettes have a greater negative effect on the brain when they are combined.
“Our results suggest that it is a high priority to offer comprehensive smoking cessation treatment for all patients, especially for those seeking treatment for alcohol and substance abuse, given the high prevalence of smoking in these individuals,” he stated.
He studied 70 veterans who sought treatment for alcohol dependence, and examined the effects of smoking on cognitive function after one month of abstinence. Smokers performed significantly worse than non-smokers on measures of learning and memory, intelligence, processing speed and cognitive abilities. Smoking for longer periods was associated with worse cognitive function.
A new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology , links smoking in adolescence with an increased risk of early death due to smoking-related cancer or heart disease. Teen smokers have a higher risk of early death even if they stop smoking by middle age.
At greatest risk are those who start smoking while they are teenagers, and continue throughout their lives. They were twice as likely to die at an early age, compared with nonsmokers. Those who smoked during college but then quit had a 29 percent increased risk of early death.
“The risks are cumulative,” lead researcher David Batty of the University College London, told Reuters. “If you smoke across a life course, you’re at much higher risk than if you just smoked around the college years. The positive message is, it’s never too late to stop.”
The researchers used data from an ongoing study of more than 28,000 men, who started college at Harvard University between 1916 and 1950. About 10,000 reported smoking in college. The participants were sent follow-up surveys about smoking during the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Almost half of the participants died over the next five decades.
Reuters reports that young men who had smoked marijuana recreationally were twice as likely to be diagnosed with testicular cancer than men who have never used marijuana, according to a U.S. study.
Researchers whose findings appeared in the journal Cancer said the link appeared to be specific to a type of tumor known as nonseminoma.
"This is the third study consistently demonstrating a greater than doubling of risk of this particularly undesirable subtype of testicular cancer among young men with marijuana use," said Victoria Cortessis of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, who led the study.
"I myself feel like we need to take this seriously now," she added, noting that the rates of testicular cancer have been rising inexplicably over the past century.
Cortessis and her colleagues used data from 163 young men who had been diagnosed with testicular cancer and nearly 300 men in a comparison group without the disease. Both groups had been interviewed about their health and drug use between 1987 and 1994.
Among the men with cancer, 81 percent had used marijuana at some point, whereas that was the case for 70 percent of the comparison group.
By contrast, cocaine use was linked to a smaller risk of the tumors. That's important because it signals that men who have been diagnosed with cancer aren't just more honest about their drug use, thereby creating a spurious link between marijuana and cancer, Cortessis said.
It's not entirely clear how marijuana would influence men's cancer risk, but Cortessis said developing testicles may somehow respond to the drug's main active ingredient.
"It is hard to imagine a scenario whereby it is due to chance and I can't think of a systematic bias that would cause this. I will feel very confident that this is cause and effect once we have worked out the biology," she said.
According to the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens, the 17th annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASAColumbiaTM), nearly 9 out of 10 (86 percent) of American high-school students say that some classmates are drugging, drinking and smoking during the school day.
High school students say that about 17 percent of their classmates (2.8 million teens) drug, drink and smoke during the school day.
The teen survey revealed that 44 percent of high schoolers’ know a student who sells drugs at their school. Asked what drugs students sell on school grounds, 91 percent said marijuana; 24 percent said prescription drugs; nine percent said cocaine; and seven percent said ecstasy.
The survey also found that 75 percent of 12- to 17-year olds say that seeing pictures of teens partying with alcohol or marijuana on Facebook, MySpace or another social networking site encourages other teens to want to party like that. Forty-five percent of teens (10.9 million) have seen pictures online of other teens getting drunk, passed out or using drugs. Forty-seven percent of teens who have seen these pictures say that it seems like the teens in the pictures are having a good time.
For the first time this year the survey asked 12- to 17-year olds if they are ever left alone without adult supervision overnight. Nearly one-third of teens (29 percent) say they have been left alone overnight.
Compared to teens who are never home alone overnight, those who are left home alone overnight are:
• Twice as likely to have used marijuana;
• Almost twice as likely to have used alcohol;
• Almost three times likelier to have used tobacco.
Parental expectations, particularly expressing strong disapproval of teen substance use, can be a decisive factor in a teen’s decision to drink alcohol, use drugs or smoke tobacco.
Compared to teens who say that their parents would be extremely upset to find out that their child smokes, drinks or
uses marijuana, those who say their parents would not be extremely upset are:
• Eight and a half times likelier to say it’s okay for teens their age to use marijuana;
• Ten times likelier to say it’s okay for teens their age to get drunk; and
• Nine times likelier to say it’s okay for teens their age to smoke cigarettes.
“The take away from this survey for parents is to talk to their children and get engaged in their children’s lives. They should ask their children what they’re seeing at school and online. It takes a teen to know what’s going on in the teen world, but it takes parents to help their children navigate that world,” said Emily Feinstein, CASAColumbia’s Senior Policy Analyst and the project director of the teen survey.
ScienceDaily reports that the persistent, dependent use of marijuana before age 18 has been shown to cause lasting harm to a person's intelligence, attention and memory, according to an international research team.
Among a long-range study cohort of more than 1,000 New Zealanders, individuals who started using cannabis in adolescence and used it for years afterward showed an average decline in IQ of 8 points when their age 13 and age 38 IQ tests were compared. Quitting pot did not appear to reverse the loss either, said lead researcher Madeline Meier, a post-doctoral researcher at Duke University. The results appear online Aug. 27 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The key variable in this is the age of onset for marijuana use and the brain's development, Meier said. Study subjects who didn't take up pot until they were adults with fully-formed brains did not show similar mental declines. Before age 18, however, the brain is still being organized and remodeled to become more efficient, she said, and may be more vulnerable to damage from drugs.
"Marijuana is not harmless, particularly for adolescents," said Meier, who produced this finding from the long term Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. The study has followed a group of 1,037 children born in 1972-73 in Dunedin, New Zealand from birth to age 38 and is led by Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi, psychologists who hold dual appointments at Duke and the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London.
About 5 percent of the study group were considered marijuana-dependent, or were using more than once a week before age 18. A dependent user is one who keeps using despite significant health, social or family problems.
At age 38, all of the study participants were given a battery of psychological tests to assess memory, processing speed, reasoning and visual processing. The people who used pot persistently as teens scored significantly worse on most of the tests. Friends and relatives routinely interviewed as part of the study were more likely to report that the persistent cannabis users had attention and memory problems such as losing focus and forgetting to do tasks.
The decline in IQ among persistent cannabis users could not be explained by alcohol or other drug use or by having less education, Moffitt said.
While 8 IQ points may not sound like a lot on a scale where 100 is the mean, a loss from an IQ of 100 to 92 represents a drop from being in the 50th percentile to being in the 29th, Meier said.
Higher IQ correlates with higher education and income, better health and a longer life, she said. "Somebody who loses 8 IQ points as an adolescent may be disadvantaged compared to their same-age peers for years to come," Meier said.
Laurence Steinberg, a Temple University psychologist who was not involved in the research, said this study is among the first to distinguish between cognitive problems the person might have had before taking up marijuana, and those that were apparently caused by the drug. This is consistent with what has been found in animal studies, Steinberg added, but it has been difficult to measure in humans.
Animal studies involving nicotine, alcohol and cocaine have shown that chronic exposures before the brain is fully developed can lead to more dependence and long-term changes in the brain. "This study points to adolescence as a time of heightened vulnerability," Steinberg said. "The findings are pretty clear that it is not simply chronic use that causes deficits, but chronic use with adolescent onset."
What isn't possible to know from this study is what a safer age for persistent use might be, or what dosage level causes the damage, Meier said. After many years of decline among US teens, daily marijuana use has been seen to increase slightly in the last few years, she added. Last year, for the first time, US teens were more likely to be smoking pot than tobacco.
"The simple message is that substance use is not healthy for kids," Avshalom Caspi said via email from London. "That's true for tobacco, alcohol, and apparently for cannabis."
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have developed an innovative vaccine to treat nicotine addiction and successfully tested it in mice.
In the journal Science Translational Medicine, the scientists explain how a single dose of their novel vaccine protects mice, over their lifetime, against nicotine addiction.
The vaccine is designed to use the animal’s liver as a factory to continuously produce antibodies that eat up nicotine the moment it enters the bloodstream, preventing the chemical from reaching the brain and even the heart.
“As far as we can see, the best way to treat chronic nicotine addiction from smoking is to have these Pacman-like antibodies on patrol, clearing the blood as needed before nicotine can have any biological effect,” says the study’s lead investigator, Dr. Ronald G. Crystal , chairman and professor of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.
“Our vaccine allows the body to make its own monoclonal antibodies against nicotine, and in that way, develop a workable immunity,” Dr. Crystal says.
Previously tested nicotine vaccines have failed in clinical trials because they all directly deliver nicotine antibodies, which only last a few weeks and require repeated, expensive injections, Dr. Crystal says. Plus, this kind of passive vaccine has had inconsistent results, perhaps because the dose needed may be different for each person, especially if they start smoking again, he adds.
“While we have only tested mice to date, we are very hopeful that this kind of vaccine strategy can finally help the millions of smokers who have tried to stop, exhausting all the methods on the market today, but find their nicotine addiction to be strong enough to overcome these current approaches,” he says. Studies show that between 70 and 80 percent of smokers who try to quit light up again within six months, Dr. Crystal adds.
Addiction to heroin and morphine can be blocked, suggests a new study conducted in rodents. The study revealed a key mechanism in the immune system that amplifies addiction to opioids.
Heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs kill about 200,000 people globally each year, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said in its 2012 World Drugs Report. An estimated 13 million to 21 million people use opiates, particularly heroin. Cocaine and opioid use may account for 0.7 percent of the global burden of disease, the World Health Organization estimated.
Researchers found an immune receptor in the brain that stimulates the reward response to heroin and morphine, which makes opioids addictive, according to Bloomberg News. It may be possible to prevent dependence on the drugs by blocking the immune receptor, while increasing the medical benefits of the drugs for pain relief, the researchers report. Their findings are scheduled to be published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Studies by Watkins and colleagues in rats and mice identified a protein called toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) as the key component of the immune signaling in drug reward. The researchers say they were able to block the receptor cells, which are found on glia, the brain’s neuron-supporting white matter. The blocking agent is called plus-naloxone, a variant of Narcan, the Daiichi Sankyo Co. drug given to patients to counter opiate overdose.
“Our studies have shown conclusively that we can block addiction via the immune system of the brain, without targeting the brain’s wiring,” researcher Mark Hutchinson of the University of Adelaide in South Australia said in a news release. “Both the central nervous system and the immune system play important roles in creating addiction, but our studies have shown we only need to block the immune response in the brain to prevent cravings for opioid drugs.”
He told Bloomberg News that human studies that will combine plus-naloxone with drugs such as morphine to prevent opioid addiction could start in 18 months. He said the results could eventually lead to new drugs that help patients with severe pain, as well as treat heroin addiction.
A combination of the drugs naltrexone and buprenorphine might be an effective treatment for cocaine addiction, a study in rats suggests. The study found the drugs made the animals less likely to take cocaine compulsively, while preventing significant withdrawal symptoms, according to Time. Naltrexone and buprenorphine are used to treat heroin and prescription opioid addiction.
There is currently no medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating cocaine addiction.
A clinical trial in humans is currently enrolling patients, and if future research is successful, the new drug combination — buprenorphine plus naltrexone — could be the first medication developed for the treatment of cocaine addiction. The drug would likely work for methamphetamine and other stimulant addictions, too.
The new research originated with Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, who asked George Koob of the Scripps Institute in California to lead the study. “I had been intrigued by the clinical trials showing that when you use buprenorphine, use of cocaine goes down significantly,” says Volkow, referring to previous studies of people with heroin addiction who reduced their use of cocaine while being treated with buprenorphine.
The study included two groups of rats. One group was given access to cocaine for only one hour each day. They did not develop signs of dependence. The second group had access to cocaine for six hours a day. They compulsively sought cocaine, and worked increasingly harder to get the drug. A combination of buprenorphine and low doses of naltrexone was able to reduce drug use in the compulsive users, but not in the non-dependent group.
“These findings potentially represent a huge bridge from basic research to the establishment of a new and effective medication for cocaine addiction,” study co-author Leandro F. Vendruscolo of The Scripps Research Institute said in a news release.
According to Reuters many methamphetamine users who undertook a residential rehabilitation program to quit their drug use succeeded initially - but after three years, all but a few had gone back to using, according to a new study from Australia.
Shorter detoxification treatments had even less impact on getting meth users clean, researchers found.
Richard Rawson of the University of California, Los Angeles Integrated Substance Abuse Programs said the problem with many treatment programs is they end too soon.
"Addiction is much more of a chronic disorder," said Rawson, who was not involved in this study. "Once you've changed your brain from using drugs like methamphetamine, there's going to be a propensity to relapse."
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 314,000 teens and adults in the United States were current meth users in 2008. Meth use and treatment increased in the 1990's and early 2000's, but may now be on the decline.
There are few addiction treatment programs tailored to methamphetamine users, and instead people often go through programs designed with heroin or alcohol in mind, said Rebecca McKetin, the lead author of the new study from the Australian National University in Canberra.
"Their utility for methamphetamine users is not well understood," she wrote in an email to Reuters Health.
For the new study, McKetin and her colleagues, who published their findings in the journal Addiction, compared long-term meth use in 248 people treated in a rehab program and 112 in a detox program with 101 meth users who weren't undergoing treatment at the time.
Residential rehab typically entails several months of living at a drug-free center that offers individual or group counseling and social and recreational activities, such as gardening or cooking. Detox, on the other hand, often involves just a few days at a hospital or other medical facility.
After three months, interviews with people in the study showed those who went through detox were just as likely to still be using meth as those in the no-treatment comparison group.
Rawson said this is not surprising.
"There really is no benefit from detox alone. You're not really providing treatment, you're simply providing a medical intervention that can help people reduce their symptoms," he said.
Users who went through rehab, however, were much less likely to continue doing meth after three months.
The researchers estimated that rehab resulted in 48 percent of people remaining abstinent from the drug, compared to 15 percent in the other groups.
Over time, that success faded.
At one year, 20 percent of users who went through rehab had given up the drug, compared to seven percent of people in the detox and no-treatment groups combined.
And by three years, just 12 percent of users who entered rehab remained clean, compared to five percent of those who didn't go into rehab.
IS REHAB WORTH IT?
"On the one hand, many people were disappointed with the outcomes for residential treatment, because there is an expectation that these types of long-stay residential treatments produce long-term recovery, and we found that this was not the case for most people," McKetin wrote.
"On the other hand, the large reductions in drug use seen in the short-term were excellent," she added.
Rawson said for drug addiction treatments to be sustainable, they have to continue over a longer time - but it's unclear whether that means months or years.
"Some people really have trouble grasping the fact that they need help for a longer period of time. They want to go into rehab, get fixed, and go on with their life," he said.
Other drug treatment methods aside from rehab and detox include outpatient individual or group counseling.
McKetin said it's not clear whether residential rehabilitation is a good investment in terms of costs and benefits.
According to her study, a rehab stint can cost about $11,000.
"It may not be perfect, but in the absence of better (treatments), we need to offer people some respite from their addiction in times of crisis," she said.
Medical News today reports that Researchers reporting online in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, have for the first time shown that they can control the behavior of monkeys by using pulses of blue light to very specifically activate particular brain cells. The findings represent a key advance for optogenetics, a state-of-the-art method for making causal connections between brain activity and behavior.
Based on the discovery, the researchers say that similar light-based mind control could likely also be made to work in humans for therapeutic ends.
"We are the first to show that optogenetics can alter the behavior of monkeys," says Wim Vanduffel of Massachusetts General Hospital and KU Leuven Medical School. "This opens the door to use of optogenetics at a large scale in primate research and to start developing optogenetic-based therapies for humans."
In optogenetics, neurons are made to respond to light through the insertion of light-sensitive genes derived from particular microbial organisms. Earlier studies had primarily validated this method for use in invertebrates and rodents, with only a few studies showing that optogenetics can alter activity in monkey brains on a fine scale.
In the new study, the researchers focused on neurons that control particular eye movements. Using optogenetics together with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), they showed that they could use light to activate these neurons, generating brain activity and subtle changes in eye-movement behavior.
The researchers also found that optogenetic stimulation of their focal brain region produced changes in the activity of specific neural networks located at some distance from the primary site of light activation.
The findings not only pave the way for a much more detailed understanding of how different parts of the brain control behavior, but they may also have important clinical applications in treating Parkinson's disease, addiction, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other neurological conditions.
"Several neurological disorders can be attributed to the malfunctioning of specific cell types in very specific brain regions," Vanduffel says. "As already suggested by one of the leading researchers in optogenetics, Karl Deisseroth from Stanford University, it is important to identify the underlying neuronal circuits and the precise nature of the aberrations that lead to the neurological disorders and potentially to manipulate those malfunctioning circuits with high precision to restore them. The beauty of optogenetics is that, unlike any other method, one can affect the activity of very specific cell types, leaving others untouched."
A new rodent study suggests that a key ingredient in “bath salts” called mephedrone has effects on the brain’s reward circuits that are comparable to similar doses of cocaine. The study offers evidence that mephedrone has the potential for abuse and addiction, the researchers say.
Dr. C.J. Malanga, an associate professor of neurology, pediatrics and psychology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said mephedrone and other potentially addictive stimulants "inappropriately activate brain reward circuits that are involved in positive reinforcement. These play a role in the drug 'high' and compulsive drug taking."
Malanga said a study of laboratory mice used intracranial self-stimulation, a technique developed in the 1950s that can measure a drug's ability to activate reward circuits. Animals were trained to perform a task -- spinning a wheel -- to receive a reward, or directly stimulating of the brain pathways involved in reward perception.
During the study, adult animals were implanted with brain stimulating electrodes. Measures of their wheel spinning effort were made before, during and after they received various doses of either mephedrone or cocaine.
The study, published in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, found the effects of mephedrone on the brain's reward circuits were comparable to similar doses of cocaine.
"As expected our research shows that mephedrone likely has significant abuse liability," Malanga said in a statement. "It increases the rewarding potency of intracranial self-stimulation just like cocaine does."
Addiction experts are looking at exercise as a potential treatment for various types of substance abuse.
“Our lab has studied people who are dependent on cocaine, and over the years, we’ve noticed the vast majority are also dependent on cigarette smoking—about three times the national average,” says Richard De La Garza, II, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at BCM, and President of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD).
Dr. De La Garza came up with the idea after reading about a study showing that smokers who rode a stationary bike had reduced urges to smoke. He decided to investigate whether exercise could reduce both cocaine and nicotine urges in people dependent on both substances. “There’s no reason that exercise wouldn’t serve as a potential behavioral treatment for any addiction,” he notes.
He also points to studies showing that middle and high school students who participate in school athletic programs have lower rates of drug use than those who don’t exercise. “Maybe the reinforcing effects produced by exercise reduce the urge to abuse substances,” says Dr. De La Garza, who is a life-long runner.
In the new study, patients who are dependent on both cocaine and nicotine are randomly assigned to sit, walk or run three times a week for one month, at the BCM facility. All of the subjects receive cognitive-behavioral therapy. The runners and walkers are given an individualized exercise program, based on their current physical fitness.
The subjects are given urine tests to check recent cocaine use, as well as breath and saliva tests to check for nicotine use, in addition asking them about their drug and smoking activities. The researchers follow up with study participants four and eight weeks after the protocol is completed.
“We will also be able to determine if they are deriving other benefits from exercising, such as weight loss, or feeling better about themselves,” Dr. De La Garza says. “There are a lot of benefits that come from exercise that can make a difference in the long run. If you’ve been sedentary and start exercising, it can be very empowering.”
“I want to show individuals what I learned growing up, that as long as you have a pair of shoes, you can run anywhere in the world,” he notes.
A study published in the June 24 online issue of Nature Neuroscience, led by Marcelo O. Dietrich, postdoctoral associate, and Tamas L. Horvath, the Jean and David W. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Research and chair of comparative medicine at Yale School of Medicine, found a set of neurons in the part of the brain that controls hunger, and found that these neurons are not only associated with overeating, but also linked to non-food associated behaviors, like novelty-seeking and drug addiction.
In attempts to develop treatments for metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes, researchers have paid increasing attention to the brain's reward circuits located in the midbrain, with the notion that in these patients, food may become a type of "drug of abuse" similar to cocaine. Dietrich notes, however, that this study flips the common wisdom on its head.
"Using genetic approaches, we found that increased appetite for food can actually be associated with decreased interest in novelty as well as in cocaine, and on the other hand, less interest in food can predict increased interest in cocaine," said Dietrich.
Horvath and his team studied two sets of transgenic mice. In one set, they knocked out a signaling molecule that controls hunger-promoting neurons in the hypothalamus. In the other set, they interfered with the same neurons by eliminating them selectively during development using diphtheria toxin. The mice were given various non-invasive tests that measured how they respond to novelty, and anxiety, and how they react to cocaine.
"We found that animals that have less interest in food are more interested in novelty-seeking behaviors and drugs like cocaine," said Horvath. "This suggests that there may be individuals with increased drive of the reward circuitry, but who are still lean. This is a complex trait that arises from the activity of the basic feeding circuits during development, which then impacts the adult response to drugs and novelty in the environment."
Horvath and his team argue that the hypothalamus, which controls vital functions such as body temperature, hunger, thirst fatigue and sleep, is key to the development of higher brain functions. "These hunger-promoting neurons are critically important during development to establish the set point of higher brain functions, and their impaired function may be the underlying cause for altered motivated and cognitive behaviors," he said.
"There is this contemporary view that obesity is associated with the increased drive of the reward circuitry," Horvath added. "But here, we provide a contrasting view: that the reward aspect can be very high, but subjects can still be very lean. At the same time, it indicates that a set of people who have no interest in food, might be more prone to drug addiction."
A study appearing online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that, three-quarters of teenage patients in substance abuse treatment programs in Denver, Colorado said they used someone else’s medical marijuana.
The study revealed that 121 of 164 teenage patients (73.8 percent) have used medical marijuana prescribed to someone else.
Patients reported using diverted medical marijuana from one to 1,000 times, with a median of 50 times, suggesting that most adolescent patients have used medical marijuana on multiple occasions, according to Stacy Salomonsen-Sautel, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Division of Substance Dependence. She reported the findings at the recent College on Problems of Drug Dependence.
The study found that teenage patients who used medical marijuana had an earlier age of regular marijuana use, more marijuana abuse and dependence symptoms, and more conduct disorder symptoms, compared with those who did not use medical marijuana.
“We don’t know what proportion of the marijuana they are using is medical marijuana,” Salomonsen-Sautel notes. She said the findings imply that there is substantial diversion from registered medical marijuana users. She and her colleagues say the results support the need for policy changes that protect against diversion of medical marijuana, and reduce teenager access to it.
Recent findings from the College Life Study (CLS) may be the first to indicate that students who smoke marijuana during college may be risking their longer-term health, particularly if they increase their marijuana use during the college years or continue a heavy use pattern.
Amelia Arria, PhD, Principal Investigator of the CLS and co-author of the study, reported that analysis indicated that all marijuana using students—except those who rarely used—were at risk for several adverse health outcomes. These outcomes include injury, illness,and emotional problems bad enough to interfere with day-to-day tasks; poorer overall health (self-reported); more symptoms of psychiatric problems; lower quality of life (health-related); and, three years after college, increased service use for physical and mental health problems.
Non-users fared significantly better than most of the using groups. Students who were chronic users or whose use increased beginning in year three of college had the worst health outcomes.stressed the importance of finding out more. “These findings need to be examined in other college (and non-college) samples of young people,” she said. “Rather than assuming that marijuana use during college is simply a ‘rite of passage,’ we need to consider possible impacts on long-term physical and mental health and on health care utilization,” she explained.
A major strength of the study is that it takes into account health at baseline and a number of other variables including alcohol and tobacco use over time. No data were available to quantify the costs of these problems, but the findings should be of interest to policymakers and others who are concerned about the rising costs of health care services.
Stressing that the link between marijuana use and adverse health outcomes needs more study, Arria went on to say that even modest differences in health outcomes should be a wake-up call for the students themselves as well as their parents.
“For this (growing) subset of college-bound adolescents who use marijuana, college may be an opportune time and place to intervene before problems escalate,” she said. “Colleges should consider using assessment tools to spot trouble and do something about it—through college health centers and academic assistance programs,” she added.
In a study published in the June issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, researchers noted that teenagers who drink alcohol are more likely to feel like social outcasts, and the social stress of drinking takes a toll on their school performance.
University of Texas researchers noted that the social isolation that comes with teenage drinking is most pronounced in schools with tight cliques and fewer students who abuse alcohol.
In conducting the study, the researchers examined data from a national survey on health-related behavior collected from nearly 8,300 teens between seventh and 12th grade at 126 schools. Teens who drank were more likely to feel lonely and socially isolated in certain school environments.
These feelings were particularly strong in schools where students formed close-knit groups of friends and most students did not drink alcohol, the authors noted, which suggests that teens who drink feel like outcasts when they are not in the company of other drinkers.
“This finding doesn’t imply that drinkers would be better off in schools in which peer networks are tightly organized around drinking,” study co-author Robert Crosnoe said in a journal news release.
“Instead, the results suggest that we need to pay attention to youth in problematic school environments in general, but also to those who may have trouble in seemingly positive school environments.”
"In general, adolescents who feel as though they don't fit in at school often struggle academically -- even when capable and even when peers value academic success -- because they become more focused on their social circumstances than their social and academic activities," Crosnoe explained.
A study that will appear in the August 2012 issue of Addictive Behaviors: An International Journal reports that Painkiller abuse is linked to depression and suicide in college students.
Non-medical prescription drug use by college students is a growing trend on most campuses, according to the U.S. Department of Education's Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention.
Due to this trend, Assistant Professor Amanda Divin and her colleague, Keith Zullig, an associate professor in the West Virginia University School of Public Health, recently conducted and published a study that explores non-medical prescription drug use and depressive symptoms in college students.
Divin and Zullig utilized data from the fall 2008 American College Health Association National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA), a national research survey that addresses seven areas of health and behavior of college students, one of which is alcohol, tobacco and other drug use.
The sample used for the study contained 26,600 randomly selected college students from 40 campuses in the U.S. The student respondents were asked about their non-medical prescription drug use (including painkillers, stimulants, sedatives and antidepressants) and mental health symptoms within the last year.
According to results, approximately 13 percent of the college-student respondents reported non-medical prescription drug use, with those who reported feeling hopeless, sad, depressed or considered suicide being significantly more likely to report non-medical use of any prescription drug. The results also showed this relationship was more pronounced for females who reported painkiller use.
"Because prescription drugs are tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and prescribed by a doctor, most people perceive them as 'safe' and don't see the harm in sharing with friends or family if they have a few extra pills left over," Divin explained.
"Unfortunately, all drugs potentially have dangerous side effects. As our study demonstrates, use of prescription drugs -- particularly painkillers like Vicodin and Oxycontin -- is related to depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts and behaviors in college students. This is why use of such drugs need to be monitored by a doctor and why mental health outreach on college campuses is particularly important."
The researchers believe the results suggest that students are self-medicating their psychological distress with prescription medications.
According to Associated Press and JOIN TOGETHER, a government survey shows more teens are now smoking pot than cigarettes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that 23 percent of high school students said they recently smoked marijuana, while 18 percent said they had puffed cigarettes. The survey asked teens about a variety of risky behaviors.
For decades, the number of teens who smoke has been on the decline. Marijuana use has fluctuated, and recently rose. At times, pot and cigarette smoking were about the same level, but last year marked the first time marijuana use was clearly greater.
An earlier survey by the University of Michigan also found that pot smoking was higher. A Michigan expert said teens today apparently see marijuana as less dangerous than cigarettes.
The new findings echo those of the nationwide Monitoring The Future survey, which also found marijuana was more popular than cigarettes among teens. According to that survey, marijuana use among teens rose in 2011 for the fourth straight year—a sharp contrast to the considerable decline that had occurred in the preceding decade. Daily marijuana use is now at a 30-year peak level among high school seniors.
According to NBC news, experts report that the crackdown on opiates and pill mills has produced a frightening new drug abuse trend. While new regulations and law enforcement efforts have significantly reduced the supply of these drugs, they say, those efforts have inadvertently driven many users to another type of opiate that is cheap, powerful and perhaps even more destructive – heroin.
“It’s an epidemic,” said Dr. Joe Gay, director of the regional addiction and mental health clinic Health Recovery Services, who has studied patterns of drug use in the state.
A flood of cheap heroin from Mexico, which is now one of the leading sources of the drug to the United States, is one reason for the return of the scourge. According to the Justice Department, the drug is showing up in new areas, including upscale suburban towns where heroin was once rare.
In Illinois, for example, researchers at Roosevelt University have found a spike in young suburban heroin abusers.
Long Island, New York, has in recent years seen a rash of addiction among the young.
A spike in heroin use and related crime has Dane County, Wis., reeling.
Even states like Washington, where heroin has a longtime presence, have seen a sharp increase among young users.
In King County, home to Seattle, nearly a third of those entering treatment for heroin abuse in 2009 were between ages 18 and 29 -- a sharp increase from a decade before.
With increased availability has come a spike in the number of visits to emergency room visits for issues related to heroin use, including a 13 percent increase from 2005 through 2009, according to the national Drug Abuse Warning Network. The highest rates of admission were for young adults, 21 to 24 years old.
“Twenty years ago, half of the heroin addicts in treatment lived in two states — New York and California,” said Gay. "(Now, in Ohio) we’re seeing it spread out of the cities, into the suburbs and into the rural areas.”
The demographics of heroin addiction are also shifting, he said.
Until a few years ago, addicts were overwhelmingly men who lived in urban areas, many of them from racial minorities. An alarming number of those entering treatment programs in Ohio -- a good measure of addiction -- are young, he said. Most are white. They are from poor rural counties and wealthy suburbs. Many are girls and women.
In Ohio, the new face of heroin addiction could be the girl or boy next door.
“Everybody does it,” Yates said. “It’s just here, and it’s not going away.”
According to a study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, treating teenagers for major depression can reduce the odds they will develop a drug use disorder.
The five-year study included 192 teenagers across the country who were treated for depression for 12 weeks. The teens had no preexisting problems with alcohol or drug abuse. They had major depression before treatment began.
The researchers found that among those whose depression was successfully treated, 10 percent later abused drugs, compared with 25 percent whose depression continued even with treatment.
Researcher John Curry of Duke University said improved regulation of mood from medication or skills learned in cognitive-behavioral therapy, along with support and education received by all study participants, may have helped keep the teens off drugs.
Depression treatment did not have an effect on alcohol abuse, the researchers were surprised to learn. “It does point out that alcohol use disorders are very prevalent during that particular age period and there’s a need for a lot of prevention and education for college students to avoid getting into heavy drinking and then the beginnings of an alcohol disorder,” Curry said in a news release. “I think that is definitely a take-home message.”
According to JOIN TOGETHER, Twelve-step programs can be extremely helpful for teens who are struggling with addiction or who are on the road to becoming addicted, but they are more useful if they are adapted to the particular needs of adolescents, according to an expert on teenage addiction.
“These programs were developed for adults, and teenagers are not little adults—they are in a totally different developmental stage,” says Steven Jaffe, MD, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Emory University, and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Morehouse School of Medicine, in Atlanta.
Often, teens who are treated for substance use disorders are simply told to go to 12-step meetings. “You can’t just tell them to go, and leave it at that,” Dr. Jaffe says. “They have tremendous anxiety about going, so you need to link them with a sponsor who will take them to a meeting, or else they won’t go.”
Just getting them to the meetings may not be enough, however. Some of the basic concepts of 12-step programs may be troublesome for teenagers, according to Dr. Jaffe.
The first step talks about being powerless over drugs and alcohol, but the word “powerless” can be a big turn-off for teens, he observes. “The goal of a teen is to have power, and they think, ‘Who wants to be part of a group that’s powerless?’”
Instead, Dr. Jaffe encourages them to think about getting clean and sober in order to enhance their power. “It’s the same step, but it’s rephrased and reemphasized to make it developmentally appropriate,” he says. “I tell them, flunking out of school, being thrown out of the house and being arrested as a result of drugs or alcohol is not powerful.”
Another concept in 12-step programs that teens can have trouble with is surrender. “Many teens, especially girls, have found themselves in very vulnerable situations when they are drunk or high, and the last thing they want to do is surrender. I tell them if they get clean and sober, they’ll be strong, and never have to put themselves in a position where bad things like that can happen.”
Dr. Jaffe developed two workbooks he uses with teenagers to make 12-step programs more meaningful to them. “So often, teens will tell me the negative consequences of using drugs and alcohol one day, and the next day they’ll deny it. So I have them write down the consequences in the workbook, so they can’t deny it the next day.” It takes one hour to complete the Adolescent Substance Abuse Intervention Workbook, which is then presented to a counselor individually or at a group. The Step Workbook for Adolescent Chemical Dependency structures the working of the first five steps.
The Los Angeles Times reports that teens and young adults who listen to high-volume digital music with ear buds, or who visit music venues such as clubs or concerts, are at greater risk of substance abuse than their peers who don’t engage in these risky music-listening behaviors.
Researchers in the Netherlands also surveyed 944 low-income students at two vocational schools, who ranged in age from 15 to 25. “This study highlights the need to regard high-volume music listening as a risk factor for risk-taking behavior,” they wrote in the journal Pediatrics.
They suggested the findings could lead to practical interventions, such as handing out condoms and earplugs at concerts, or printing messages about alcohol abuse on concert ticket stubs.
This study highlights the need to regard high-volume music listening as a risk factor for risk-taking behavior. Risky music listening behaviors were associated with more traditional health-risk behaviors such as the use of substances and unsafe sexual intercourse.
Young people who listen to loud music with ear buds are almost twice as likely to smoke marijuana as those who do not listen to music on MP3 players. Teens and young adults who attend loud concerts and dance clubs are almost six times as likely as those who don’t frequent these venues to have had five or more alcoholic drinks in a row at some point in the previous month, the study found. They are also twice as likely to have sex without using a condom every time.
According to the Partnership At Drug Free.org, teens who complete a five-minute computer screening program that includes six questions about alcohol and drug use, and who talk with their pediatrician briefly about the results, reduce their risk of drinking up to one year later, according to a new study.
Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital studied more than 2,000 teens from New England and the Czech Republic. The teens completed the screening program, which asks six questions about alcohol and drug use, and then presents a score and risk level. The teens read through 10 pages with facts and stories that illustrate the serious health effects of substance use.
The teens’ doctors receive a report with the results, and a list of talking points for a two- to three- minute conversation about the risks involved in alcohol and drug use. They tell the teens it would be best for their health not to use alcohol or drugs at all.
The study found that after using the program, teens’ risk of drinking dropped almost in half for three months, and by about one-quarter one year after the doctor’s visit, the researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.
Two key factors may prevent a teen’s doctor from asking about drug and alcohol use, and this program addresses both, Dr. Knight says. One is time constraints. “Doctors are pressed for time, and they have a lot of things they need to screen patients for,” he says. By having patients complete the screening before the visit, doctors have more time to interpret the results and discuss them.
The second factor is that doctors who do screen teens for substance use don’t always know what to say to those who admit to using drugs or alcohol.
Last fall, the AAP and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism unveiled a new tool designed to help pediatricians talk to teenagers about alcohol use. The “Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Youth: A Practitioner’s Guide” provides doctors with basic questions about whether and how much a patient drinks, and how much their friends drink.
“Our program takes a similar approach, but by using a computer, we are saving the doctor time,” observes Dr. Knight.
According to Join Together, parents of teenagers’ friends can have as much effect on teens’ decisions about substance use as their own parents, a new study suggests.
If the parents of a teenager’s friends are not aware of their own child’s alcohol or drug use, or condone it, then it is more likely the teen will drink or smoke, the study found.
“Among friendship groups with ‘good parents’ there’s a synergistic effect — if your parents are consistent and aware of your whereabouts, and your friends’ parents are also consistent and aware of their (children’s) whereabouts, then you are less likely to use substances,” study author Michael Cleveland at Penn State University, said in a news release. “But if you belong to a friendship group whose parents are inconsistent, and your parents are consistent, you’re still more likely to use alcohol.”
The study included 9,000 ninth graders, who were asked about their closest friends, their parents’ discipline, and whether their parents knew who their friends were, HealthDay reports. The researchers broke the teens down into about 900 groups of friends. A year later, the teens were surveyed about their substance use.
The researchers found substance use in tenth grade was significantly related to parenting behavior of friends’ parents. This was true even after taking into account the effects of the teenagers’ own parents’ behaviors, and their friends’ substance use.
“I think that it empowers parents to know that not only can they have an influence on their own children, but they can also have a positive influence on their children’s friends as well,” said Cleveland. “And that by acting together — the notion of ‘it takes a village’ — can actually result in better outcomes for adolescents.”
The study appears in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
According to Psychiatric Times preliminary research indicates that use of online social networking sites, such as Facebook, by adolescents who are receiving treatment for substance use disorders can negatively affect their sobriety.
“Online social networking has expanded exponentially in the last few years and its use has also grown substantially among adolescents,” he said.
While exposure to environmental cues associated with drug use (people, places, and things) is a known risk factor for drug relapse among individuals receiving substance abuse treatment, he said, the extent to which online social networking might be a source of exposure to drug cues among youth in treatment was unknown.
To explore the possible impact, Tran administered a 20-question survey to 37 youth, who were receiving substance abuse treatment at a behavioral health services center in the Lincoln Heights area of East Los Angeles. Regarding their substance use, 89% reported marijuana as their drug of choice, followed by Ecstasy, and methamphetamine.
Nearly all (92%) engaged in online social networking; the majority used Facebook. Many (44%) said they posted drug-related content on social networking sites, and 94% said their friends did. Additionally, 97% reported their social networking friends used drugs.
66% reported that drug-related content on Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter made them want to use drugs (p = 0.169).
“While these are preliminary data, they indicate that online social network sites may negatively influence treatment outcomes for adolescents.”
Jeffrey Borenstein, MD, Medical Director of Holliswood Hospital in New York City, commented on Tran’s research:
“Social media, I think, has tremendous potential to help -- and potential to harm,” he said. “We want to make use of social media in positive ways, such as peer support, education, and reaching out to young people at risk for chemical dependency with the technology they are already accustomed to using.”
One in eight older teens has used powerful painkillers when they weren't prescribed -- and many of them start misusing the medications earlier than was previously assumed, according to new research.
The findings are based on two nationally-representative surveys that asked teenagers about their recent or lifetime use of prescription painkillers, which include drugs such as oxycontin and codeine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 14,800 Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2008 -- three times the number of overdose deaths 20 years earlier.
"The non-medical use of controlled medications in (teens) has surpassed almost all illicit drugs except for marijuana," said pediatrician Dr. Robert Fortuna, from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.
Fortuna, who wasn't involved in the new research, told Reuters Health more doctors are prescribing kids powerful painkillers for conditions like back or knee pain -- and some of those drugs may end up getting used recreationally.
McCabe and his colleagues analyzed teenagers' drug-related responses on a general survey of behaviors and attitudes that was given to about 7,400 high school seniors in 2007 through 2009.
Of those teens -- from 135 different public and private schools -- about 13 percent said they had ever used prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons, such as to get high or to relieve pain without a doctor's oversight.
Teens who said they'd used the painkillers for non-medical purposes were more likely to smoke pot or cigarettes or to binge drink, compared with those who'd only taken the pills under a doctor's supervision or not at all.
"There does seem to be a casual attitude held by some regarding sharing medications that have abuse potential," McCabe told Reuters Health.
Other survey data on 12- to 21-year olds revealed that most teens who took up the habit started using painkillers at age 16 or 17 -- not at the end of high school or afterwards, as some research had suggested.
At age 16, one in 30 or 40 teens took their first non-medical painkillers, James Anthony of Michigan State University in East Lansing and his colleagues reported in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine on Monday, alongside McCabe's findings.
The findings suggest that programs aimed at keeping kids away from painkillers should start early in high school, and not just aim at older teens or high school grads.
According to the New York Times a new study in The Journal of the American Medical Association has estimated that every hour a baby is born in the United States with withdrawal from opiates — roughly 13,500 babies a year. The condition, known as neonatal abstinence syndrome, can cause seizures, breathing problems, dehydration, difficulty feeding, tremors and irritability. Many infants are hospitalized for several weeks while doctors treat them with methadone or morphine to gradually wean them from their dependence on the drugs that their mothers used.
“The incidence has gone crazy and I think it has the potential to become a national or international issue,” said Marie J. Hayes, a clinical neuroscientist at the University of Maine, and an author of an editorial accompanying the study. “People who previously might not have used heroin or the needle are more likely to use prescription opiates.”
It is unclear whether babies exposed to opiates in the womb will experience long-term consequences. In the 1980s, there was alarm over whether babies born to cocaine-addicted mothers would suffer developmental problems or other damaging effects, but studies later showed that such problems were far from certain and much more likely if the child had to contend with economic hardship, family instability, poor education and other factors.
“These babies require a tremendous amount of nursing care,” said Dr. Mark Hudak, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville and an author of new guidelines on neonatal abstinence syndrome issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics this year.
Dr. Hudak recommends trying to soothe babies first by cuddling them and placing them in darkened rooms. If that is unsuccessful, the newborns are given methadone, morphine or another drug related to what the baby was exposed to in utero; the drug is tapered off gradually until the baby is weaned. That process requires careful monitoring. “These drugs are very easy to overdose babies with,” Dr. Hudak said. “There have been deaths.” And if babies are weaned too soon, “they can wind up getting rehospitalized.”
But the experts agreed that the best approach is to deal with women’s drug addictions before they are pregnant.
ABC News reports that poor impulse control may be pre-wired in some teenagers, suggests a new study. Researchers have identified brain networks that are linked to impulse control and drug addiction, which may exist even before someone is exposed to alcohol or drugs.
To determine this, the researchers used a scan called a functional MRI, which allowed them to examining how different parts of the brain work together in real time. They “peeked into” the brains of nearly 1,900 14-year-olds while they asked them to perform repetitive tasks, and then measured their ability to stop mid-task. Called “stop-signal reaction time,” it is a measure that is used to gauge inhibitory control. Patients who abuse drugs or alcohol perform poorly on this test. So do children with ADHD.
“These networks are not working as well for some kids as they are for others,” says Dr. Robert Whelan of the University of Vermont, the lead researcher in this investigation. He explains how they were able to break down how different brain networks were involved with specific types of impulses.
Interestingly, they were able to identify teens who had prior exposure to alcohol, nicotine, or other illicit drugs and were able to identify specific brain patterns associated with early experimentation with these substances. Furthermore, teens with poor impulse control but no prior substance use had brain images similar to those who had already admitted use.
The findings suggest that there may be an opportunity to identify teens at risk before they indulge. “While identifying those at greatest risk of addiction is a complex process with many different factors involved, identifying brain networks specific to impulse control represents the first step” says Whelan.
Teens undergoing treatment for alcohol or drug abuse can benefit from the 12-step program used by groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), researchers say.
The findings are published online and in the July print issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
The new study included 127 teen substance abuse-treatment outpatients (95 males, 32 females, aged 14 to 19) who were assessed when they began treatment and three, six and 12 months later.
"We found that about one-quarter to one-third of the youth attended AA/NA throughout the year-long study period following treatment, and that more meeting attendance was associated with significantly better substance use outcomes -- particularly attending meetings at least once per week or more," John F. Kelly, associate director of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, and associate professor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, reported.
"Importantly, youth who also were in contact with an AA or NA sponsor or who participated verbally during AA/NA meetings had an even better outcome over and above the positive effects from merely attending," Kelly said. "These findings support the common clinical recommendation that individuals should 'go to meetings, get a sponsor, and get active.' This is the first evidence to support this common clinical recommendation among young people."
Doctors, counselors and other health professionals can improve the chances that teens will attend and participate in AA/NA by encouraging the teens to attend meetings early in their substance abuse treatment, Kelly suggested
According to the New York Times President Obama this weekend said “legalization is not the answer” to stemming the tide of illegal drugs. He spoke Saturday at a summit meeting of Western Hemisphere nations in Cartagena, Colombia.
Colombia’s leader, Juan Manuel Santos, asked whether there was a middle ground between all drug consumers going to jail, and legalization, The New York Times reports.
“I think it is entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places,” President Obama responded.
He added, “I personally, and my administration’s position, is that legalization is not the answer.”
Mr. Santos said that despite tremendous effort and costs, the illicit drug business is prospering.
The United States has devoted tens of billions of dollars to reducing the demand for drugs in this country, Mr. Obama said.
Menthol-cigarette smokers may be at higher risk of having a stroke than those who smoke other types of cigarettes, a new study suggests. Women and non-black smokers are at highest risk, HealthDay reports.
The findings appear in a research letter published April 9 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
In the latest look at the hazards of menthols vs. regular cigarettes, Canadian researchers found the stroke risk for those who smoked menthols was more than twice that for regular-cigarette smokers. And for women and non-blacks, the risk was more than three times higher.
In 2011, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel said a ban on menthol cigarettes could benefit public health, because the mint flavor seemed to make smoking more appealing. The panel did not conclude menthol cigarettes were more harmful than regular cigarettes.
For this new study, the researchers used data from the 2001-2008 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys on more than 5,000 smokers age 20 and older. About 26 percent said they usually smoked menthols.
The researchers found that stroke risk associated with smoking menthols was 2.25 times higher compared to regular smokers; 3.28 times higher for women, and 3.48 times higher for non-blacks.
"One potential mechanism is that menthol stimulates upper-airway cold receptors, which can increase breath-holding time, which may in turn facilitate the entrance of cigarette particulate matter into the lungs," said study author Dr. Nicholas Vozoris of St. Michael's Hospital, in Toronto. "Why smoking mentholated cigarettes would not result in an increase in forms of cardiopulmonary disease, other than stroke, is not clear."
Dr. Clinton Wright, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that more study is needed before any conclusions can be drawn about specific health risks associated with specific types of cigarettes. "Very little work has been done on mentholated cigarettes," he said.
According to HealthDay a new survey finds that Alcohol and drug use is common among American teens and more than 15 percent of them meet the criteria for substance abuse, a new study finds.
Of more than 10,000 U.S. teenagers found that by late adolescence, 78 percent had consumed alcohol, and about 15 percent met the criteria for alcohol abuse.
The findings are published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
The survey also found 81 percent said they had the opportunity to use illicit drugs, and 42.5 percent actually did so. Among those surveyed, 16 percent were abusing drugs.
In the study, Joel Swendsen, of the University of Bordeaux in France, and colleagues analyzed data from a U.S. survey of more than 10,000 teens between the ages of 13 and 18. They found that more than 78 percent of the oldest teens had consumed alcohol, about 47 percent consumed at least 12 drinks a year, and about 15 percent met the criteria for alcohol abuse.
The study also found that 81.4 percent of the oldest teens reported the opportunity to use illicit drugs, 42.5 percent used drugs, and 16.4 percent were drug abusers.
The median age when teens started substance use was 14 for regular alcohol use or abuse with or without dependence, 14 for drug abuse with dependence, and 15 for drug abuse without dependence.
Bruce Goldman, Director of Substance Abuse Services at The Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York, who was not involved in the study, told HealthDay;
“It is imperative that families, schools, police, youth groups, and communities all join together to prevent or delay the onset of substance use as long as possible. Social norms have a very powerful impact on drug-use patterns. We need to create norms where substance use and availability, especially for young people, is not acceptable.”
According to ABC news “Whip-Its” are making a comeback.
"What makes them really popular is they're easily accessible," said William Oswald, founder of the Summit Malibu drug treatment center. "You can get them at a head shop, you can get it out of a whipped cream bottle."
The most recent figures show that Whip-Its have become the most popular recreational inhalant of choice, with over 12 million users in the U.S. who have tried it at least once, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Inhaling the compressed gas, either from the Whip-It chargers, a whipped cream canister, or a nitrous tank, is purported to result in a fleeting high, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes.
And while some states have passed laws attempting to stop the inhalation of nitrous, experts say the use of Whip-Its is mostly ignored by authorities and left unregulated.
"It's non-detectable," said Oswald. "So when they're testing people, it doesn't show."
A growing collection of user videos on YouTube portray doing Whip-Its, or "Noz" as it's sometimes called, as a harmless, laughter-inducing activity, but it can be deadly.
Illinois college student Benjamin Collen, 19, died from asphyxiation from nitrous oxide. He was found dead in a fraternity house surround by Whip-Its chargers in 2008.
Melyssa Gastelum was an 18 year-old aspiring fashion model and National Honors Society student when she went to an all-ages party in Phoenix last May where she inhaled Whip-Its and ingesting a small amount of ecstasy. She died later at the hospital and the medical examiner ruled that nitrous oxide was a contributing factor in her death.
"I wish I could wake up from this nightmare," said her mother, Christy Gastelum. "I ask myself, 'Why do bad things happen to good people? Why?”
A recent study in the Journal of studies on Alcohol and Drugs, that found the huge increase in hospitalization rates for combined drug and alcohol overdoses among young adults suggests doctors could play a role in educating the public about the dangers of combining these substances.
The study found hospitalization rates for combined alcohol and drug overdoses increased 76 percent among adults ages 18 to 24 from 1999 to 2008. During that same period, hospitalizations for alcohol overdoses alone increased 25 percent, and for drug overdoses, 55 percent. There was a 122 percent increase in hospitalizations for narcotic pain medication poisonings, and alcohol overdoses played a role in one in five such hospitalizations.
“While the increase could be due to better reporting, we think, given corroborating evidence, that this represents an actual increase in the rate of overdoses for drugs, alcohol and the combination of the two,” says study author Aaron White, PhD, Health Scientist Administrator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
White is concerned that many young people are unaware of the dangers of combining drugs, particularly prescription medications, and alcohol.
“Drugs such as narcotic pain medications, some anti-anxiety medications and benzodiazepine-like sleep medications are very risky to combine with alcohol due to their depressant effects on brain function,” he points out. Adding them to alcohol can increase the risk of injuries, amnesia and death.
White explains that alcohol can cause death by suppressing neurons in the brainstem that control vital reflexes like breathing and gagging. Some prescription drugs, such as narcotic pain medications, suppress these same brain stem areas, making them especially dangerous to combine with alcohol.
Every time a teen or young adult visits the doctor, it’s an opportunity to discuss drugs and alcohol, according to White. The NIAAA recently released a new alcohol screening tool called Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Youth: A Practitioner’s Guide, which walks doctors through the steps to take when patients say they or their friends drink, and helps them assess the level of risk for current and future alcohol problems. The tool focuses on two key questions designed to help pediatricians spot children and adolescents at risk for alcohol-related problems.
A single injection of cocaine or methamphetamine in mice caused their brains to put the brakes on neurons that generate sensations of pleasure, and these cellular changes lasted for at least a week, according to research by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
Their findings, reported March in Neuron, suggest this powerful reaction to the drug assault may be a protective, anti-addiction response. The scientists theorize that it might be possible to mimic this response to treat addiction to these drugs and perhaps others, although more experiments are required to explore this possibility.
"It was stunning to discover that one exposure to these drugs could promote such a strong response that lasts well after the drug has left the body," says Paul Slesinger, an associate professor in the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology. "We believe this could be the brain's immediate response to counteract the stimulation of these drugs."
Dopamine is a primary neurotransmitter used in the brain's reward pathway -- generally speaking, the activity of dopamine neurons in the reward pathway increases in response to rewards, such as sex, food and drugs. Psychostimulants, such as methamphetamine and cocaine, co-opt this pathway and alter the brain's response to dopamine. Understanding the neuroadaptations that occur in the reward pathway in response to drugs of abuse may lead to the development of a treatment for drug addiction.
A recent study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine looked at cross-sectional study of 1,271 students ages 14 to 19 on the Aegean island of Kos, on the correlates between personality, illicit chemical substance use, and Internet abuse.
Results demonstrated that adolescents who have used illicit substances and are abusing the Internet as well appear to share some common personality characteristics.
“Not only did we find that specific personality attributes were important in both substance abuse and Internet addiction, but that Internet addiction remained an important predictor of substance abuse,” study co-author Georgios Floros told ABCNews.com.
The study included an “Internet addiction test,” which asked how often they stayed online longer than they had intended, how often their grades suffered because of the amount of time they were online, and how often they would act annoyed if someone disturbed them when they were online.
The researchers found the teens who reported substance abuse had significantly higher average scores on the Internet addiction test. Those scores were important predictors for past or present substance use, the researchers reported.
“Targeting the adolescent population that engages in increased Internet use may be of benefit for drug abuse prevention programs,” they wrote.
An increase in the severity of pathological Internet use has been linked to increased chances of having used an illicit substance. Taking into account any common personality attributes, Internet addiction can still be useful as a predictor variable for substance use experiences.
Future research should attempt to verify any biological common factors between chemical substances use and Internet abuse. Targeting the adolescent population that engages in increased Internet use may be of benefit for drug abuse prevention programs.
A new study in Addictive Behaviors 36(2011), finds that victims of adolescent bullying develop risky styles of drinking through the development of self-medicating drinking behavior. Bullying is a severe problem throughout Europe and the US with studies showing up to 11% of youth experience victimization (Nansel, Craig, Overpeck, Saluja & Ruan, 2004; Nansel et al. 2001).
Unfortunately, this leads to the risk of the development of behavioral problems including aggression, delinquency, and substance abuse (Khatri, Kupershmidt & Patterson, 2000). Not only to these behaviors reflect the inhibition of Pro-Social behaviors which are a noted consequence of victimization ( Tremblay, Pihl, Vitaro & Dobkin, 1994) but these behaviors also reflect avoidant coping processes.
Topper, Castellanos-Ryan, and Conrod (2011) found that within a sample of 324 participants age 13 to 15 in London, victimization leads both directly and indirectly to coping motives that create alcohol-related problems.
This study is an important piece in both the fields of addiction and bullying, but also points to the research that’s needed to create interventions for victims. This study shows that early bullying can lead to prolonged consequences. Even if the victimization diminishes over time there is a clear need for longer term psychosocial interventions to help victims of bullying cope with their experiences.
According to Reuters, “Spice” caused kidney failure in three young people, and vomiting and back pain in a dozen others in Wyoming, health officials report. State medical officials said the cause of the outbreak was under investigation but reported that Casper residents who have sought medical treatment for vomiting and back pain had recently smoked or ingested a chemical-laced herbal product packaged as "blueberry spice."
Spice is sometimes sold as "legal marijuana" because of the high that users experience from plant material coated with chemicals that claim to mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Drug policy experts said use of spice has been on the rise since the DEA in 2009 tracked skyrocketing numbers of reports about the products from poison control centers, hospitals and local law enforcement agencies.
The DEA extended a ban on Thursday on five chemicals that make some spice mixtures illegal. Yet authorities have struggled to keep pace with changes in the chemical make-up of the designer drugs, which sometimes skirt newly enacted laws.
The chemicals are now classified as Schedule I substances, which have “a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use for treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.”
"Spice is a pretty lucrative business and the marketing is to youth," said Caitlin Zak, program manager for the Idaho Office of Drug Policy.
According to Health Daily a Seattle-based health care system that implemented a system last year to prevent opioid misuse and overdose in patients with chronic noncancer pain is beginning to see fruitful results. Claire E. Trescott, MD, Primary Care Director of Group Health, which has 450,000 patients and 26 clinics, says the initiative aims to standardize opioid prescribing, and make it safer.
The new system was developed over a year of consultations with representatives from the health system’s staff in primary care, physical and rehabilitation medicine, pharmacy, nursing, behavioral health and clinical informatics.
All patients on chronic opioid therapy for noncancer pain now have a standard chart template that includes treatment goals, medication regimens, frequency of monitoring visits and requirements for drug screening, if applicable. “We are no longer a group of different prescribers who all have different ideas of what to do,” she states.
Another feature is that some patients must undergo periodic mandatory urine drug screening. Patients are categorized as low, medium or high risk for opioid abuse, which determines whether, how often urine screening is performed and how often they must come in for monitoring visits. People under 25, patients with a history of substance abuse, or those on high doses of opioids, are among those considered at high risk and are monitored more closely.
As a result of the new system, which made doctors’ prescribing practices very clear, some physicians are no longer allowed to prescribe opioids at Group Health, according to Dr. Trescott. “We know we’re prescribing lower doses of opioids overall, and we’re doing a lot more urine drug screening than we used to,” she says.
“Now, if someone needs a refill, we aren’t treating them like a criminal anymore,” Trescott notes. “And if someone is abusing substances, we catch it quickly and address it. The system has been fair, respectful, honest and transparent.”
Naloxone — the drug that safely reverses the potentially fatal effects of an opioid overdose — has successfully revived more than 10,000 overdose victims since 1996, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The data come from a survey of 48 overdose-prevention programs around the country that distribute naloxone to drug users and their friends and family.
Still, only 15 states and the District of Columbia are currently known to have naloxone-distribution programs, which train people to identify the signs of overdose and provide naloxone to drug users and their loved ones so that it can be used in time to save a life — even before an ambulance arrives.
The treatment and prevention of overdose has become increasingly important as overdose death rates have steadily risen in America. In 2008, for the first time, overdose surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death. That year, there were 36,450 overdose deaths, involving both legal and illegal drugs. About 20,000 fatal overdoses in 2008 involved prescription drugs, and in nearly three-quarters of cases, the victim had taken an opioid like Vicodin or OxyContin.
These are the overdoses that can be reversed with naloxone (Narcan), even if the user mixes the opioids with alcohol or other drugs like heroin, cocaine or the benzodiazepine Xanax. Naloxone doesn’t help overdoses that do not include opioids, however, 14,800 lives could have potentially been saved in 2008 if naloxone had been available to every person who overdosed on prescription opioid painkillers.
The CDC survey of 48 programs that distributed naloxone found the medication was given to about 53,000 people, who were trained in recognizing and treating an overdose. The programs received reports of 10,171 overdose reversals.
“To address the substantial increases in opioid-related drug overdose deaths, public health agencies could consider comprehensive measures that include teaching laypersons how to respond to overdoses and administer naloxone to those in need,” the researchers wrote.
Despite being regulated in many jurisdictions, cannabis (marijuana) is the most widely used illicit substance in the world. Driving under the influence of marijuana is associated with an increased risk of a motor vehicle crash, especially for fatal collisions, an analysis of nine studies concludes.
The analysis found driving under the influence of marijuana was associated with almost twice the risk of a motor vehicle crash compared with unimpaired driving, CNN reports.
The studies in the analysis included nearly 50,000 people.
The results are published in the British Medical Journal. This is the first review to look at observational studies concerned with the risk of vehicle collision after the use of marijuana. “Previous studies have failed to separate the effects of alcohol and other substances from the use of cannabis, resulting in a lack of agreement,” the release notes.
Lead researcher Mark Asbridge of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said while alcohol impairs drivers’ speed and reaction time, marijuana affects spatial location. He said drivers who have recently smoked marijuana may follow cars too closely, and swerve in and out of lanes. He added that while people who are drunk often recognize they are impaired by alcohol, those under the influence of marijuana often deny they are impaired.
Men who smoke suffer a more rapid decline in brain function as they age than their non-smoking counterparts, with their cognitive decline as rapid as someone 10 years older but who shuns tobacco, scientists said.
In a large, long-term study, British researchers found that while there seems to be no link between cognitive decline and smoking in women, in men, the habit is linked to swifter decline, with early dementia-like cognitive difficulties showing up as early as the age of 45.
The research adds to an already large body of evidence about the long-term dangers of smoking -- a habit the World Health Organisation refers to as "one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced."
"While we were aware that smoking is a risk factor for respiratory disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, this study shows it also has a detrimental effect on cognitive ageing and this is evident as early as 45 years," said Severine Sabia of University College London, who led the study and published it in the Archives of General Psychiatry journal.
A study, published in the journal Science, suggests addiction is in part a "disorder of the brain".
Abnormalities in the brain may make some people more likely to become drug addicts, according to scientists at the University of Cambridge.
They found the same differences in the brains of addicts and their non-addicted brothers and sisters. Other experts said the non-addicted siblings offered hope of new ways of teaching addicts "self-control".It has long been established that the brains of drug addicts have some differences to other people, but explaining that finding has been more difficult.
Experts were unsure whether drugs changed the wiring of the brain or if drug addicts' brains were wired differently in the first place. This study, funded by the Medical Research Council, attempted to answer that by comparing the brains of 50 cocaine or crack addicts with the brain of their brother or sister, who had always been clean.
Both the addicts and the non-addict siblings had the same abnormalities in the region of the brain which controls behaviour, the fronto-striatal systems.The suggestion is that these brains may be "hard-wired" for addiction in the first place.
Lead researcher Dr Karen Ersche said: "It has long been known that not everyone who takes drugs becomes addicted."
She told the BBC: "It shows that drug addiction is not a choice of lifestyle, it is a disorder of the brain and we need to recognise this."However, the non-addicted siblings had a very different life despite sharing the same susceptibility."These brothers and sisters who don't have addiction problems, what they can tell us is how they overcome these problems, how they manage self-control in their daily life," Dr Karen Ersche said.
Dr Paul Keedwell, a consultant psychiatrist at Cardiff University, said: "Addiction, like most psychiatric disorders, is the product of nature and nurture.
"We need to follow up people over time to quantify the relative risk of nature versus nurture."
It is possible that the similarities in the sibling's brains may not be down to genetics, but rather growing up in the same household. Research on the relationship between addiction and the structure of the brain is far from over.
However, many specialists believe these findings open up new avenues for treatment.
"If we could get a handle on what makes unaffected relatives of addicts so resilient we might be able to prevent a lot of addiction from taking hold," said Dr Keedwell.
The chief pharmacist for Derbyshire Mental Health Trust, David Branford, said the study, "implies that addiction does not produce noticeable changes to brain structure and function which means that there may be provision for looking at new treatment techniques for addiction". Prof Les Iversen, from the department of pharmacology at the University of Oxford, said: "These new findings reinforce the view that the propensity to addiction is dependent on inherited differences in brain circuitry, and offer the possibility of new ways of treating high-risk individuals to develop better 'self control'."
Science Daily reports that feedback and skills training for parents can help reduce teen problem behavior, The program, called Family Check-Up, is short, requiring only about four-and-a-half hours.
The study included 593 seventh and eighth graders and their families, half of whom were randomly assigned to participate in the program. The researchers asked the students about their families’ interactions, and videotaped parents interacting with their children at home and school.
The researchers found the program reduced family conflict, parental monitoring, and teens’ antisocial behavior and alcohol use.
“Most adolescents with behavioral problems see professionals after they are in trouble instead of beforehand, which is why this program is unique; there are few preventive programs like it,” Garry Sigman, MD, Director of Adolescent Medicine at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, told Science Daily.
Sigman cautioned, “It requires either a school district willing to incur the time and financial costs of trained professionals or collaboration between schools and mental health professionals. In either case, most districts do not have funds or interest in this type of endeavor.”
USA today reports that in Florida, hundreds of people tried to open pharmacies after the state barred doctors from dispensing the narcotics directly from their clinics. This now forces patients to fill their prescriptions at pharmacies. Other dealers moved their operations to Georgia, state police and federal agents say.
"Traffickers adapt to situations," says Mark Trouville, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's field offices in Florida. "We knew once we put pressure on the pill mills, the wrong people would start opening pharmacies."
A pharmacy must register with the DEA and be licensed by the state to dispense controlled substances, which include many drugs that require a doctor's prescription. The DEA can deny a registration if an applicant has been convicted of a drug-related crime or agents find a connection to a pill mill or some other activity that poses a threat to public health and safety.
Still, questionable pharmacies are selling thousands of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills to people recruited by drug dealers to get prescriptions from pain clinics. "They're not selling Band-Aids and aspirin," Trouville says. "There's nothing but an empty room with a bullet-proof window."
Methamphetamine use, which was on the decline until recently, appears to be increasing due to Mexican drug cartels and small U.S. drug producers, the Evansville Courier and Press reports.
“Methamphetamine is unique from other illicit drugs of abuse because production of the drug requires no specialized skill or training, and its recipes are readily available on the Internet,” Joseph T. Rannazzisi, Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Office of Diversion Control, told the newspaper. “The precursor chemicals associated with this drug have also been historically easy to obtain and inexpensive to purchase. These factors have contributed to methamphetamine’s rapid sweep across our nation.”
A report by the National Drug Intelligence Center released last August, “National Drug Threat Assessment 2011,” stated methamphetamine use was increasing, especially among the young. The report attributed the rise to Mexican drug cartels that control smuggling routes across the Southwestern border, which can produce, transport and distribute the drug.
Most of the meth smuggling occurs across the border in Southern California, the report noted.
Two-thirds of the nation’s meth supply is produced in large labs in Mexico and Southern California, and trafficked throughout the country. The rest is manufactured in small meth labs found in locations such as basements, kitchens, garages, bedrooms, car trunks, and vacant buildings.
UPI reports that researchers at Oregon Health and Sciences University have found, that a family history of alcoholism may affect teenagers’ decision-making.
The findings, published online ahead of April print edition Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found those with a family history of alcoholism demonstrated atypical brain activity while completing the same task as those without a family history of alcoholism.
Adolescents with a family history of alcoholism experience "weaker brain response during risky decision-making" than others, U.S. researchers report.
Bonnie J. Nagel, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science University, and colleagues recruited 31 young people ages 13-15 -- 18 with a family history of alcoholism and 13 with a negative family history of alcoholism.
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine brain responses of the participants during a so-called Wheel of Fortune decision-making task, which presented risky versus safe probabilities of winning different amounts of money.
"While our study found adolescents with a family history of alcoholism did not perform significantly differently on the Wheel of Fortune task compared to the adolescents with a negative family history of alcoholism, we found two areas of the brain that responded differently," Nagel said in a statement.
These areas were in the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum, both of which are important for higher-order day-to-day functioning, such as decision-making. In these brain regions, adolescents with a family history of alcoholism showed weaker brain responses during risky decision-making compared to their peers without a family history of alcoholism.
"Therefore, differences in brain activity may impact the ability of individuals family history of alcoholism to make good decisions in many contexts, and in particular may facilitate poor decision-making in regards to alcohol use," Nagel said. "Taken together with other studies on youth family history of alcoholism, these results suggest that atypical brain structure and function exist prior to any substance use, and may contribute to an increased vulnerability for alcoholism in these individuals."
The Join Together website reports that a new study provides clues about the brain mechanisms that drive people to abuse alcohol. The study found a link between how good people feel after they drink, and the amount of endorphins—proteins with opiate-like effects—released in their brain.
The findings appear in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
The subjects’ brains were scanned using positron emission tomography (PET) to examine the distribution of chemicals produced in response to drinking. In heavy drinkers, just one drink led to the release of more endorphins in two brain regions that play a role in pleasure and reward. They perceived drinking as more pleasurable than the non-heavy drinkers. That feeling leads them to crave alcohol, the researchers said.
Similar findings have been seen in animal studies, but this is the first time they have been observed in humans, according to a news release by the University of California, San Francisco, where the research was conducted. “This is something that we’ve speculated about for 30 years, based on animal studies, but haven’t observed in humans until now,” said lead author Jennifer Mitchell, PhD. “It provides the first direct evidence of how alcohol makes people feel good.”
Researchers studied 15 volunteers; 13 were heavy social drinkers and 12 were not. Women were considered heavy social drinkers if they consumed 10 to 16 drinks a week, while men in that category had 14 to 20 drinks weekly, CNN reports.
Women who were not heavy social drinkers had fewer than five drinks a week, while the men had fewer than seven drinks.
They noted that the study, which located the precise areas of the brain where endorphins are released, may provide a possible target for the development of better treatments for alcohol abuse.
People with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who wear a nicotine patch for six months show improvements in attention, memory and mental processing, according to the New York Times.
The study appears in the journal Neurology.
In the new study, 67 men and women with MCI and no other health problems wore a nicotine patch or a placebo patch for six months. The participants, whose average age was 76, did not smoke. They took periodic tests of their mental ability, behavior and mood.
Those who wore a nicotine patch showed improvements in their reaction times, long-term memory and attention, and smaller gains in short-term memory. People who wore a placebo patch showed declines on all of these measures.
Lead author Dr. Paul A. Newhouse of Vanderbilt University said there is evidence nerve cells that regulate attention have nicotine receptors. He pointed out the study was small, and researchers still do not know the effect of nicotine patches on the long-term progression of MCI. He warned against anyone using nicotine patches to try to improve their memory.
A new working definition of recovery from mental disorders and substance use disorders is being announced by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The definition is the product of a year-long effort by SAMHSA and a wide range of partners in the behavioral health care community and other fields to develop a working definition of recovery that captures the essential, common experiences of those recovering from mental disorders and substance use disorders, along with major guiding principles that support the recovery definition. SAMHSA led this effort as part of its Recovery Support Strategic Initiative.
The new working definition of recovery from mental disorders and substance use disorders is as follows:
A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.
“Over the years it has become increasingly apparent that a practical, comprehensive working definition of recovery would enable policy makers, providers, and others to better design, deliver, and measure integrated and holistic services to those in need,” said SAMHSA Administrator, Pamela S. Hyde. "By working with all elements of the behavioral health community and others to develop this definition, I believe SAMHSA has achieved a significant milestone in promoting greater public awareness and appreciation for the importance of recovery, and widespread support for the services that can make it a reality for millions of Americans.”
Medical News Today reports individuals suffering from mood and anxiety disorders such as bipolar, panic disorder and major depressive disorder may be more likely to abuse opioids, according to a new study led by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. They found that mood and anxiety disorders are highly associated with non-medical prescription opioid use. The results are featured in a recent issue of the Journal of Psychological Medicine.
Prescription opioids such as oxycontin are a common and effective treatment for chronic and acute pain. Non-medical use of prescription opioids has increased dramatically and, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, prescription opioids are the second most frequently used illegal drug in the U.S. after marijuana. Prescription opioids are highly addictive and prolonged use can produce neurological changes and physiological dependence. For the study, researchers examined the association between individuals with mood and anxiety disorders with non-medical prescription opioid use and opioid disorder.
"Lifetime non-medical prescription opioid use was associated with the incidence of any mood disorder, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and all anxiety disorders. Non-medical opioid-use disorder due to non-medical prescription opioid use was associated with any mood disorder, any anxiety disorder, as well as with several incident mood disorders and anxiety disorders," said Silvia Martins, MD, PhD, lead author of the study and an associate scientist with the Bloomberg School's Department of Mental Health. "However, there is also evidence that the association works the other way too. Increased risk of incident opioid disorder due to non-medical use occurred among study participants with baseline mood disorders, major depressive disorder, dysthymia and panic disorder, reinforcing our finding that participants with mood disorders might use opioids non-medically to alleviate their mood symptoms. Early identification and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders might reduce the risk for self-medication with prescription opioids and the risk of future development of an opioid-use disorder."
According to a new study by researchers at the BU School of Public Health examining Cape Cod residents exposed to the neurotoxin PCE, children in contact with contaminated drinking water before birth and as infants and toddlers are more likely to use illegal drugs later in life.
From the late 1960s to 1980, an estimated 600 miles of water pipes contaminated with a known neurotoxin were installed in nearly 100 cities and towns in Massachusetts.
The study, published online in Environmental Health earlier this month, is the first to examine associations between prenatal and early childhood exposure to PCE (tetrachloroethylene, also commonly called perchlorethylene or perc) and the development of risky behaviors—including smoking, drinking and drug use—in teenagers and adults. PCE was used in the vinyl liner of drinking water pipes for several years. Those pipes no longer leach the chemical, but it is still widely used in dry cleaning and metal degreasing solutions.
PCE is a common drinking water contaminant found throughout the country, including in parts of California and Pennsylvania and at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina.
The new findings “present one more reason why we need to keep harmful chemicals like PCE out of our drinking water,” says Aschengrau.
The study found that the risk of using two or more illegal drugs as teenagers or adults for people with high exposure levels during gestation and early childhood was increased 1.5- to 1.6-fold. Increases in the use of cocaine, hallucinogens, club drugs, and Ritalin without a prescription were observed. Among highly exposed people, 30 percent to 60 percent increases in the risk of certain smoking and drinking behaviors also were seen. Previous studies have shown that chronic or high exposure to PCE among adults can have adverse effects on cognition, behavior, and mood.
Healthday reports that recreational use of the illegal drug known as ecstasy is associated with long-term changes in brain chemistry, a small, new study reveals.
Based on research with women, it appears that the so-called "rave" drug can induce a drop in serotonin levels that can last up to two years. Serotonin, the research team noted, is critical to the regulation of mood, appetite, sleep, learning and memory.
The drug increases serotonin levels in the brain, and users feel a sense of euphoria and emotional warmth. On the downside, the institute notes that the drug prompts a potentially problematic increase in both heart rate and blood pressure, and can lead to sleep disturbance and lingering feelings of confusion, depression and anxiety.
"We've always known that ecstasy produced transient effects, but with the suggestion that there would be recovery over time," explained study co-author Dr. Ronald Cowan, an associate professor of psychiatry in the department of psychiatry with Vanderbilt University Medical Center's School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn. "But here we find that these effects may be sustained over time with no evidence of reversal," he added.
Cowan and his colleagues report their findings in the Dec. 5 online issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.
The authors noted that nearly 16 million Americans aged 12 and older have reportedly used ecstasy at some point in their life.
According to a New York Times report, one out of every 15 high school students smokes marijuana on a near daily basis, a figure that has reached a 30-year peak even as use of alcohol, cigarettes and cocaine among teenagers continues a slow decline, according to a new government report.
The popularity of marijuana, which is now more prevalent among 10th graders than cigarette smoking, reflects what researchers and drug officials say is a growing perception among teenagers that habitual marijuana use carries little risk of harm. That perception, experts say, is fueled in part by wider familiarity with medicinal marijuana and greater ease in obtaining it.
R. Gil Kerlikowske, the federal drug czar, said he believed the increasing prevalence of medicinal marijuana was a factor in the uptick. “These last couple years, the amount of attention that’s been given to medical marijuana has been huge,” he said. “And when I’ve done focus groups with high school students in states where medical marijuana is legal, they say, ‘Well, if its called medicine and it’s given to patients by caregivers, then that’s really the wrong message for us as high school students.’”
The report also revealed that a mixture of herbs and chemicals known widely as “spice” or “K2” — or synthetic marijuana, since it mimics the intoxicating effects of herbal marijuana — has quickly gained popularity among teenagers. One in every nine high school seniors reported using it in the past year; most of them also regularly used marijuana. In another sign of the synthetic drug’s popularity, poison control centers received 5,741 calls about it through Oct. 31 of this year, almost double the number for all of last year. This was the first year the report asked students about their use of synthetic drugs.
Part of the reason synthetic marijuana had become so popular is that until recently, it was sold legally, often as “herbal incense,” in convenience stores and gas stations and on various Web sites. But in March, the Drug Enforcement Administration declared several chemicals in synthetic marijuana Schedule I drugs, banning them for a year. Congress is now considering legislation that would ban the substance permanently.
A growing number of parents are turning to at-home drug tests as a tool for teaching their children to stay away from drugs. The kits are available at most local pharmacies and cost $17 to $35.
According to the Palm Beach Post, experts in adolescent drug use and the American Academy of Pediatrics question whether the tests truly help children decide against using drugs or simply put the parent-child relationship at risk. The AAP has recommended against parents using the tests at home.
"If kids really want to use drugs, they'll get around the drug testing - we know they can do it," said Dr. Sharon Levy, chair of the AAP's committee on substance abuse and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. "There is a time and place for drug testing. Whether it should be used at home is an open question."
Family psychologist Howard Liddle, a University of Miami expert in family-based interventions for adolescent drug abuse, said the test alone won't deter a teen from using drugs. That's especially true if the test is used as a punishment, punitively trying to catch teens suspected of using drugs in the act.
"It can put stress on a relationship and make things more complicated," Liddle said. "The parent-kid relationship is what's important."
If a parent suspects a teen is using drugs, the best step is take the child to see a doctor, counselor or a mental health professional, said Levy.
An ABC News investigation that aired on &quot;20/20&quot; earlier this year found that spice and bath salts, despite being linked to multiple deaths, were being sold to teenagers across the country with little to no oversight.
ABC news reports that the House has now voted to ban a variety of synthetic drugs, including &quot;spice,&quot; and &quot;bath salts,&quot; that had previously been sold legally in stores throughout the country.
The Synthetic Drug Control Act would add over 30 synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of marijuana and cocaine to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, making them illegal to manufacture or dispense. It would also grant the Drug Enforcement Agency more authority to place temporary bans on potentially dangerous drugs as they are investigated.
The bill passed by a vote of 317-98; some Democrats argued the law would make it harder for scientists to obtain needed chemicals for medical research.
The bill now moves to the Senate, where Rep. Dent said he is &quot;hopeful&quot; it will be passed quickly.
&quot;I am confident banning the sale of dangerous synthetic drugs will help save lives in communities across the United States,&quot; said Dent.
French government surveys show the number of French teens who drink heavily is on the rise, says Bertrand Nalpas, who heads the alcohol and addiction office at the French National Institute on Health and Medical Research.
Many European parents, and some American ones, too, have long figured if they let their kids drink alcohol at home, they'd be less likely to go hog wild with their friends. But recent studies of teen drinking behavior don't bear that out.
France in recent years has seen pop-up street parties – organized via Facebook – that are well attended by vodka-shooting French teenagers. French alcohol researchers say these events reflect a growing problem of binge drinking among French teens.
The up-tick in binge drinking raises serious concerns, says Nalpas. He says data now shows that when kids start drinking, especially binge drinking, at a younger age, "this increases really hugely the risk of becoming dependent [on] alcohol in the future."
He says about 20 percent of French 17-year-olds are drunk at least three times a month. That's despite a recent tightening of laws in France that now prohibit anyone under 18 from buying alcohol.
"The age of first drink is about 12 years old in France," he says. That first drink is usually at home with the family, which has made it difficult, says Nalpas, to get out the message that alcohol can be dangerous. If kids see their parents and grandparents drinking, he says, they think, "I can drink also."
Addiction Professional editor, Gary Enos, reports that a federal grant will allow for Indiana treatment center to initiate the establishment of virtual recovery center.
An $840,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will allow Centerstone to assist 150 individuals through an online recovery-oriented system of care.
“The idea is to bring recovery to them, as opposed to someone coming to us to try to find recovery,” says Linda Grove-Paul, Centerstone’s director of addiction and forensic services. “Who we’re targeting are the people who would normally slip through the cracks.”
The online initiative, which is expected to launch Feb. 1, will target individuals who cannot easily make it to a recovery center location. The virtual recovery-oriented system of care will allow individuals to manage their recovery through online support groups, blogs and text messages, although Centerstone will start the effort for each client by establishing a direct relationship with a recovery coach.
Grove-Paul says that although the budget for the grant does not include funds to equip participants with computers, Centerstone already has begun to receive some computer donations to assist in its effort. Also, while only about 5% of the initiative’s target population has access to smartphone technology, about 75% own a phone with texting capability, she says.
Fifty individuals a year over three years will be enrolled through an online portal; Centerstone currently has a request for proposals out for a technology vendor for the project.
Join Together reports that experts in the field of substance abuse say there are significant problems with a recent study that concluded medical marijuana laws are associated with a reduction in traffic deaths. The critics point out the study was published as a working paper, and was not a peer-reviewed study in a scientific journal.
The study, which appeared in a working paper for the Institute for the Study of Labor, concludes that the most likely reason for the decrease in traffic deaths in states with medical marijuana laws is that some people in states with the laws use marijuana instead of alcohol. They note that alcohol is more deadly than marijuana when combined with driving.
Kevin A. Sabet, PhD, Senior Policy Advisor to the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, from 2009-2011, writes in The Huffington Post that “the paper ignores the fact that alcohol crash fatalities were already coming down far before the introduction of medical marijuana in any state.”
He notes the study includes Rhode Island and Vermont, which both had fewer than 300 members registered in their medical marijuana programs and no medical marijuana dispensaries. Montana, also included in the study, had 6,000 members at the time of the study, he says. The study says the state had more than 27,000 members, but that was as of 2011, after the study had concluded. He also points to a study to be published in the peer-reviewed Epidemiologic Reviews that analyzed nine studies on marijuana and the risk of car crashes. The study found that “drivers who test positive for marijuana or self-report using marijuana are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes.”
Gen. Arthur Dean, Chairman and CEO of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), wrote in a blog post that the working paper’s study methodology is greatly flawed, the study’s authors ignore a large body of evidence that shows marijuana and alcohol are compliments, and the authors also ignore mounting evidence that marijuana use is linked with impaired driving.
“The authors contend that medical marijuana laws cause people to drink less and therefore not drive drunk,” he wrote. “This is most certainly a spurious and coincidental relationship, however, as a large body of data points to other reasons why we have witnessed historic reductions in road fatalities over the last 20 years. Just because A happened when B happened does not mean that A caused B.”
The Associated Press reports that heroin is making a comeback in the state. According to authorities people have switched to heroin from OxyContin, which is now difficult to obtain.
Mexican brown heroin is being brought into the Cedar Rapids area from drug organizations in Chicago, and this year, 22 people have died from heroin overdoses in that city.
Scott Smith of the Drug Enforcement Administration told the AP that heroin users in Iowa tend to be in their mid-20s. He said users quickly develop a physical tolerance to the drug, which leads them to use ever-increasing amounts.
Kelly Reitzler of the Area Substance Abuse Council in Cedar Rapids said people can overdose when they quit heroin for awhile and then go back, using the same amount they had before. Often, their system is unable to tolerate it, she said.
According to USA Today, a research study suggests that treating smoking like a chronic disease helps smokers quit,. Providing long-term assistance to smokers, similar to the approach used in treating high blood pressure and diabetes, increases smoking cessation rates, the study found.
Lead researcher Anne Joseph of the University of Minnesota told USA Today that many doctors do not provide enough help to smokers who have relapsed. “We often view relapse as failure and need to build in interim goals until success is achieved,” she said.
The study included 443 smokers, and compared quit rates of those who received standard treatment—eight weeks of counseling with nicotine replacement therapy—to those of smokers who had 48 weeks of counseling and nicotine replacement therapy. The researchers followed the smokers for 18 months, and found those receiving the 48-week treatment were about 75 percent more successful in quitting smoking. The results appear in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
A second study appearing in the same journal found smokers who were not motivated to stop smoking tried quitting more often if they had nicotine-replacement therapy, in addition to other treatment.
The researchers followed 849 smokers who said they did not want to quit. They were divided into two groups. Both groups practiced quitting, but only one group also received nicotine replacement therapy. After 12 weeks, 32 percent of those who received nicotine replacement therapy had tried quitting, compared with 23 percent of those who did not receive nicotine treatment. After six months, 49 percent of those who received nicotine replacement therapy had tried quitting, compared with 40 percent in the non-nicotine replacement group.
By: Virginia Gewin
Smoking now may make you more susceptible to cocaine addiction later. Nicotine causes changes in gene regulation that enhance the brain's subsequent response to cocaine. The finding, in mice, provides the first clear evidence for a molecular mechanism supporting the idea of 'gateway drugs'.
Epidemiologist Denise Kandel at Columbia University, New York, reported back in 1975 that drug-using adolescents had tended to start with cigarettes, which contain the addictive substance nicotine, and alcohol before progressing to more illicit substances such as cocaine1. The idea that smoking and alcohol act as a gateway, making teenagers more likely to experiment with other drugs, has proved controversial ever since.
Now Kandel has collaborated with her husband of 56 years, neurobiologist Eric Kandel, and other colleagues at Columbia, to probe the molecular biology underlying the gateway effect. In a study published today in Science Translational Medicine2, the team shows that, in mice at least, nicotine causes epigenetic changes — long-lasting changes in the control of gene expression — that subsequently boost the response to cocaine.
Neurobiologists Eric Nestler and Alfred Robison of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York suggested in a review published earlier this month that such gene priming is likely to be at work in drug addiction3. But their prediction was based on limited existing evidence. "This paper is exciting because it is one of the first well-defined characterizations of gene priming by a drug," says Robison.
“Adolescence is a time when the brain is very malleable.”
Amir Levine, a member of the Columbia team, acknowledges that there could be other reasons, such as social factors, for the progression from soft to hard drugs, but "adolescence is a time when the brain is very malleable", he points out. "We wondered if drug-induced brain alterations could have long-term molecular impacts."
To investigate, the researchers plied mice with nicotine, followed seven days later by cocaine. What they found was striking. Compared with mice on cocaine who had not previously received nicotine, the animals were 98% more active and 78% more likely to return to areas previously associated with the cocaine.
The reverse didn't hold, however. Cocaine had no effect on nicotine-induced behaviour.
To determine how nicotine boosts cocaine's impact, the researchers studied molecular markers of drug addiction, including the transcription of FosB, a gene implicated in addiction to many drugs of abuse, and the structural changes that regulate FosB expression.
"We found that nicotine works on the DNA-packaging system, known as chromatin," says Levine. Nicotine loosens chromatin, a complex material in which DNA is packaged up by histones and other proteins, by enhancing a process called histone acetylation, catalyzed by acetylase enzymes. Acetylation effectively opens up the packaging, enabling greater transcription of the FosB gene, he says. Nicotine does this by inhibiting another enzyme involved in gene regulation, histone deacetylase, which has the opposite effect on chromatin.
The authors backed up their results with additional experiments showing, for example, that the drug suberoylanilide hydroxamine acid, which inhibits deacetylases, simulates the effect of nicotine.
The team also re-evaluated existing epidemiological data on the drug use of 1,160 high school students and found that it confirmed that smoking increased the risk of cocaine dependency in people – consistent with the findings in mice.
The research promises to reinvigorate the gateway-drug hypothesis, which Levine says has gained a bad reputation. "People think it's backed by conservative movements to make a case for making marijuana illegal, when it is simply the sequence of adolescent drug use as found in epidemiological studies," he says.
Frances Leslie, a neuropharmacologist at the University of California at Irvine, who was not involved in the study, says that part of the problem is that people don't want to believe that teenage smoking will sensitize them to other drugs. And because it's difficult to tease out social factors in human studies, animal work has an important role. Her own group has shown that nicotine is associated with 'risky' behaviour, including an increase in self-administration of cocaine, in adolescent rats4.
The molecular mechanism revealed by the Columbia team's work "is exciting because it may lead to therapeutic interventions", says Leslie. "Hopefully this paper will make it less controversial to use the term 'gateway drug' in future papers and grants," she adds.
The policy implications of the findings will undoubtedly be debated. Laura Bierut, a psychiatrist at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, who focuses on the genetic epidemiology of addiction, says the Columbia study suggests that existing policies aimed at cutting smoking may be having a larger effect on public health than thought.
It should also help to guide epidemiological studies to tease apart the relationship between cocaine use and smoking, she says, including the effects of the age that someone starts smoking, how much they smoke, and what other drugs they take.
Levine and Eric Kandel now hope to determine whether alcohol and marijuana similarly prime the response to illicit drugs or have a different effect. "Is there a common gateway mechanism or a family of gateway mechanisms?" says Kandel.
1. Kandel, D. Science 190, 912-914 (1975). | Article | PubMed | ChemPort |
2. Levine, A. et al. Sci. Transl. Med. 3, 107ra109a (2011). | Article |
3. Robison, A. & Nestler, E. Nature Rev. Neurosci. 12, 623-636 (2011). | Article |
4. Dao, J. M., McQuown, S. C., Loughlin, S. E., Belluzzi, J. D. & Leslie, F. M. Neuropsychopharmacology 36, 1319-1331 (2011). | Article | PubMed | ISI | ChemPort |
The Washington Post reports that colleges are becoming concerned about the increase of adhd medication being illegally used. For more than two decades, college students have illegally taken prescription stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall to stay awake and hyper-focused while studying. As sales of medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder soar, administrators worry that illegal use also is increasing.
The White House Office of Drug Control voiced concern about the increase in its latest strategy report, which promises to introduce policies in the next few years that will target college students and a range of substance abuse issues.
But cracking down on study drugs is nearly impossible, said several college administrators who have worked on the issue as it has gained wider attention in recent years. Students who abuse study drugs don’t reek of marijuana or show the tell-tale signs of excessive drinking. They rarely end up in hospital beds or jail cells.
“People on Adderall don’t pee in the hallways,” said Daniel Swinton, president of the Association for Student Conduct Administration and an assistant dean at Vanderbilt University. Study drugs are “kind of a silent issue. Everyone’s aware of it, but I think we’re all focused on the more prevalent one — alcohol.”
When misused, prescription stimulants can cause an irregular heart beat, panic attacks and in rare cases death, especially when mixed with alcohol or other drugs. These prescription medications are similar to cocaine and can be addictive. But experts say there is little evidence of a widespread medical crisis or growing rates of addiction.
Some colleges have begun to pose these ethical quandaries in hopes they will curb study-drug abuse in a way that health warnings and legal threats have failed.
This fall, the Duke University Office of Student Conduct added another bullet-point to its list of things that are considered cheating: “the unauthorized use of prescription medication to enhance academic performance.” If the office learns that a student might have violated the policy, the charge would go through the disciplinary process and, if warranted, a punishment would be assigned.
Young people who begin using heroin generally are unaware of the drug’s dangerous effects, according to a new study in Illinois. Researchers interviewed 15 current and former heroin users in the suburbs of Chicago, ages 22 to 31. When they began using heroin, around age 18, most believed that if they snorted or sniffed the drug they were less likely to become addicted.
Almost two-thirds of the study participants said they tried heroin after first using prescription pain drugs, or to “come down” from cocaine use.
More than three-quarters either said they had a mental health condition—such as anxiety, ADHD, depression or bipolar disorder—or exhibited signs of having a mental health disorder during the interview process.
“These young people didn’t know what they were getting into,” lead researcher Kathie Kane-Willis of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University told the Courier-News. “They didn’t understand when they tried heroin how easy it would be for them to become dependent, and they didn’t know how severe the withdrawal symptoms could be.”
HealthDay reports that in a study published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry, people hospitalized for methamphetamine or marijuana use are more likely than those being treated as inpatients for other substance use disorders to develop schizophrenia.
Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto analyzed the records of patients who were admitted to California hospitals between 1990 and 2000 with a diagnosis of dependence or abuse for methamphetamine, marijuana, alcohol, cocaine or opioids.
People who were hospitalized for meth dependence and who had never been diagnosed with schizophrenia or psychotic symptoms at the start of the study had a roughly 1.5- to three-fold higher risk of later being diagnosed with schizophrenia than patients who used cocaine, alcohol or opioid drugs, study leader Dr. Russ Callaghan said in a CAMH news release.
The researchers also found that the increased risk of schizophrenia in methamphetamine users was similar to that of heavy users of marijuana.
It's not clear how methamphetamine and marijuana may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia.
"Perhaps repeated use of methamphetamine and cannabis in some susceptible individuals can trigger latent schizophrenia by sensitizing the brain to dopamine, a brain chemical thought to be associated with psychosis," Dr. Stephen Kish, senior scientist and head of CAMH's Human Brain Laboratory, said in the news release.
This was reported by Join Together and The Partnership @ drug free.org and is very important information for anyone who works with or has teenagers. Marijuana is one of the fastest growing addictive substances being used now and research shows it is not as harmless as it is thought by many to be.
Paula Riggs, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, notes the most recent Monitoring the Future Survey shows a significant increase in marijuana use, including daily marijuana use among U. S. high school students and a decrease in perceived risk of use. “There are a number of indicators, including the increasing number of states that have passed ‘medical marijuana’ legislation, and that society as a whole tends to view marijuana as a relatively benign, recreational drug. However, scientific research does not support this.”
A growing body of research shows that adolescent marijuana use can be detrimental to the brain development and may produce long-lasting neurocognitive deficits and increased risk of mental health problems including psychosis, said Dr. Riggs, who spoke about this topic at the recent California Society of Addiction Medicine meeting.
Research shows that marijuana can cause structural damage, neuronal loss and impair brain function on a number of levels, from basic motor coordination to more complex tasks, such as the ability to plan, organize, solve problems, remember, make decisions and control behavior and emotions.
Dr. Riggs also cited recent studies indicating that adolescents may be more vulnerable to addiction, in part due to rapid brain development.
“Emerging research suggests that individuals who start using marijuana during their teenage years may have longer-lasting cognitive impairments in executive functioning than those who start later,” she says. “Animal studies also suggest that exposure to marijuana during adolescence compared to adulthood may increase the vulnerability or risk of developing addiction to other substances of abuse such as cocaine and methamphetamine.”
She adds, “It is important for pediatricians, psychiatrists and other mental health clinicians to be aware of current research because they are on the front line to identify teens when they first start to experiment. They need to be able to effectively screen adolescents for marijuana use, and be armed with the scientific facts to educate teens and families about associated risks.”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, more than 1 million people in the United States use methamphetamine every year, and the nation has seen reappearance in addiction to the drug in recent years, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In San Francisco, among people who seek treatment for drug dependence, about 11 percent are abusing methamphetamine, according to the health department.
Methamphetamine addicts who took an antidepressant medication every day were far less dependent on the drug after three months than those who took a placebo, according to a study released Monday by the San Francisco Public Health Department.
However, a new study is providing a glimmer of hope for treating Methamphetamine addiction.
Researchers have for years been trying to find a drug to help alleviate dependency on methamphetamine, much as methadone can be used to help people quit heroin, but multiple studies of many different drugs have failed. Addiction experts said they're cautiously optimistic that the antidepressant mirtazapine, sold under the brand name Remeron, will prove useful.
Addiction treatment experts said the findings were encouraging, especially given how notoriously difficult it can be to help methamphetamine addicts kick their dependence. But they added that the results will need to be confirmed in larger studies.
"This is exciting to see because with methamphetamine, virtually everything we've tried hasn't worked. There have been quite a few bombs pharmacologically," said Keith Humphreys, a Stanford psychiatry professor and a researcher at the Veterans Administration in Palo Alto who specializes in addiction. "At the same time, those earlier experiences have taught me to be cautious now."
The study, results of which were published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, was run by Dr. Grant Colfax, director of HIV prevention at the Public Health Department.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/11/07/BA2G1LROHB.DTL#ixzz1dJKknXWp
According, to the Los Angeles Times, the first-ever survey of adolescent alcohol and drug abuse to recognize youths of mixed race or ethnicity found that such kids hover closest to white adolescents in the rate at which they suffer substance abuse disorders. That is not reassuring, because white adolescents are among the most likely ethnic and racial groups to have substance-use disorders.
Between 2005 and 2007, researchers plumbed the drug and alcohol use patterns of 72,561 adolescents between age 12 and 17. They conducted computer-assisted interviews with adolescents about their use in the past 12 months of alcohol and a wide range of illicit drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and opioid painkillers taken for non-medical reasons.
Of all ethnic groups, Native Americans were found to suffer the highest rates of drug and alcohol abuse and dependence—about 15% in a given year. African American adolescents were among the least likely to abuse or be dependent on drugs or alcohol: on a yearly basis, roughly 5% of black teens fit the criteria for substance-use disorder—almost as low a rate as prevails among adolescents of Asian or Pacific Islander ethnicity (3.5%).
Adolescents who identified themselves as mixed race or ethnicity were more likely than any other group to exhibit signs of problematic drug and alcohol use: 3.5% appeared to have substance-use disorders in both categories, compared with 3.1% of Native Americans, 2.3% of whites and 2.3% of Latinos. Among African Americans and Asians, signs of substance-use disorders were rare, totaling 0.9% and 0.6%, respectively. This sign of risk-taking among adolescents who identify as multi-ethnic runs counter to other studies of this population.
Latino youths -- the fastest-growing ethnic group in this age cohort -- fell below white and multi-ethnic adolescents in their rate of substance-use disorders, but not by much: 7.7% qualified as having dangerously abused or been dependent on drugs or alcohol in the past year.
The survey was published Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
According to the New York Times, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has five commando-style squads that it has been using for the past several years to battle drug cartels in nations including Honduras, Haiti, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.
The DEA program, called FAST, for Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team, was created under the administration of George W. Bush to investigate Taliban-linked drug traffickers in Afghanistan, the article states. Since 2008, the program has expanded far beyond that country.
In 2000, when the United States expanded assistance to Colombia in its battle against the narcotics-financed insurgent group called FARC, the trainers were military, not D.E.A. But after the invasion of Afghanistan, the Bush administration assigned Mr. Braun, a veteran of the earlier effort, to design a new program.
Begun in 2005, the program has five squads, each with 10 agents. Many are military veterans, and the section is overseen by a former member of the Navy Seals, Richard Dobrich. The Pentagon has provided most of their training and equipment, and they routinely fly on military aircraft.
The article notes the program fuses elements of the fight against drugs and the war of terror.
Bruce Bagley, a University of Miami professor who specializes in Latin America and counternarcotics, told the newspaper the program can be beneficial in fighting drug trafficking. However, it could lead to a backlash against the United States in the countries involved, and could also lead to more violence, he said. “And it won’t permanently stop trafficking unless a country also has capable institutions, which often don’t exist in Central America,” he added.
While federal law prohibits the DEA from carrying out arrests in other countries, its agents can accompany their foreign colleagues on operations, and train and mentor them. In some circumstances they can open fire to protect themselves or their partners.
FAST commandos have been deployed at least 15 times to Latin America, the newspaper states. The DEA said some of those deployments were training missions.
The deployments to Afghanistan have resulted in large seizures of drugs, and some tragedy: two of the three D.E.A. agents who died in a helicopter crash in October 2009 were with FAST. Last week, an agent was shot in the head when his squad came under fire while leaving a bazaar where they had just seized 3,000 kilograms, about 6,600 pounds, of poppy seeds and 50 kilograms, about 110 pounds, of opium. Airlifted to Germany in critical condition, he is expected to survive, an official said.
The commandos have also been deployed at least 15 times to Latin America. The D.E.A. said some of those missions involved only training, but officials declined to provide details. Still, glimpses of the program emerged in interviews with current and former American and foreign officials, briefing files, budget documents and several State Department cables released by WikiLeaks.
For example, an American team assisted Guatemalan forces in the March 2011 arrest of Juan Alberto Ortiz-López, whom the D.E.A. considered a top cocaine smuggler for the Sinaloa cartel, an official said.
According to the Wall Street Journal, police across the U.S. are struggling with a sudden increase of busts for methamphetamine production, fueled by the rise of small but dangerous "one pot" labs.
The increasingly popular technique has largely replaced the kitchen-size meth lab with a single, two-liter soda bottle. Ingredients for a batch can easily be obtained on a single trip to a pharmacy and mixed almost anywhere. One-pot labs aren't new, but they are spreading just as budget cuts are reducing police forces.
One-pot operations produce small quantities of meth at a time, law-enforcement officials say, but are toxic and highly explosive, occasionally resulting in fires and deaths. Their small scale makes them especially hard to find and stop, in part because they don't require enough pseudoephedrine—an essential meth ingredient found in some cold medications—to alert federal officials.
"They're small, they're mobile, they're easy to hide," said Cpl. Mike Griffin of the Tulsa Police Department. "As long as pseudoephedrine is available, they're going to keep growing."
Federal regulations limiting over-the-counter sales of pseudoephedrine to a few grams a day helped keep larger meth producers in check after the rules took effect in 2006. But producers started scaling down recipes to require just a few packages of cold medicine instead of hundreds.
"As crooks tend to do, they have adapted," said DEA spokesman Jeffrey Scott.
According to Reuters Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics, released a new policy statement that says: doctors should be asking adolescents about their drug and alcohol use at every visit and screening for any signs of dependence or addiction,
In the statement, published in Pediatrics, the group points out that developing brains are particularly vulnerable to addiction -- and so it's important for doctors to take a firm and proactive stance when teens use drugs and alcohol.
In a 2010 study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 30 percent of 10th graders reported using illicit drugs in the past year, and 52 percent had drunk alcohol.
Screening in teens can catch unhealthy behavior and dependence before it turns into a full-blown addiction -- so it's an especially beneficial time for doctors to bring up those difficult topics.
At every primary care appointment and whenever else doctors see their adolescent patients, the statement says, they should be asking teens whether or not they use alcohol and drugs, and if so, under what circumstances.
Then, doctors should give encouragement or advice based on teens' responses, and refer those who need it to extra treatment.
Dr. Sharon Levy, co-author of the statement and director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Children's Hospital Boston, said "the recommendation to screen adolescents as part of general healthcare is not new."
Adolescents are "an ideal group to screen," she concluded. "The risk of this is very low, the cost of this is trivial... and the potential benefit is huge."
The New York Times reports that the National Institutes of Health bought nine million experimental cigarettes, made of genetically altered tobacco to lower the nicotine content by 97 percent while preserving all the other tastes and smells and rituals for smokers of conventional ones.The 22nd Century Group makes these cigarettes as part of a broadening scientific effort to find ways to regulate cigarettes so that they are nonaddictive.
The Spectrum brand test cigarettes have eight different levels of nicotine for research, from a nicotine content of 3 percent to 100 percent of the nicotine in the best-selling Marlboro Gold, though a 97 percent reduction is the most common level.
Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the N.I.H., which oversees the work, called the delivery crucial for the new federal research projects. These include last month’s award of $2.5 million for the first year of a planned five-year series of studies into threshold levels of nicotine addiction and the possible impact of a sharp reduction in nicotine on smoking and public health.
One study of the test cigarettes will follow about 500 smokers over six months to determine whether they are more likely to quit if they switch to those cigarettes quickly or gradually. The research, led by Dorothy K. Hatsukami, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, and Eric C. Donny, associate professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, will use about 1.5 million of the recently acquired cigarettes.
For researchers, the availability of a new supply of test cigarettes is “a game changer,” said Mitch Zeller, co-chairman of the Tobacco Harm Reduction Network at the National Cancer Institute and a consultant on nicotine replacement products. “It’s still all about the nicotine. Only now we have the power to do something about it.”
Heavy alcohol consumption may be linked to a greater risk of developing lung cancer, a new study in Medical News Today reported.
"Heavy drinking has multiple harmful effects, including cardiovascular complications and increased risk for lung cancer, said Stanton Siu, MD, FCCP, Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, California. "We did not see a relationship between moderate drinking and lung cancer development. So it appears probable that most middle-aged and older moderate drinkers have coronary artery protection and no increased risk of lung cancer risk."
Dr. Siu and his research team studied 126,293 people who provided baseline data from 1978 to1985 and followed them until 2008 to determine their risk for developing lung cancer in relation to cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, gender, ethnicity, BMI, and level of education. Of the 1,852 people who developed lung cancer during this time, results showed that cigarette smoking remained a strong predictor of all types of lung cancer; however, heavy alcohol consumption (> 3 alcoholic drinks per day) also increased lung cancer risk, with a slightly higher risk related to heavy beer consumption as opposed to wine and liquor.
Although researchers found several factors that increased lung cancer risk, other factors were found to be related to reduced risk of the disease. Dr. Siu and team found an inverse relationship between BMI and lung cancer risk, where higher BMI levels were associated with a lower risk for lung cancer. A similar relationship was seen in those who graduated from college.
"Explanations are not evident, but people with more education probably have a generally healthy lifestyle," said Dr. Siu. "The BMI-cancer association was independent of smoking, and we speculate that nutritional factors may be involved."
According to the New York Times, Wal-Mart has made significant changes to its health plan offerings. In Wal-Mart’s 2012 health offerings, premiums will increase for some plans by more than 40 percent, although many of their workers still pay low premiums in comparison to more generous plans offered by other employers. But many Wal-Mart employees complain that their low premiums are accompanied by higher deductibles that can exceed 20 percent of their annual pay.
Wal-Mart’s new health offerings will also require many employees who smoke to pay a significant penalty. They will be required to pay an extra $10 to $90 each pay period — $260 to $2,340 a year — if they want health coverage.
Several other large employers have begun charging higher premiums to employees who smoke, according to Mercer, a benefits consulting firm. Wal-Mart notes that other major companies, including Home Depot, PepsiCo and Macy’s, also charge smokers more for their health insurance.
Greg Rossiter, a Wal-Mart spokesperson defended the penalty for smokers, saying, “Tobacco users generally consume about 25 percent more health care services than non-tobacco users.” In its health care brochures, Wal-Mart told its employees that diseases caused by tobacco result in $96 billion in extra health care costs nationwide.
Some people might have a low level response to alcohol Science Daily reports, and this might have implications for why different brain activities result in alcoholism. The report to be published in the January 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, states that a low level of response (LR) to alcohol is a genetically influenced characteristic, or phenotype, that reflects at least in part a low brain response to alcohol, and carries significant risk for the later development of alcoholism.
This is another confirmation that the brain has predetermined influences for Alcoholism.
"A phenotype provides an observable window into a genetically influenced behavior, in this case, the predisposition to alcohol use disorders," added Edith V. Sullivan, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine.
"Here, the phenotype was a behavior with a physiological basis associated with a difference in response when having alcohol in the system. This combination provides the potential of identifying individuals who are at risk for developing alcohol use disorders before they develop. This is the essence of a genetic marker for a behavior. Few markers are perfect predictors, but those that approach a genetic basis should be robust and also be related to associated behaviors that are surrogate markers for the primary behavior."
The study examined 98 (52 females and 46 males) young, healthy drinkers who were not alcohol dependent and who had been identified in prior testing as clearly having low or high LRs to alcohol.
The subjects in the two LR groups were matched to be similar on recent drinking histories, age, gender, race, and histories of smoking and using illicit drugs.
All participants were evaluated during two event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) sessions while performing a validated cognitive task based on the stop-signal paradigm.
The two groups were given a placebo or approximately 0.7 ml/kg of alcohol (roughly the equivalent of 3 standard drinks), in random order, and treated subjects developed identical blood alcohol levels during the sessions.
"Those with a low LR seemed to have had to exert more cognitive effort to perform a cognitive task than those with high LR's…" said lead researcher Marc Schuckit. "After alcohol, the low LR subjects seemed to do the task with less effort …while the high LR subjects had to work harder to do the task after alcohol ... So when the low LR people drink modest amounts of alcohol, they may not perceive much change in how their brain is working. Also, if a modest dose of alcohol produces a situation where you don't have to exert as much effort to think about how a challenging task needs to be done, as might be true for low LR subjects, perhaps drinking is a bit more rewarding for you compared to people who find that modest alcohol doses impair their thinking, as is seen for high LR subjects."
In short, intoxication seemed to become almost a 'normalized' state for low LR individuals.
"Extrapolating from these findings allows us to speculate that adolescents who are genetically predisposed for a low response, and therefore relatively high tolerance, to drinking alcohol would have poor ability for self-correction -- the lesson we have from the Stop task -- and their high tolerance may enable them to drink to dangerous levels," said Sullivan.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the California Medical Association, which represents more than 35,000 physicians statewide, is calling for legalization of marijuana. It is the first major medical association in the nation to urge legalization of the drug.
Dr. Donald Lyman, the Sacramento physician who wrote the group's new policy, attributed the shift to growing frustration over California's medical marijuana law, which has created an untenable situation for physicians: deciding whether to give patients a substance that is illegal under federal law.
"It's an uncomfortable position for doctors," he said. "It is an open question whether cannabis is useful or not. That question can only be answered once it is legalized and more research is done. Then, and only then, can we know what it is useful for."
The group acknowledges health risks associated with marijuana and proposes that it be regulated like alcohol and tobacco.
Dr. Robert DuPont, an M.D. and professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School, called the Associations statement "a reckless disregard of the public health. I think it's going to lead to more use, and that, to me, is a public health concern. I'm not sure they've thought through what the implications of legalization would be."
The federal government views cannabis as a substance with no medical use, in the same category as heroin and LSD. The CMA wants the government to reclassify it to promote further research on its medical potential.
In recent weeks, the Obama administration has begun cracking down on California's medical marijuana industry, threatening to prosecute landlords who rent buildings to pot dispensaries.
"I wonder what they're smoking," said John Lovell, spokesman for the California Police Chiefs Assn. "Given everything that we know about the physiological impacts of marijuana — how it affects young brains, the number of accidents associated with driving under the influence — it's just an unbelievably irresponsible position."
CNN reports that in an effort to combat an increase in the number of teenage drugged driving cases, the White House will partner with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to create a new information campaign, calling on parents to become more aware of this dangerous trend.
“Research shows that drugs have adverse effects on judgment, reaction time, and motor skills – all vital requirements for responsible driving,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy. “I can think of no greater organization with which to partner to save lives on our roadways than MADD. For decades, MADD has been a linchpin in our nation’s efforts to make our roadways safer and I am proud to join them to help raise public awareness regarding the devastating consequences of drugged driving.”
According to the drug policy office's new analysis of 2009 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 23% of fatally injured drivers who tested positive for drugs were under the age of 25. Additional data, finds that almost half of fatally injured drivers who tested positive for marijuana were under the age of 25.
Their research also showed that when drugs were involved, the number of fatal crashes had increased by 5 percentage points over the past five years, even as the overall number of drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States had declined.
One of the handiest resources the drug policy office is now providing is the Drugged Driving Toolkit. The toolkit provides tips for parents of teen drivers’ tips to help teens reject negative influences to ensure they remain “Above the Influence.” The toolkit is available for download at www.TheAntiDrug.com.
David Strickland, of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, points out “We already know the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol, and a growing body of research indicates that drugged driving is also a concern—especially for young drivers aged 15-20 who are at particularly high risk for traffic crashes and really need to remain fully alert and focused on driving”.
Federal officials on Friday warned dozens of marijuana dispensaries throughout California to shut down or face civil and criminal action as part of a major crackdown on the state’s growing medical marijuana industry.
On Friday, four U.S. attorneys said they would prosecute landlords who rent space to operators of medical marijuana dispensaries. The attorneys said they suspect these dispensaries of using the state’s medical marijuana law to profit from large-scale drug sales. They said tens of millions of dollars’ worth of the drug is being sent across state lines.
“Large commercial operations cloak their money-making activities in the guise of helping sick people when they are in fact helping themselves,” said Benjamin B. Wagner, the U.S. attorney in Sacramento. “Our interest is in enforcing federal criminal law, not prosecuting seriously ill sick people and those who are caring for them.”
In July, the U.S. Justice Department announced that medical marijuana dispensaries and licensed growers located in states with medical marijuana laws are not immune from prosecution for violation of federal drug and money-laundering law
Science Daily reports that Columbia University did a meta-analysis of nine epidemiologic studies to examine the link between marijuana use by drivers and risk of car accidents. The researchers found that drivers who tested positive for marijuana or report driving within three hours of marijuana use are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes.
The researchers also found evidence that crash risk increases with the concentration of marijuana-produced compounds in the urine and the frequency of self-reported marijuana use.
According to the investigators 8 of 9 studies found that drivers who use marijuana are significantly more likely to be involved in crashes than drivers who do not.
Full study findings are published online in Epidemiologic Reviews.
The analysis indicates that 28% of fatally injured drivers and more than 11% of the general driver population tested positive for non-alcohol drugs, with marijuana being the most commonly detected substance.
The senior author points out that "Given the ongoing epidemic of drug-impaired driving and the increased permissibility and accessibility of marijuana for medical use in the U.S., it is urgent that we better understand the role of marijuana in causing car accidents."
The research was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Kim Janda, a researcher at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, is working on creating vaccines to treat addiction. Dr. Janda has been studying addiction vaccines for more than 25 years, The New York Times reports. Now that addiction is thought to cause physical changes in the brain, scientists are looking for medical solutions, including vaccines.
The addiction vaccines he is developing prompt the immune system to produce antibodies to block a drug before it can affect the body or brain. They would be given after a person already has an addiction.
In July, Dr. Janda published a study of a promising vaccine against heroin addiction. The study, conducted in rats, showed the vaccine produces antibodies that prevent heroin from reaching the brain to produce feelings of euphoria.
“We view this as an alternative or better way for some people,” said Dr. Kim D. Janda, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute who has made this his life’s work. “Just like with nicotine patches and the gum, all those things are just systems to get people off the drugs.”
The scientific principle behind Dr. Janda’s vaccines is much like vaccines against disease, they introduce a small amount of the foreign substance into the blood, causing the immune system to create antibodies that will attack that substance the next time it appears.
The difficulty is that molecules like cocaine, nicotine and methamphetamine are tiny — much smaller than disease molecules — so the immune system tends to ignore them. To overcome that, Dr. Janda attaches a hapten — which is either a bit of the drug itself, or a synthetic version of it — to a larger protein that acts as a platform. The last part of the vaccine is an adjuvant, a chemical cocktail that attracts the immune system’s notice, effectively tricking it into making antibodies against a substance it usually wouldn’t see.
“It’s not like some magical premise,” Dr. Janda said. “And the beauty of it is you’re not messing with brain chemistry.”
He is quick to caution that taking away someone’s ability to get high off of one drug hardly cures them of their addiction problems. There’s nothing to stop a vaccinated cocaine addict, for example, from turning to methamphetamines.
Like any anti-addiction treatment, his vaccines are simply meant as “a crutch for people wanting to go into abstinence,” Dr. Janda said.
Baylor Health Care System in Dallas announced this week that starting in 2012, it will no longer hire people who use nicotine. NBC DFW reports that current employees who smoke will not be fired, but they will have to pay an extra surcharge for health insurance.
The hospital has offered an employee smoking cessation program for many years.
This year, employees who smoke or dip tobacco pay a $50 health insurance surcharge; next year that will rise to $650.
Starting in January, prospective employees will be given urine screening tests which will screen for illegal drugs, as well as nicotine from cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, pipes, e-cigarettes, patches and gum.
The hospital says that not hiring nicotine users is part of a national trend. “Many other health care organizations are making the decision not to hire nicotine users as part of a broader well-being initiative,” the website states. The Cleveland Clinic has a similar policy in place.
A new study appearing in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, suggests that smokers may have a more difficult time remembering everyday tasks than people who have quit smoking or those who have never smoked.
Research published in this month’s online edition of Drug and Alcohol Dependence reveals that stopping smoking can restore everyday memory to virtually the same level as non-smokers.
British researchers gave memory tests to a group of 27 smokers, 18 people who had quit smoking, and 24 people who had never smoked. Participants were asked to remember to do certain tasks at different locations.
Smokers were able to remember only 59 percent of the tasks, compared with 74 percent of the former smokers and 81 percent of those who never smoked.
Researcher Tom Heffernan of Northumbria University, said in a news release that the study is the first to examine the effect that quitting smoking has on memory.
Propelled by an increase in prescription narcotic overdoses, drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States, a Los Angeles Times analysis of government data has found.
Drugs exceeded motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death in 2009, killing over 37,000 people nationwide, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While most major causes of preventable death are declining, drugs are an exception. The death toll has doubled in the last decade, now claiming a life every 14 minutes. By contrast, traffic accidents have been dropping for decades because of huge investments in auto safety.
This is the first time that drugs have accounted for more fatalities than traffic accidents since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979.
Fueling the surge in deaths are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol. Among the most commonly abused are OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Soma. One relative newcomer to the scene is Fentanyl, a painkiller that comes in the form of patches and lollipops and is 100 times more powerful than morphine.
Such drugs now cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.
According to BU Today, BU began a beefed-up campaign against alcohol abuse last weekend, bolstering police patrols of known party neighborhoods, citing students for public intoxication, dispersing loud parties—and, crucially, publicizing statistics on the booze-control efforts by University, Boston, and Brookline police.
Modeled on successful efforts at the University of California, the program aims to discourage dangerous drinking.
Last weekend, Boston police broke up seven loud parties, some of them hosting up to 100 people. The BU Police Department, meanwhile, transported 10 students to the hospital for acute intoxication, gave a dozen summonses to minors for drinking, and put a student who refused to go to the hospital in protective custody, a procedure where a drunken person is overseen for several hours until he sobers up. Brookline police cited one BU student for excessive noise.
The new efforts are the result of a grim statistic from the past academic year: 250 students, most of them freshmen, went to the hospital for acute intoxication. The University hopes to convey to students that “we’re not trying to keep you from having fun, but you need to keep it under control,” says David McBride, director of Student Health Services.
BU will gather other data, such as the number of officers and hours devoted to patrols, as part of the University’s participation in the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking, a 31-school partnership sharing tactics for curbing binge drinking.
“Hopefully, students will recognize that there’s going to be a higher police presence and perhaps make decisions based on that,” McBride says. By publicizing numbers, “it’s visible to students, so that before the weekend, they look and say, ‘Gosh, 50 people were cited for public intoxication or have to appear in court. Maybe I won’t go out this weekend; maybe I’ll do something on campus.’” The legal drinking age is 21 in Massachusetts.
Åsa Mackenzie, associate professor of neuroscience at Uppsala University and the researcher who led the study found that faulty signaling in the brain increases craving for sugar and drugs.
The brain's reward system gives us feelings of pleasure and happiness, for example when we have eaten or drunk something good, had sex, or worked out. This pleasure arises when certain signal substances, primarily dopamine, are released in the brain. But this reward system can be "kidnapped" by other rewarding substances, such as alcohol and abuser drugs like cocaine. They provide feelings of reward initially, but they are so strong that nerve cells in the system are rewired, and addiction occurs.
More natural substance, such as food rich in sugar, can also produce addiction-like conditions."Our data indicate that the brain becomes hypersensitive to rewards when this co-signaling of glutamate and dopamine does not function. Lower doses than normal are enough to increase the propensity to ingest the substance, and this is true of both sugar and cocaine,"
The Uppsala researchers and their colleagues have recently shown that dopamine cells in the reward system can send signals in cooperation with glutamate, so called co-signaling. In studies of mice that lack the ability to send the above signals because their glutamate transporter, so-called VGLUT, has been inactivated, the scientists studied how prone the mice were to ingest sugar and cocaine.
"This is extremely interesting, but more research is needed in order to understand how this can be used in drug development, for instance," says Åsa Mackenzie.
These scientists have now gone on to study these mechanisms in connection with abuse in humans and are looking for direct connections between low VGLUT levels and addiction.
A new survey suggests teens who spend time on Facebook and other social networking sites are at greater risk of substance abuse compared with teens who don’t visit the sites. An estimated 70 percent of teens spend time on social networking sites in a typical day, the survey found.
The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVI: Teens and Parents, the 16th annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia).asked 12- to 17-year olds whether they spend time on Facebook, Myspace or other social networking sites in a typical day. Seventy percent of teens report spending time on social networking sites in a typical day compared to 30 percent of teens who say they do not. This means that 17 million 12- to 17-year olds are social networking in a typical day.
Social Networking Teens at Increased Substance Abuse Risk
Compared to teens that spend no time on social networking sites in a typical day, teens that do are:
• Five times likelier to use tobacco;
• Three times likelier to use alcohol; and
• Twice as likely to use marijuana.
The CASA Columbia survey found that 40 percent of all teens surveyed have seen pictures on Facebook, Myspace or other social networking sites of kids getting drunk, passed out, or using drugs. Half of teens who have seen pictures of kids drunk, passed out, or using drugs on Facebook and other social networking sites first saw such pictures when they were 13 years of age or younger; more than 90 percent first saw such pictures when they were 15 or younger.
Compared to teens that have never seen pictures of kids getting drunk, passed out, or using drugs on social networking sites, teens that have seen these images are:
• Three times likelier to use alcohol;
• Four times likelier to use marijuana;
• Four times likelier to be able to get marijuana, almost three times likelier to be able to get controlled prescription drugs without a prescription, and more than twice as likely to be able to get alcohol in a day or less; and
• Much likelier to have friends and classmates who abuse illegal and prescription drugs.
Although the study did not control for other factors that may have influenced decisions top use drugs. We know that adolescents are a peer driven group and new social circles have been created by the internet and popular social networking sites. Like we have seen with the cases involving cyber-bullying this study presents new evidence that there are even more and greater challenges and risks being presented by these new technologies.
Men are more likely than women to develop substance use disorders, while women are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
Published online in APA's Journal of Abnormal Psychology, the study of more than 43,000 adults looked at the prevalence by gender of different types of common mental illnesses. The researchers also found that women with anxiety disorders are more likely to internalize emotions, which typically results in withdrawal, loneliness and depression.
Men, on the other hand, are more likely to externalize emotions, which leads to aggressive, impulsive, coercive and noncompliant behavior, according to the study. The researchers demonstrated that it was differences in these liabilities to internalize and to externalize that accounted for gender differences in prevalence rates of many mental disorders.
The researchers say the findings point to the need for gender-specific prevention and treatment efforts for mental illness.
A new study finds asking patients to use a cell phone to snap a picture of medication for methamphetamine dependence treatment before they take it, and emailing it to their doctor, may be a simple and effective way of monitoring treatment compliance, Join Together reports.
In the Journal of Addiction Medicine, the researchers provided cell phones with cameras to 20 patients taking modafinil to treat methamphetamine dependence. Patients were instructed to take a picture of the capsule in their hand before they swallowed it, and to email the photo to the researchers.
They concluded the cell phone technique allowed accurate time measures and more frequent assessment of compliance than the other two methods. “Given the ubiquity of cellular telephone use, and the relative ease of this adherence measurement method, we believe it is a useful and cost-effective approach,” the researchers wrote.
Researchers studying mice are getting nearer to understanding how stress affects mood and motivation for drugs. According to the researchers, blocking the stress cascade in brain cells may help reduce the effects of stress, which can include anxiety, depression and the pursuit of addictive drugs.
A research team from St. Louis and Seattle reports in the Aug. 11 issue of the journal Neuron that in mice exposed to stress, a protein called p38α mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) influences the animal's behavior, contributing to depression-like symptoms and risk for addiction.
In this study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the researchers looked at a brain region, called the dorsal raphe nucleus, where many stress-related factors and serotonin converge. They found that after stress exposure, mouse brains activate p38α MAPK, lowering serotonin levels and triggering depression-like behaviors as well as drug-seeking behavior in the mice.
Stressed animals withdrew and did not interact with other mice. In animals that had been given cocaine injections while in specific places in their cages, stress made them more likely to physically seek out those locations where they had received the drug.
"We call these responses 'depression-like' and 'addiction-like' behaviors because, we can't ask mice if they're addicted or sad," Bruchas says. "But just as depressed people often withdraw from social interactions, stressed mice do the same thing. We also observed that stressed mice return more often to the place where they received cocaine."
Next, investigators used a relatively novel genetic technology to disable the p38α MAPK protein only in cells of the brain's serotonin system. Without the p38α protein, the stress-exposed mice no longer withdrew from social interactions, displayed depression-like behavior or sought drugs.
"When people take antidepressant drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, to relieve depression, the drugs act on a cellular pump called the serotonin transporter, and this results in more serotonin in the brain," Bruchas says. "We think that the involvement of the p38α protein and kappa-opioid receptors represents an important finding in figuring out how it is that cells regulate depressive and addictive behaviors."
In his laboratory at Washington University, Bruchas says he plans to test whether the same p38α MAPK protein is involved when the drug is nicotine or amphetamine.
"It will be important to determine whether this pathway is conserved for drugs of abuse other than cocaine," he says. "If so it will further highlight the importance of working with chemists to target this pathway for potential therapies."
This information was provided by:
Washington University School of Medicine (2011, August 12). Possible therapeutic target for depression and addiction identified. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 14, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2011/08/110810132857.htm#.TkO8O6OYSuM.email
According to the Wall Street Journal many colleges are offering support for students in recovery. Texas Tech says its Center for the Study of Addiction and originally devoted to the study of addiction, began offering support services and amenities to recovering students 25 years ago.
Today, about 80 students belong to the center's "collegiate recovery community." Membership requires a one-credit class in relapse prevention each semester, along with 10 hours of community service and participation in a recovery program.
Among Americans seeking treatment for substance abuse, the fastest growing demographic is students aged 18 to 24. During the decade ended in 2009, treatment providers say the number of students in that age range more than doubled, compared with a 9% jump in the 25-and-older category.
The rate of heavy alcohol use—five or more drinks on five or more occasions within the past 30 days—is highest among Americans aged 20 to 22, according to SAMHSA. And within that group, consumption is heaviest among college students.
Students exiting treatment have long been advised to live at home and commute or else postpone college until more secure in sobriety.
A growing number of universities are following Texas Tech's model—creating so-called recovery communities, with some having on-campus clubhouses, academic support, recreational opportunities, and recovery courses.
To promote the spread of the concept, about 20 colleges this summer formed the Association for Recovery in Higher Education.
"Recovery programs and other efforts of colleges and universities can help students from relapsing, as well as support them in meeting their higher education goals," says William Modzeleski, a U.S. Department of Education officer.
According to the Partnership for a drug free.org, people who start smoking soon after they wake up are more likely to develop lung, head and neck cancer, compared to those who wait awhile before they light up.
Two studies examined whether the timing of a person’s first cigarette was associated with the risk of developing cancer. The Los Angeles Times reports the timing of a person’s first cigarette is also considered a measure of addiction to nicotine.
One study looked at 1,820 smokers, including 1,055 who had head and neck cancer. The researchers found people who had their first cigarette within a half hour of waking up had a 59 percent greater risk of developing cancer, compared with those who waited for at least 60 minutes to smoke. People who had their first cigarette between 31 and 60 minutes after waking up had a 42 percent increased risk of developing head and neck cancer, compared with those who put off their first cigarette for at least an hour.
The second study, by the same researchers at Penn State College of Medicine, included 4,775 smokers with lung cancer and 2,835 smokers without cancer. That study found smokers who started smoking within 30 minutes of waking up had a 79 percent increased risk of lung cancer, compared with those who waited an hour. Smokers who had their first cigarette 31 to 60 minutes after awakening had a 31 percent increased risk of lung cancer, compared with those who waited an hour.
Both studies appear in the journal Cancer.
The New York Times reports, that Cape Cod a summer playground known for its pristine beaches, shingled homes and laid-back way of life, has been plagued by drug abuse and the police say this has led to a jump in property crime.
In Dennis, the number of burglaries and break-ins increased to 252 in 2010 from 122 in 2007.
In the same period, larcenies rose to 396, from 256. Thieves have smashed the windows of dozens of cars parked at the beach, grabbing GPS devices and iPods. Flat-screen televisions have been taken from isolated summer homes. Purses snatched out of the sand have been found in the woods, missing only cash. And while not all of the thefts can be linked to drug abuse, the police say many of those arrested for the crimes admit they wanted money for pills.
“They just tell you straight up front, ‘I’m an addict, I have a really bad Percocet problem,’ ” said Sgt. Cleve Daniels of the Dennis police. Mug shots lining a bulletin board at the Police Department are mostly “people active in the local drug trade,” he added.
“People come to the cape and it’s often they’re in the vacation mentality, and the last thing they think about is crime,” Sergeant Daniels said. “They’re unaware of the substantial problem we do have. Everyone’s guard is down when they’re on vacation, and it seems like the perfect opportunity for people to commit these crimes.”
The pills sell for about $1 a milligram, but sometimes more, and the authorities believe that most are coming from Florida. Lieutenant Mawn said there has also a rise in prostitution, a problem virtually unheard of on Cape Cod years ago, because of the drug trade.
The problem is not limited to summer. Last winter, about 50 homes in one Dennis neighborhood were broken into, Sergeant Daniels said. “A lot of people think Cape Cod is only busy five months out of the year and the rest of the time we roll up our sleeves and become Andy of Mayberry here,” Chief Mason said. “What we consider serious crime, felonies — those remain static year-round.”
As if there weren't already enough good reasons to avoid smoking and keep your weight, blood sugar levels and blood pressure all under control, a new study suggests these risk factors in middle age may cause your brain to shrink, leading to mental declines up to a decade later.
Evaluating data from 1,352 participants whose average age was 54 in the Framingham Offspring Study -- which began in 1971 -- researchers from the University of California, Davis found that smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and being overweight were each linked to potentially dangerous changes in the brain.
"We can't cure disease or cure aging, but the idea of a healthy body, healthy mind is very real," said study author Dr. Charles DeCarli, director of UC Davis' Alzheimer's Disease Center. "People should stop smoking, control their blood pressure, avoid diabetes and lose weight. It seems like a no-brainer."
The study is published Aug. 2 in the journal Neurology.
Participants were given blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes tests and had their body mass and waist circumference measured. They also underwent MRI brain scans over the course of a decade, the first one about seven years after the initial risk factor exam.
Those with high blood pressure experienced a more rapid worsening of test scores of planning and decision-making, which corresponded to a faster rate of growth of small areas of vascular brain damage than those with normal blood pressure.
Those with diabetes in middle age experienced brain shrinkage in an area known as the hippocampus faster than those without, and smokers lost brain volume overall and in the hippocampus faster than nonsmokers, with a more rapid increase of small areas of vascular brain damage.
Meanwhile, participants who were obese at middle age were more likely to be in the top 25 percent of those with faster declines in tests of executive function, DeCarli said. Those with a high waist-to-hip ratio were more likely to be among the 25 percent with a faster drop in brain volume.
"I do think it's an important study and has practical importance in confirming there are things we can do in middle age that can have effects 10, 20 and 30 years down the line to improve cognitive health," said Dr. Raj Shah, medical director of the Rush Memory Clinic in Chicago. "It may seem we're talking about things that are somewhat common knowledge, but really, we always hypothesize these things could happen, but to show they actually do in a study is very important."
Rueters reports that more than one in five teens who get strong painkillers, stimulants or other controlled medications from their doctor take too much of the substances, according to a new survey of Michigan students.
"There has been an increase in the prescribing of controlled substances in the last 15 years, but there has also been an increase in the non-medical use of these substances," said Sean Esteban McCabe from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who worked on the survey.
He and his colleagues used a Web-based survey to test teenagers' use of four groups of controlled medications they had received from their doctors, including sleeping pills like Ambien, antianxiety medications like Xanax, stimulants like Ritalin and opioid painkillers like OxyContin.
The team's findings are published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
Painkillers were the most common drugs, followed by stimulants and sleeping pills. Overuse was particularly common with sleeping pills, which 42 percent of users took in quantities higher than the prescribed dose and 17 percent used to get high.
Teens who strayed from the doctors' prescriptions were more likely to smoke, binge drink and use illegal drugs than those who followed medical instructions.
They also sold or gave away their medicine more often. For instance, a third of them said they'd given or loaned their drugs to others at some point -- three times as many as among youngsters who didn't misuse their medications.
"Kids are most likely to get medications that are not prescribed to them from their peers," McCabe told Reuters Health, adding that the majority of kids get the controlled substances for free.
"Parents play an important role. The big take-home here is that it is important to step up monitoring of adolescents and to prescribe the appropriate amount of medications," he said, "For those kids who are misusing these medications, and have higher risk of substance abuse, it is not that they shouldn't get the medications, but they need to be monitored more closely."
The Parents Toll-Free Helpline, 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373), is staffed by clinical social workers with practical experience in substance abuse prevention and treatment. The helpline, launched by The Partnership at Drugfree.org, began taking calls in April 2011 and will offer bilingual support (English/Spanish) beginning in mid-August.
The helpline counselors are extensively trained in scientifically proven intervention techniques to assist parents in communicating with their children and find appropriate help when it is needed. One technique is Motivational Interviewing, which tries to move a person to change their behavior, while being sensitive to their level of readiness for change. The technique uses open-ended questions to elicit what the person feels ready for, and makes them feel empowered.
“When a child has substance abuse issues, the whole family needs support,” says Ken Winters, PhD, Director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota and member of The Partnership at Drugfree.org Science Advisory Board. “Parents may need a counselor to walk them through exactly what they will say to their teenager when they suspect substance abuse. If they have not already done so, parents need to establish rules about alcohol and other drugs, and consequences for breaking those rules. They may also need help figuring out whether their adolescent should get a professional assessment. These are some of the things that a counselor on the helpline can assist them with.”
Parents Toll-Free Helpline
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Call Us Today: 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373)
Are you feeling overwhelmed, stressed or have a specific question about your child’s drug or alcohol use? Our Parents Toll-Free Helpline is a nationwide support service that offers assistance to parents and other primary caregivers of children who want to talk to someone about their child’s drug use and drinking. Our trained and caring parent specialists will:
• Listen to your concerns, challenges, setbacks and emotional turmoil that you have experienced with your child’s substance abuse or addiction
• Help you outline a course of effective action – whether it’s prevention, intervention, seeking treatment or supporting recovery – grounded in science-based resources
• Inform you of different resources available to you nationally
Our Helpline is open Monday through Friday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm ET. We are closed on weekends and holidays. The Helpline is not a crisis line. If you do not connect with a parent specialist, please leave a message and we will make every effort to get back to you by the next business day. If you are in need of immediate or emergency services please call 911 or a 24 hour crisis hotline.
Our parent specialists are licensed social workers and psychologists with years of experience helping individuals and their families prevent and overcome substance abuse problems.
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BBC news reports, teenagers - especially girls - who binge drink could be damaging the part of their brain which controls memory and spatial awareness, say researchers.
Young women's brains are particularly vulnerable to harm from alcohol because they develop earlier than men's.
Previous research has shown that among adult alcoholics, women are more vulnerable to the damaging effects of alcohol on the brain than men.
The study is published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
Edith Sullivan, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, said that the brains of adolescent boys and girls appear to be affected differently by alcohol.
"Females' brains develop one to two years earlier than males, so alcohol use during a different developmental stage - despite the same age - could account for the gender differences.”
Tests on 95 adolescents aged 16 to 19 were carried out by researchers at several US universities.
Researchers recruited 27 binge-drinking males and 13 females and gave them neuropsychological tests and "spatial working memory" tests to complete.
Binge-drinking young women were defined as those drinking more than three pints of beer or more than four glasses of wine at one sitting. Binge-drinking men drank four pints of beer or a bottle of wine.
The same tests were then carried out on 31 males and 24 females who did not have episodes of drinking heavily and the results compared.
Using MRI scans, the study team found that female teenage heavy drinkers had less brain activation in several brain regions than female non-drinking teens when doing the same spatial task.
They suggested that this could cause problems when driving, playing sports involving complex moves, using a map or remembering how to get somewhere.
Susan Tapert, professor of psychiatry at the University of California and lead study author, said these differences in brain activity negatively affected other functions, like concentration and "working memory".
The study describes "working memory" as using and working with information that is in your mind, like adding up numbers. It is also critical to logical thinking and reasoning.
Medical News Today reports that researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have developed a highly successful vaccine against a heroin high and have proven its therapeutic potential in animal models.
The new study, published recently online ahead of print by the American Chemical Society's Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, demonstrates how a novel vaccine produces antibodies (a kind of immune molecule) that stop not only heroin but also other psychoactive compounds metabolized from heroin from reaching the brain to produce euphoric effects.
Using an approach termed "immunopharmacotherapy," Janda and his Scripps Research colleagues previously created vaccines that used immune molecules to blunt the effects of other abused drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and nicotine. Human clinical trials are under way for the cocaine and nicotine vaccines.
Attempts by other researchers over the past four decades to create a clinically viable heroin vaccine, however, have fallen short, in part due to the fact that heroin is an elusive target metabolized into multiple substances each producing psychoactive effects.
"In my 25 years of making drug-of-abuse vaccines, I haven't seen such a strong immune response as I have with what we term a dynamic anti-heroin vaccine," said the study's principal investigator, Kim D. Janda, the Ely R. Callaway, Jr. Chair in Chemistry and a member of The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at Scripps Research. "It is just extremely effective. The hope is that such a protective vaccine will be an effective therapeutic option for those trying to break their addiction to heroin."
"We saw a very robust and specific response from this heroin vaccine," said George F. Koob, chair of the Scripps Research Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders and a co-author of the new study. "I think a humanized version could be of real help to those who need and want it."
The New York Times reports that emergency rooms are seeing a growing number of people high on “bath salts,” new stimulant drugs that can cause long-lasting and dangerous effects.
Schuylkill Medical Center had an influx of people this spring in Pottsville, Pa.: people arriving so agitated, violent and psychotic that a small army of medical workers was needed to hold them down.
“There were some who were admitted overnight for treatment and subsequently admitted to the psych floor upstairs,” Dr. Narmi said. “These people were completely disconnected from reality and in a very bad place.”
Similar reports are emerging from hospitals around the country, as doctors scramble to figure out the best treatment for people high on bath salts. The drugs started turning up regularly in the United States last year and have proliferated in recent months, alarming doctors, who say they have unusually dangerous and long-lasting effects.
At least 28 states have banned bath salts, which are typically sold for $25 to $50 per 50-milligram packet at convenience stores and head shops under names like Aura, Ivory Wave, Loco-Motion and Vanilla Sky. Most of the bans are in the South and the Midwest, where the drugs have grown quickly in popularity.
The cases are jarring and similar to those involving PCP in the 1970s. Some of the recent incidents include a man in Indiana who climbed a roadside flagpole and jumped into traffic, a man in Pennsylvania who broke into a monastery and stabbed a priest, and a woman in West Virginia who scratched herself “to pieces” over several days because she thought there was something under her skin.
Bath salts contain manmade chemicals like mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV, also known as substituted cathinones. Both drugs are related to khat, an organic stimulant found in Arab and East African countries that is illegal in the United States.
Reuters reports that a new study finds that long-term regular use of the club drug ketamine, sometimes called Special K, can alter bladder function, leading to bothersome symptoms such as urgency and pelvic pain.
In the last three years, at least five reports have "alerted the urological community to the spectrum" of lower urinary tract symptoms associated with regular recreational ketamine use, Dr. Mak and colleagues note in their report.
Symptoms may persist for up to a year or more after a person stops using ketamine, according to Dr. Siu-king Mak from The Chinese University of Hong Kong and colleagues. They published their findings in the August issue of the Journal of Urology, available online now.
In an e-mail to Reuters Health, Dr. Mak said, "It is likely but not guaranteed that these early functional changes will normalize after one year of abstinence from ketamine."
Abuse of ketamine, a powerful anesthetic, is on the rise in many countries. Repeated use has been linked to mental problems such as hallucinations and impaired memory, thinking and concentration. It also causes high blood pressure.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said Friday that medical marijuana has no accepted medical use, and should continue to be classified as a Schedule I drug. Schedule 1 drugs, including marijuana, heroin, Ecstasy and LSD, are considered to have a high tendency for abuse and have no accepted medical use.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the DEA made the decision after supporters of medical marijuana asked the government to reclassify the drug in light of research about its effectiveness in treating certain diseases such as multiple sclerosis and glaucoma.
DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart wrote, “At this time, the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.”
The DEA decision comes shortly after the Justice Department announced that medical marijuana dispensaries and licensed growers located in states with medical marijuana laws are not immune from prosecution for violation of federal drug and money-laundering laws. Currently the medical use of marijuana is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
An article in the NY Times explains that there is a consistent reshaping of what addiction really is. The rethinking of addiction as a medical disease rather than a strictly psychological one began about 15 years ago, when researchers discovered through high-resonance imaging that drug addiction resulted in actual physical changes to the brain.
Armed with that understanding, “the management of folks with addiction becomes very much like the management of other chronic diseases, such as asthma, hypertension or diabetes,” said Dr. Daniel Alford, who oversees the program at Boston University Medical Center. “It’s hard necessarily to cure people, but you can certainly manage the problem to the point where they are able to function” through a combination of pharmaceuticals and therapy.
Central to the understanding of addiction as a physical ailment is the belief that treatment must be continuing in order to avoid relapse. Just as no one expects a diabetes patient to be cured after six weeks of diet and insulin management, Dr. Alford said, it is unrealistic to expect most drug addicts to be cured after 28 days in a detoxification facility.
Increasingly, the medical establishment is putting its weight behind the physical diagnosis. In the latest evidence, 10 medical institutions have just introduced the first accredited residency programs in addiction medicine, where doctors who have completed medical school and a primary residency will be able to spend a year studying the relationship between addiction and brain chemistry.
“This is a first step toward bringing recognition, respectability and rigor to addiction medicine,” said David Withers, who oversees the new residency program at the Marworth Alcohol and Chemical Dependency Treatment Center in Waverly, Pa.
In today’s tough economy everyone is looking for ways to increase profits. In an article in USA TODAY, it was reported that in an effort to boost business, two Sonic restaurants in South Florida soon will sell beer and wine. The move follows Burger King "Whopper Bars" that recently opened in Miami, Las Vegas and Kansas City that sell beer. Starbucks recently began to serve local beer and wine in a handful of Seattle stores.
Later this summer, Sonic plans its first attempt to sell alcohol at two new locations: one in Miami and one in Fort Lauderdale. The Miami unit will sell three types of draft beer, 25 kinds of bottled beer and 10 varieties of wine to customers who eat on its patio —the Fort Lauderdale location will only sell beer and wine inside.
"Fast food plus fast alcohol equals fast drunks," warns Michele Simon, research and policy director at the Marin Institute, an alcohol industry watchdog group.
Whopper Bars — which offer an assortment of burgers, toppings and beer — could be on the way in tourist hot spots such as New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, says Chuck Fallon, president of Burger King North America.
Burger King will initially sell Anheuser-Busch and Miller/Coors beers.
"You can have America's favorite beers with America's favorite burger," Fallon says. More will eventually be added, he says.
Christopher Muller, dean at Boston University's School of Hospitality Administration says that beer or wine sold at fast-food outlets might give young folks the wrong message.
"You don't want someone downing a quick beer, then getting into their cars and driving off. It's a delicate balance of risk and reward."
The findings suggest that therapeutics targeting the path between two critical brain regions, the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens, represent potential treatments for addiction and other neuropsychiatric diseases.
Using a combination of genetic engineering and laser technology, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have manipulated brain wiring responsible for reward-seeking behaviors, such as drug addiction. The work, conducted in rodent models, is the first to directly demonstrate the role of these specific connections in controlling behavior.
The UNC study, published online on June 29, 2011, by the journal Nature, uses a cutting-edge technique called “optogenetics” to tweak the microcircuitry of the brain and then assess how those changes impact behavior. The findings suggest that therapeutics targeting the path between two critical brain regions, namely the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens, represent potential treatments for addiction and other neuropsychiatric diseases.
“For most clinical disorders we knew that one region or another in the brain was important, however until now we didn’t have the tools to directly study the connections between those regions,” said senior study author Garret D. Stuber, PhD, assistant professor in the departments of cell and molecular physiology, psychiatry and the Neuroscience Center in UNC School of Medicine. “Our ability to perform this level of sophistication in neural circuit manipulation will likely to lead to the discovery of molecular players perturbed during neuropsychiatric illnesses.”
A new report from CASA at Columbia University, Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem, finds that one in four Americans who began using any addictive substance before 18 are addicted, compared with one in 25 Americans who started using at age 21 or older.
The report was released by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University in New York.
The CASA report found that 10 million high school students –75 percent of the total — have used addictive substances including tobacco, alcohol, marijuana or cocaine; 20 percent of them meet the medical criteria for addiction.
“Addiction is a disease affecting one in eight adolescents and causing more than 70 other diseases requiring hospitalization, yet only six percent of teens who need treatment get it,” said Susan E. Foster, Vice President and Director of the Division of Policy Research and Analysis at CASA, who was the principal investigator and director of the study.
“It is critical for doctors to counsel their adolescent patients and their families about the health risks of teen substance use, be sure teens are screened for signs of trouble using available and easy-to-use tools, and intervene to prevent or treat the disease as they would for any other health condition.”
The CASA report is a wakeup call to society. We need efficacious treatment centers to help these teens to avoid addiction. Because of the developing brain treatment centers need to use novel approaches that can meet youth where they are at, understanding their evolutionary drives to take risks. A more sophisticated understanding of the factors that contribute to substance abuse and willingness to change will aid treatment and the adolescents’ efficacy during this process.
Addressing these factors can help treatment programs prevent drop-out and increase the willingness of adolescents to meet the challenges these factors complicate in further treatment. Regarding the field of adolescent addiction, recognizing the role of particular relationships on substance abuse and willingness to change can bolster our ability to address this epidemic.
It is time for a multidisciplinary approach where all provider’s and people involved with our children schools, doctors and community leaders can identify the symptoms of substance abuse and refer to available and effective resources to stem the tide of this societal plague.
A Nike store in Boston has taken down a window display of T-shirts that said “Dope” and “Get High” after initially refusing a request to remove them by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.
Last week, Menino wrote a letter to Nike, asking the company to remove the T-shirts. He said they contain drug references and profanity that “are out of keeping with the character of Boston’s Back Bay, our entire city, and our aspirations for our young people…not to mention common sense.”
The display stayed up, and Nike issued a statement saying the company doesn’t condone the use of banned or illegal substances and the T-shirts are part of an action sports campaign.
The Boston Herald reports that the Niketown store in the Back Bay neighborhood removed the T-shirts after Nike issued a statement last week explaining that the T-shirts are part of an action sports campaign, and they do not condone the use of banned or illegal substances.
Menino told the Herald earlier this week: “What we don’t need is a major corporation like Nike, which tries to appeal to the younger generation, out there giving credence to the drug issue.”
Wall Street Journal reports that in an unlikely move for the head of a major company, Scotts Chief Executive Jim Hagedorn said he is exploring targeting medical marijuana as well as other niches to help boost sales at his lawn and garden company.
"I want to target the pot market," Mr. Hagedorn said in an interview. "There's no good reason we haven't."
Sales at Scotts rose 5% last year to $2.9 billion. But the Marysville, Ohio, company relies on sales at three key retailers—Home Depot Inc., Lowe's Cos. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.—for nearly two-thirds of its revenue. With consumers still cautious about spending, the retailers aren't building new stores as quickly as they used to, making growth for suppliers like Scotts harder to come by. Against that backdrop, Mr. Hagedorn has pushed his regional sales presidents to look for smaller pockets of growth, such as the marijuana market, that together could produce a noticeable bump in sales.
Sixteen states have legalized medical marijuana, the largest being California and Colorado. The market will reach $1.7 billion in sales this year, according to a report by See Change Strategy LLC, an information data services company.
While the report focuses on revenue from growers and dispensaries, Kris Lotlikar, president of See Change, said the market for companies selling hydroponic equipment and professional services is also thriving.
New study by researchers at Temple University that appears in the journal Child Development, demonstrates that although most teens have the knowledge and reasoning ability to make decisions as rationally as adults, their tendency to make much riskier choices shows that they still lack some key component of wise decision making.
"The study's findings have important implications for debates about whether adolescents should be held to the same standards of criminal and other responsibility as adults," according to Dustin Albert, a PhD candidate at Temple who authored the study. "Research charting age differences in such capacities is increasingly being consulted for guidance on social and legal policies concerning adolescents."
The study tested a diverse group of 890 individuals between the ages of 10 and 30, using a computerized test of strategic planning and problem solving called the Tower of London. The test asks individuals to rearrange a stack of three differently colored balls to match a picture of a new arrangement, using as few moves as possible. Test takers have to plan ahead, using a sequence of actions to bridge the gap between the game board and the target board. The study also tested individuals on a battery of tasks related to reasoning, memory, and self-control.
Older test takers did better on the tower test, showing greater ability to plan ahead and solve problems. On the hardest problems, mature performance wasn't seen until at least age 22. Since solving the hardest problems on the test is known to make strong demands on the brain's frontal lobes and teens' frontal lobes are still maturing, this finding wasn't unexpected, according to the researchers.
Follow-up analyses suggested that when older individuals (those in their late teens and early adult years) did better on the tests, it was because of improvements in impulse control, which may have allowed them to plan their solutions more fully before they acted.
"Late developmental improvements in problem solving may have less to do with getting smarter and more to do with a growing capacity to settle down and think things through before acting," according to Albert. "Programs that target adolescents' still-emerging capacity to plan ahead, control their impulses, regulate their emotions, and resist peer pressure may help bolster youngsters' ability to make good decisions in the real world."
Now that OxyContin has been reformulated to make the opioid harder to snort, inject or chew, The New York Times reports that demand for other narcotics has increased.
OxyContin is designed to slowly release its main ingredient, oxycodone, over the course of 12 hours. But after it was introduced in 1996, people began chewing, or crushing and then snorting or injecting the drug, to get an instant high. Some areas of the country have seen high rates of OxyContin addiction, and abuse of the drug has led to many overdose deaths.
Demand appears especially high for pure oxycodone pills that come in a 30-milligram dose, often called “Perc 30s” or “Roxies” on the street. Opana, a time-release painkiller similar to OxyContin that has been on the market for five years, is showing up increasingly in police reports and has been blamed for a rash of overdose deaths. And heroin use has jumped sharply in many regions, according to rehab centers and the police.
Raymond V. Tamasi, president and chief executive of Gosnold on Cape Cod, a treatment center, said he had noticed that addicts switch initially to the Perc 30s.
“But eventually people make that progression from the pills to what appears to be a more economical high, which is heroin,” Mr. Tamasi said.
The Food and Drug Administration is requiring Purdue Pharma to conduct clinical trials of the new version of OxyContin, called OxyContin OP, before the company can say that it is less prone to abuse.
Time reports that preschool may be an effective tool in the fight against addiction. A study in the magazine Science study of more than 1,500 children found those who had attended preschool were 28 percent less likely to develop substance abuse problems.
The study followed the children from age 3-4 to age 28. The children in the study lived in low-income neighborhoods in Chicago and most were African American. Those who attended preschool were less likely to develop alcohol and drug problems or to end up in jail or prison, the researchers found. They were 24 percent more likely to attend a four-year college, and their incomes were higher, the researchers wrote in Science. The families of the children enrolled in preschool were actively involved in the program.
Alcohol use, depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder together account for 45 percent of disabilities among young people ages 10 to 24 worldwide, about four times as much as that caused by unintentional injuries, according to a study of data from the World Health Organization.
The study researchers added up years of healthy living that were lost due to a disability and death. The Los Angeles Times reports that the study found alcohol accounted for 7 percent of lost healthy years. The article notes that the study is the first of its kind to give a comprehensive picture of young people’s global health.
“Although risk factors and the lifestyles that young people adopt might not affect their health during this period, they can have a substantial effect in later life and can potentially affect the health of future generations,” the authors wrote in The Lancet.
You can read the Lancet study here:
The Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Joe Manchin of West Virginia are asking the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Justice Department to close and investigate the website known as the Silk Road, named after the ancient Asian trade route.
The senators are calling on the federal government to shut down the website that sells illegal drugs using layers of secrecy to avoid detection. The website sells drugs including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines.
The Associated Press reports that the website, which started in February, uses a network of buyers and sellers that hides their identity. The website tells sellers to make shipments using vacuum-sealed bags so that drug-sniffing dogs will not detect the packages.
A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry found that ADHD is a significant risk factor for Substance Use Disorder’s.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston analyzed data on 500 boys and girls with and without ADHD over 10 years, into young adulthood. They found that ADHD was a significant risk factor for any substance use disorder and cigarette smoking.
They found that among those with ADHD, 32 percent developed some type of substance abuse during the 10-year period, compared with 25 percent of those without ADHD.
The study also found that having conduct disorder and ADHD tripled the risk of substance use disorders.
“Anyone with ADHD needs to be counseled about the risk for substance abuse, particularly if they have any delinquency,” lead researcher Timothy Wilens, MD said in a press release.
Teenagers who are involved in sports or exercising are less likely to use drugs and smoke cigarettes compared with teens who are not as active, a new study in the journal Addiction suggests.
Data from more than 11,000 teens, who graduated between 1986 and 2001, was included in the study. They were first surveyed as high school seniors, and then surveyed again up to four times through age 26.
The researchers found that higher levels of participation in sports, athletics or exercising was related to lower initial use of drugs and cigarettes, which in turn led to lower substance use throughout early adulthood. In those who increased their activity level throughout early adulthood, frequency of use of cigarettes, marijuana and illicit drugs other than marijuana decreased, the researchers report The research found that about 38 percent of teens who weren’t active said they smoked cigarettes during the past month, compared with 25 to 29 percent of teens who were frequent exercisers and athletes. Among inactive teens, 23 percent said they had smoked marijuana in the last month, compared with 15 to 17 percent of active and athletic teens.
The study also revealed that 57 percent of teens involved in a team sport said they drank alcohol in the last month, compared with 45 percent of teens who weren’t active. Reuters reports that the researchers have many theories about why student athletes drink more, including peer pressure to drink after a game and the close tie between sports and alcohol advertising.
The Economic Impact of Illicit Drug Use on American Society
Illicit drug use cost the U.S. economy more than $193 billion in 2007, according to estimates from a study by the Department of Justice’s National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC).
The report broke up the costs to represent 3 areas which included Crime, which encompassed the criminal justice system costs as well as crime victim costs, Health which included specialty treatment costs, hospital and emergency department costs for non-homicide cases, hospital and emergency department costs for homicide cases, insurance administration costs, and other health costs. Productivity included labor participation costs, specialty treatment costs for services, hospitalization costs, incarceration costs, and premature mortality costs, among others.
The NDIC explains the study is the first comprehensive assessment of costs associated with drug use in almost a decade.
“This study shows the economic cost of illicit drug use is significant,” NDIC Director, Michael F. Walther, said in a press release. “The study’s finding that the economic cost of illicit drug abuse totaled $193 billion reveals that this nation’s drug problem is on par with other health problems.”
The new products, made by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, are called Camel Orbs, Camel Sticks and Camel Strips, Denver’s 7News reports. The new tobacco products that are being test-marketed in Denver, are called dissolvables.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco began selling Camel Orbs, Camel Sticks and Camel Strips earlier this year.
“The Orbs look like Tic Tacs, the Sticks look like toothpicks and the Strips look like breath strips,” said Susan Westof, tobacco prevention specialist, with the Jefferson County Public Health Department. Westof said these new products are very enticing to young people.
“The products are packaged in a way that makes them indistinguishable from candy,” said Donna Viverette, the department’s tobacco prevention coordinator. “That’s an issue if they end up in the hands of children.”
R.J. Reynolds spokesman David Howard said the dissolvables are only marketed to adults and that they provide a way for consumers to enjoy tobacco without bothering others.
“There’s no second-hand smoke,” he said. “There’s no spitting and there’s no litter or cigarette butts.”
But Donna Viverette with the Jefferson County Public Health Department, worries that because the products look like candy, teachers and even parents might not know that kids are using them.“The products are packaged in a way that makes them indistinguishable from candy,” said Viverette, the department’s tobacco prevention coordinator. “That’s an issue if they end up in the hands of children.”
Viverette added, “We’re talking about a developing young brain. We’re talking about a serious impact on the neuro-chemistry and maybe even function of the brain because of the changes caused by nicotine dependence.”
Ten new programs, accredited by the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM) Foundation, will signal a new era in addiction medicine, says ABAM Foundation President Kevin Kunz, MD.
Boston University Medical Center will be a part of this timely new training process! The Boston University Medical Center Addiction Medicine Residency will allow new doctors to train with specialized knowledge on addictions and evidence based practices.
“The average primary care physician sees many patients with addictive disorders, but they often don’t have anyone to consult with or refer to in order to help these patients,” Dr. Kunz said. “The residencies will produce physicians with full training in addiction medicine to help with the care of these patients. Physicians who graduate from these residencies will be a vital component of the multidisciplinary teams that treat addictive disorders.”
According to a report at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting, synthetic marijuana known as Spice can cause long-lasting psychosis,. Doctors at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego reported that in 10 men hospitalized for psychosis caused by Spice, and symptoms lasted for days or even months.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, synthetic marijuana, also known as K2, Blaze or Red X Dawn, consists of plant material covered with synthetic chemicals designed to produce a high similar to that caused by marijuana. According to the American Psychiatric Association these compounds have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and there safety is unknown.
In the 10 men described in the study, symptoms from Spice included paranoid delusions, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts. While most of the men recovered in five to eight days, some had symptoms for as long as three months.
Synthetic drugs are an increasing problem in the military. The drugs are being abused by military members who are trying to pass drug tests. All four branches of the military have banned the use of synthetic drugs.
The Pioneer Press in Minnesota reports that as funding dries up these positions are disappearing from schools. Unfortunately, in a place where teenagers are the most likely to run into situations with drugs, there is a lack of support to sustain the need. In recent years, the grants schools often tapped to sustain those positions have dwindled, and with them, the ranks of counselors. To some administrators, alcohol and drug programs have become luxuries that districts can readily scale back on as teen alcohol and drug use has declined.
To Martha Harding of the Hazelden Foundation, the alcohol and drug counselors Minnesota schools enlisted in the mid-1990s played a key part in driving down rates of drug abuse and addiction. Harding, director of training and consultation at the Center City-based research and treatment center, worries that with the disappearance of school-based programs, the state will yield some of the ground gained: "I think our very success on that front might be getting in our way.".
Check the full article here:
Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients?
Louisiana Republican Charles Boustany would require drug testing for anyone applying for or receiving benefits under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which was formerly known as Welfare. A similar bill, proposed in the Senate by Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, died last year. However, according to The Nation.com a similar law is expected to pass in Florida. Many people view this as a way to save money by keeping drug users off of temporary assistance. However, the ACLU did a cost benefit analysis and showed that the expected cost to test every recipient would be over 1.4 million dollars, and the expected savings by denying users benefits would only be 153,000 dollars if 5 % tested positive for substances.
Is this law a good idea? Or is it possibly just a punitive measure that will only cause the innocent to suffer, since the families are the ones inevitably that would be denied benefits?
The May 2 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry reports that secondhand smoke actually activates neural networks much like actual smoking does. The research, funded by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), found that secondhand smoke has a direct and measurable impact on the brain.
Scientists used positron emission tomography (PET) scans to show that just one hour of exposure to secondhand smoke in an enclosed area allows nicotine to reach the brain and bind to receptors normally targeted by direct exposure to tobacco smoke.
"These results show that even limited secondhand smoke exposure delivers enough nicotine to the brain to alter its function," Dr. Nora D. Volkow, NIDA director, said in a news release. "Chronic or severe exposure could result in even higher brain nicotine levels, which may explain why secondhand smoke exposure increases vulnerability to nicotine addiction."
The findings backs up previous research, which puts forward that exposure to secondhand smoke adds to the possibility of a child becoming a smoker later in life.
"This study gives concrete evidence to support policies that ban smoking in public places, particularly enclosed spaces and around children," Dr. Arthur Brody, of the department of Psychiatry & Bio behavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in the NIDA news release.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke claims nearly 50,000 lives each year in the United States.
A Federal Judges Perspective on Prescription Drug Abuse
“Pills are the new drug of choice for kids. A recent survey revealed that young people 12 and older are abusing prescription drugs at greater rates than cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, and methamphetamine combined.1 Only marijuana abuse is more common.2 And, most troubling, every day approximately 7,000 young people abuse a prescription narcotic for the first time.3”
This article written by a federal judge makes some very important points.The victims are the children. The mass production of opiate painkillers has led to suffering, and addiction by parents and now the children are learning how to acquire and use them as well. I see it all the time. The danger is there is no way to avoid acquiring a physical dependence on these opiate painkillers if you take them for any continuous amount of time.
The article continues..."This is the new crack-cocaine epidemic, but worse. Not because it is both rural and urban—crack and other drugs have reached past the cities. Not because it is lethal—many drugs are lethal. It is worse because (1) doctors are the enablers (sometimes knowingly), (2) the supply seems to be endless, and (3) some of our youth falsely believe that prescription narcotics are a safe alternative to other illicit drugs.
And unlike other drugs which kids had to seek out, prescription drugs find them. In a recent survey, 55 percent of 12 to 17 year olds said they obtained prescription drugs from a relative or friend for free; 9 percent paid a friend or relative; and 5 percent took drugs from a friend or relative without asking.4 Less than 5 percent obtained the illicit drugs from a dealer, and approximately 18 percent obtained the prescription from a doctor."
The drug companies are trying to make the pills abuse resistant now,altering the physical makeup to avoid crushing the pills so people cannot snort them. However, that is not enough. We must be involved in our children's lives, and we must educate them on the dangers of this most prevalent risk factor. I truly believe those of us that stay involved and encourage productive, engaging, activities for our children will avoid and or be able to intervene in this problem. Communicate with your children and stay involved.
The statistics are alarming but the number of parents seeking a solution is also growing;the greater in number we become, the more power we will have over this terrible new epidemic.
1Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health & Human Servs., Pub. No. 10-4586, Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Volume I (2010).
2ibid at 14.
3ibid at 53.
Several States Take Another Look at Medical Marijuana Laws
Forewarning letters from the federal government about medical marijuana laws have prompted several states to start reevaluating their laws, USA Today reports. Recent letters from U.S. attorneys point out that people involved in the growing, dispensing and regulating of medical marijuana have the potential to be prosecuted—even if they follow state laws.
The letter to Gregoire warned that state employees would not be exempt from prosecution if they regulated medical marijuana. Although no state workers have been charged under federal law for regulating medical marijuana, Gregoire said she didn’t want to risk it, according to the newspaper. Gregoire, who is Chair of the National Governors Association, says she wants to work with other governors to change federal law so that medical marijuana is reclassified at a Schedule 2 substance, along with morphine and oxycodone.
Warning letters have also been sent to officials in California, Colorado, Montana and Rhode Island. In Montana, federal authorities recently conducted raids at growing facilities, and last week targeted dispensaries in Spokane, WA, the article states.
The medical use of marijuana, which is not legal under federal law, has been approved in more than a dozen states, USA Today notes.
The article says the Justice Department issued a statement that prosecutors will not allow significant drug-trafficking organizations to shield their illegal operations by pretending they are medical dispensaries
The legalization of medical marijuana has caused a new perception of the harms that it can cause. According to the Partnership for a Drug Free America, there has been a consistent softening in attitudes and beliefs of teens, on the danger of trying and using alcohol and drugs. Many things contribute to this, including de-criminalization which teens mistakenly associate with legalization. The Medical Marijuana laws have also led to youth believing that Marijuana is a harmless substance. The softening of social attitudes, has led to an increase in adolescent beliefs about the social acceptability of drinking and using drugs. Marijuana is illegal and states need to regulate if they are going to allow it to be dispensed. Definitely it needs to be classified in the same class as opiates, if it is going to be legal.
A study in Clinical Psychology Review, analyzed 27 long term studies on children with and without ADHD. These studies followed a total of 4,100 children with ADHD and 6,800 without from childhood into young adulthood. Children with ADHD were significantly more likely to have ever used nicotine and other substances, but not alcohol. Children with ADHD were three times more likely to use, abuse, and become dependent on nicotine, marijuana, and cocaine. Why is it that this statistic shows these trends? It is interesting that these children were not becoming dependent on alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and stimulants are the treatment for ADHD. This begs the question as to what it is that these children are adapting neurologically. Is it the medication that the children are taking that leads them to seek another “fix” from a substance? Is it the fact that they realize they can “fix” themselves with a substance and they feel medication does not completely address the ADHD symptoms? Are they seeking a supplement to help?
Working with drug addicted adolescents, I see the truth of these statistics, Children with ADHD claim Marijuana helps them focus which is the very job that medication is supposed to do. However, many of the kids claim they don’t take their medication. That is something that is missing from these studies. How many youth were medicated for ADHD and how many were not. This trend speaks to the importance of treatment and highlights opportunities for prevention. We must help children learn to naturally and appropriately supplement their brain chemistry. Medication when taken appropriately works, but we must also help these youth understand the other ways in which they can supplement themselves with exercise, or even mind challenging activities like theatre, speech, or the arts. All of these will produce natural endorphins and help them to feel apart of something valuable. This will begin improving self-esteem, releasing oxytocin, and naturally improve brain chemistry.
Mouse Study Suggests Why Addictions Are Hard to Forget
SOURCE: Scientific American
A new study finds that alcoholic mice more readily form Pavlovian associations with addictive substances. Similar subconscious memories may haunt recovering addicts.
We learn behavior associated with these drugs too well." says Hitoshi Morikawa, a neurobiologist at the University of Texas at Austin. New research from Morikawa's lab, published April 6 in the Journal of Neuroscience, found that repeated use of alcohol can make the brain more susceptible to forming reward-based associations. Mice given a weeklong binge of alcohol were more likely to remember the environment in which they later received cocaine. In human addicts similar associations could explain why certain environments are apt to trigger relapse…
Addictive drugs cause dopamine neurons, which synthesize and store the neurotransmitter dopamine, to release it, signaling to other brain areas to take note of the context surrounding the drug—the better to replicate the experience in the future. "We can think of those neurons that release dopamine as 'teachers' that tell other brain areas, the 'students,' to learn the associations surrounding rewards such as food, sex and addictive drugs," Morikawa explains. In essence, alcohol and other addictive drugs help the "teachers" teach better…
All forms of learning and memory rely on synaptic plasticity, the ability of the brain to tweak the connections between neurons. These connections, or synapses, can be strengthened by a process known as long-term potentiation (LTP), which largely depends on the flow of calcium ions into and out of neurons. Morikawa's work suggests that repeated dopamine release somehow boosts the chances of LTP in the brain's reward pathways, although the molecular details are not yet clear.
So looking at this research, imagine the damage and lasting repercussions of this occurring during adolescent development. This is scary research and points not only to the need for immediate treatment, but the terrible importance of prevention.
The World Health Organization reported that almost 6 million people die from Tobacco use and 2.5 million people die from alcohol related incidents each year.
According to Reuters the report reveals that tobacco is anticipated to kill 7.5 million people worldwide by 2020 this is expected to account for ten percent of all deaths, while alcohol related deaths will account for 3.8 percent of all deaths worldwide.
To reduce tobacco use WHO recommends more taxes on tobacco, more information, bans on smoking and a comprehensive bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship. WHO recommends similar measures for alcohol reduction but also includes treatment and brief interventions.
This is appalling when we realize that almost 14% of deaths worldwide are a result of legal drugs. These two substances are considered the gateway drugs for adolescents according to the AMA but we can see that gateway or not these drugs are intrinsically deadly substances in their own right.
Many parents have told me that they would rather see their child smoke than do heroin. The WHO recommendation for more information might help parents reconsider that particular method of Harm reduction. The time has come to realize that any and all drugs need to be avoided. We as a society should look at the reasons why we need to escape with substances at all. We need to continue to emphasize prevention and keep our kids from becoming part of that 14%.
17 attorneys General from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Guam, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Washington and the city attorney of San Francisco, signed a letter written to Pabst brewing company to stop marketing to underage drinkers. The beer is called “Blast and is being promoted by rapper Snoop Dogg. This drink comes in a colorful can containing 23.5 ounces, with an alcohol content of 12 percent; this is much more than most cans of beer, CNN reports.
In a press release, Gansler the Attorney General from Maryland, says, “Anyone who consumes a can of Blast within an hour will have engaged in binge drinking as defined by public health authorities…..At a time when we’re fighting to prevent underage and binge drinking, we call upon Pabst to rethink the dangers posed by Blast, promoted by a popular hip-hop celebrity, as a ‘binge-in-a-can’ in sweet flavors and bright colors aimed at the youngest drinkers…I hope our letter asking Pabst to take swift and responsible action will also be heeded by other companies who produce these unsafe ‘supersized’ alcopops.”
With the information we have on how dangerous alcohol can be to the developing brain, safe marketing of new alcoholic beverages is extremely important. It’s doubtful that Pabst brewing company will change the marketing in any major way, so the impetus is left to us. We must continue to educate, inform, and be aware of our children’s activities. The best defense and the safest route for our children is to consistently be a part of their lives.
According to the 2011 Executive Drug Control Policy report:
EPIDEMIC: RESPONDING TO AMERICA’S PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE CRISIS, prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest growing drug problem. We have seen reductions in cocaine abuse, but in 2009, nearly 1/3rd of people age 12 and over who used drugs for the first time used prescription medication for non-medical uses. According to Monitoring the Future, prescription drugs are the second most abused drugs by adolescents besides Marijuana. The Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan expands upon the Administration’s National Drug Control Strategy and includes action in four major areas to reduce prescription drug abuse: education, monitoring, proper disposal, and enforcement. Like the federal mandate to reduce adolescent addiction by 15% the federal drug control policy seeks to reduce prescription abuse by 15 %. This is especially important because for many adolescents who become addicted to Oxycodone, the switch to heroin often occurs because heroin is cheaper and more available. Parents need to keep an eye on their prescriptions and also keep a flow of dialog open with your children so that any changes in affect or behavior will be noticeable. Should a problem be identified, seek help; call your health professional or counselor, and if necessary take preventative and helpful actions to intervene. Your child’s life could depend on it.
According to the Partnership for a Drug Free America, there has been a consistent softening in attitudes and beliefs by teens, on the danger of trying and using alcohol and drugs. Many things contribute to this, including de-criminalization, which teens mistakenly associate with legalization. A softening of social attitudes has led to an increase in adolescent beliefs about the social acceptability of drinking and using drugs. The new trends indicate that the decade long decline in alcohol and drug use may be reversing. In Massachusetts the decriminalization of Marijuana by the courts has mistakenly given teens the idea that Marijuana is legal. Obviously, the de-criminalization is about unclogging our court systems, and does not represent legalization. However, the perceptions of teens are reversing the previous years’ declines and have caused illegal drug use and personal risks to now increase.
Studies show that marijuana and drugs retard mental functions causing distorted perceptions, difficulty thinking, and loss of coordination, increased heart rate, anxiety, and paranoia and panic attacks. There are a number of studies showing that chronic marijuana use increases anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and schizophrenia .
The smoke from marijuana is stronger than tobacco smoke; plus, drug users tend to inhale more deeply and also smoke cigarettes. Cancer of the lungs may also be promoted by marijuana smoke. Marijuana increases the likelihood of developing cancer, and the more marijuana smoked, the greater the increase.
Health effects are also caused by the main ingredient Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) because it impairs the immune system. In experiments that exposed animal and human cells to THC, normal immune system responses were inhibited, and led to infections and tumors. -
A new study by Demirakca et al. (2011) shows that Cannabis users show lower gray matter volume in a cluster of the right anterior hippocampus which suggests neurotoxic effects of THC . The legalization of Marijuana will have a negative impact on our young people and the focus instead should align with Presidents Obama’s new plan to decrease substance abuse in adolescent by fifteen percent by utilizing community support .
The Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence reported in the April 2011 issue, some missing characteristics in a study investigating the determinants on the emergence and transition of alcohol-related experiences from childhood to adolescence in Taiwan. Roughly one in nine 10–12-year-old children had purchased alcoholic beverages by 6th grade. Regardless of alcohol-drinking experiences, children who had not attended after-school program, lived with one or none of parents, or had ever observed parental drinking were 2–3 times more likely to buy alcoholic beverages. Children who did not participate in after-school programs or had observed parental drinking had 2–3-fold increased risk to buy alcoholic beverages alone. Living with one or none of parents was associated with alcohol purchase in children who never drank alcohol. Though this study is limited to Taiwanese youth there are some similarities and lessons we can observe. We know that environment influences the genetic determination of our brains growth and that alcohol has severe neurotoxic effects on the brain. We must observe these risk factors and seek to support our children to avoid falling afoul of this societal danger. Encourage education and encourage after-school activities. The more involved we are in our children’s lives the greater their chances to succeed.
A new research study in the April edition of "Molecular Psychiatry" found that people with a variation in gene, GABRA2, have an increased risk for alcoholism. The researchers brain scanned 44 young people observing changes of blood flow during tasks of winning or losing money.People with the variation in the gene had greater activation in an area of the brain called the Insula when anticipating rewards and losses. Previous research has already implicated the insula and addiction. Senior study author Margit Burmeister said the results "suggest GABRA2 exerts an influence on an underlying neural system that impacts early risk factors and, later, alcohol dependency". However, its important to remember that genes don't act alone and we are not imprisoned by preexisting risk factors. Burmeister noted the importance of recognizing this and stated that "In the future, we hope to examine the effects of family environment and other behavioral and environmental factors."
"A Reader” asked the question if the I-Max approach would work regardless of the level or length of time of the addiction, and the I-Max will absolutely give us a direction if we break it down. The “I-Max” represents the domains that influence a person’s life as they seek to maximize their potential. Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Human Needs” does a similar thing pointing out the needs necessary to achieve Self-Actualization. The I-Max doesn’t point out what we need as much as it helps us identify what we currently have. In this way it acts more like a compass pointing out for us the influences in our Home, Social, I-C (how we see ourselves and think others see us, like our self-esteem), and our Biology that are directing us to our current maximum potential. Making changes in one will affect recursively the influences in all.
For example to utilize “A Readers” perspective, let’s take a seventeen year old who’s been smoking Marijuana for 3 years. We know that marijuana affects the development of neural circuitry particularly since the child has been smoking during peak developmental times. Looking at the teenager’s history we see a pattern of impulsiveness and dangerous decision making. This is a normal part of teen development but the severity has been exacerbated by the 3 years of doing substances. We know substance use is associated with the development of mood disorders, so it is important to address the biological component of the I-Max and assess any possible psychiatric complications with a professional. This is addressing one part of the I-Max which will have a recursive affect on the other domains.
Impulsiveness and decision making has affected the home life and the substance use has also changed the way this adolescent sees himself. In terms of his “I-C” which is the third part of the I-Max. He now sees himself as a person who smokes daily and “chills” with his “homeboys”. He spends less time with his family and his identity is tied into this circle of other pot smokers and the illegal activity that some of them are participating in to get money for pot. His self-esteem is low and he only feels like he belongs when he’s with his friends or other pot smokers.
So the I-Max gives us a comprehensive glimpse of his Home, and Social life, and how these affect how he thinks about himself (the I-C) and how all of his actions are affecting his Biology. We can see pretty quickly the things that are needed to improve his circumstances and maximize his potential. These domains all raise or lower the other domains and improving one domain will influence and raise the others. If this adolescent were to stop using substances and hanging out with negative peers, it will improve his personal biology. This change will also improve his current home life. If he is not smoking, he probably won’t be hanging out with the same social group. Hopefully this will prompt the formation of more positive social influences which will improve how he sees himself as well as how he perceives others to see him (I-C).
You can see from this example how each change affects each domain and how quickly it can help someone maximize potential. The “I-Max” is a positive lens and tool that everyone can use. This “compass” works for every person regardless of circumstance whether it be working to quit substances or working to improve stress. Take a look; are you at your “maximum potential”? But remember it is non-judgmental. You are where you are at, period. Just use the I-Max compass and maximize your life.
My fiancee told me a friend of hers has a gym membership but barely ever uses it. She was so appalled by this and couldnt imagine why, with her friends flexible schedule, she didn't take advantage of the gym more often. I was more surprised she was surprised. I reminded her, "we live in America, one of the most overweight nations in the developing world!"
The thing, I suppose, is she was surprised because exercise is one of her "staple,". My fiancee does triathalons, which she loves to do, and is constantly trying to find more time in her packed schedule for "training".
Its funny how we see things through our own perspective. Those who exercise could not imagine why everyone wouldnt also love to exercise. I exercise regularly too, though I admit its more of a discipline for me than the joy it is for my fiancee. However, there are plenty of reasons besides gaining weight that would behoove more people to exercise more often.
John Ratey, in his book, Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain, elucidates for us some of these reasons. In fact he claims that exercise creates neurochemicals such as BDNF which actually create and promote new neuronal growth. However, he points out that modern life has changed some of the ways that the human brain has functioned over the centuries. Ironically, Dr Ratey points out that it is in the very area of the human brain, where we have the capacity to think, and to plan and create, that we have re-engineered physical activity out of our daily life. We as a species have gone from active hunters and gatherers to sedentary planners.
Has this created new genetic predispositions, and a class of lazy, non-exercisers? Nature versus nurture and genetic predeterminism is a debate that Dr. Ratey previously put to rest in A Users Guide to the Brain (2001), “Most of us are who we are as a result of the interaction of our genes and our experiences. In some cases, the genes are more important, while in others the environment is more crucial (31).” However, the real question according to Dr. Ratey is what the degrees are to which genes and experiences interact, and how this inevitably affects the brain and behavior.
It seems in our current society everyone wants to find a simple answer from a single problem so that we can then devote all our effort into cures. But it seems that everyone still has some ability of choice when it comes to genetics.
This is why the Revolutionary new exercise as Ratey describes it in Spark, could possibly move us past all debates and put us firmly in the midst of a working and practical solution for health. Exercise can even help in treating depression and other physiologically based mental disorders. But it does not move us past the problem of free will.
Despite the abundance of evidence that exercise is not only good for the body, but great for the brain, people are bent on doing things that are unhealthy for them and not doing the things that are healthy for them. This is an age old problem and one we all should observe in ourselves. Are we really doing the things that are good for us? Do my actions really represent and create the person that I wish to be? Am I helping myself in everything I do, or am I rationalizing and justifying that I will burn off the calories from the triple fudge brownie sundaes, or,I will do something productive later when Ive finished watching TV?
I'm the first one to admit that I am not perfect. I have my own breed of laziness and I know I do not always make the most healthy and productive choices. Aristotle said "We are what we repeatedly do, and excellence then is not an act but a habit" So, I just keep reminding myself, I am what I do--afterall, I dont want my epitaph to read:
"He watched TV well."
Researchers have begun to concentrate efforts on the process of increasing motivation for change in adolescents presenting for treatment. Readiness to change is a critical problem with adolescents. In general, adolescents are less motivated to change patterns of alcohol or other drug use than adults because they are less likely to have experienced severe consequences, particularly in regard to their health (Maisto, Chung, Cornelius, & Martin, 2003; Brown, 2001). Furthermore, teenagers generally present for treatment because some outside force, parents, schools, or courts have demanded that they do so (Baer & Peterson, 2002).
Teenage lack of concern is potentially harmful because we know that drugs of abuse activate neural pathways during a time when the prefrontal cortex is learning to balance and cope with environmental cues. Literally at this time the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for good decisions, impulse control, and long term planning is actively creating connections to other parts of the brain. In essence, the teenage brain is like an 800 horsepower Mustang engine, without the power steering and a braking system. The prefrontal cortex is establishing connections, laying down the fine tuned suspension and braking system to other parts of the brain throughout adolescence. This encompasses roughly the ages from 12 to 25. This highly responsive system will eventually allow the brain to respond and acclimate to life changes with a speed that modern computer designers only dream about, but in the design and building phase of adolescence, it is highly malleable to outside influences.
That is why it is so dangerous when kids use. They have no idea the power that they have. Unfortunately every choice they make during this time, particularly ones with chemical components (like using drugs)affects the development of the brain. They are literally embedding booby traps and time bombs into the very fabric of the brain.Drug and alcohol abuse creates neuro-chemical imbalances and harmful adaptations (Casey, Jones, & Hare, 2008) such as depression, and mood disorders.
Sadly, they wont notice right away but everything we do has a consequence, and this will catch up to them eventually. This is why treatment is so important. Don't let your teen sabotage their future.
The National institute for Drug abuse tells us that addiction is a disease that results from a myriad of influences. These include the Home environment, the social environment, genetics, and others. This tells us that addiction is a disease that is incredibly difficult to predict, it can strike anywhere at any time.Dr Joseph Shrand has come up with a great method of "Diagnosing" problems. The I-Max looks at a person in terms of four domains that make up potential.
My Home life
My Social Life
My "I-C" or how I see myself. (This is my thoughts and self-esteem)
These domains influence and affect who I am on a moment to moment basis. By explaining these to adolescents they instantly understand. "Oh yeah my home life is awful, and it really affects how I think about myself. That's why I smoke weed... it is the only thing that makes me feel ok"
Explaining the I-Max to them tells them that there is nothing "wrong" with them, it is the situations that creates the consequences.
We know neurologically that smoking weed or doing any drug, changes the neural-chemistry affects the biology
and creates stronger and stronger patterns such as addiction. This shows that any affect in one domain really affects them all--the domains change and interact fluidly.
Once I recognize the how of problems and see the scope to which different domains affect life it is that much easier to change them. I can set up a seamless and holistic plan for my clients that addresses the needs that NIDA identifies.
Being diagnosed with a disease of any kind, affects how I see and feel about myself. However, being shown that my problems are a result of the situations I am in, is empowering and gives me much more hope and willingness to believe that I can change.
One of my favorite clients relapsed. It has had a devastating affect on her. I watched this girl walk through trauma, depression, and shame, coming out on the other side positive and hopeful. Where there had been doubt was now a careful confidence, where there had been fear was hope.
Now after her relapse (she stayed clean about two months) her willingness to live sober has been wiped clean. She talks of wanting to party and get high constantly. We remind her of where she was before, and she recognizes it but pushes it aside with just the briefest acknowledgement. "I don't care I like getting high, I'll stop when I'm 18".
This is the lie that addicted kids tell themselves. They are "in control and can stop whenever they want to". This is part of the reason the statistics on adolescent deaths each year are so staggering.Over 16000 teenagers die every year. I am just glad this girl is clean today. Hopefully we can re-ignite the passion for life she had before. I just want to keep her alive.
I have to remember the successes at times like these. I have to remember I'm in a war fighting one day at a time to keep these kids from dying. This fight is bigger than me and I just have to remember my measly struggle is making a difference somehow someway and I might not see it with some but as long as I keep at it the struggle helps and is worth it.
Pray for us in the trenches!