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Thursday, December 11, 2014

E-cigarettes Less Addictive than Regular Cigarettes

Over the last few years e-cigarettes have become quite prevalent, with stores selling the devices in practically every city across the country. While manufacturers have contended that the devices are safer than regular cigarettes, the truth is that not much is known about e-cigarettes. New research suggests that e-cigarettes may be less addictive than regular cigarettes for former smokers, a finding which could help researchers better understand how various nicotine delivery devices lead to dependence.

"We found that e-cigarettes appear to be less addictive than tobacco cigarettes in a large sample of long-term users," said Jonathan Foulds, Ph.D., professor of public health sciences and psychiatry, Penn State College of Medicine.

Researchers at Penn State developed an online survey, with questions formulated to assess previous dependence on cigarettes and to assess current dependence on e-cigarettes. More than 3,500 participants who were current users of e-cigarettes and were ex-cigarette smokers completed the Penn State Cigarette Dependence Index and the Penn State Electronic Cigarette Dependence Index. Consumers who had used e-cigarettes longer appeared to be more addicted.

"However, people with all the characteristics of a more dependent e-cig user (e.g. longer use of an advanced e-cig with a high nicotine concentration in the liquid) in our study still had a lower e-cig dependence score than their cigarette dependence score," Foulds said. "We think this is because they're getting less nicotine from the e-cigs than they were getting from cigarettes."

While many e-cigarettes users are trying to quit smoking, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the devices as a smoking cessation product.

"This is a new class of products that's not yet regulated," Foulds said. "It has the potential to do good and help a lot of people quit, but it also has the potential to do harm. Continuing to smoke and use e-cigarettes may not reduce health risks. Kids who have never smoked might begin nicotine addiction with e-cigs. There's a need for a better understanding of these products."

There are more than 400 brands of e-cigarettes currently available, which work by users inhaling vapor containing nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin and flavorings. While the long-term effects on health and nicotine dependence are unknown, the researchers found e-cigarettes contained far fewer cancer-causing and other toxic substances than regular cigarettes.

Based on materials from Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Physicians Less Likely to Prescribe Narcotic Painkillers

Prescription narcotics are responsible for a large percentage of drug overdose deaths that occur every year in the United States. Despite a number of efforts to curb the problem, the rate of opioid dependence in this country is nothing short of a crisis.

After years of over-prescribing opioid painkillers, a new survey of primary care physicians nationwide showed that almost half say they are less likely to prescribe narcotic painkillers compared with a year ago. Nine out of 10 primary care doctors are concerned about prescription drug abuse in their communities, according to HealthDay.

“Our findings suggest that primary care providers have become aware of the scope of the prescription opioid crisis and are responding in ways that are important, including reducing their over-reliance on these medicines,” study leader Dr. G. Caleb Alexander of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said in a news release. “The health care community has long been part of the problem, and now they appear to be part of the solution to this complex epidemic.” 

Dr. Alexander hopes that more doctors and patients consider alternatives to opioid painkillers, including other types of pain relievers, and non-drug treatments such as massage, physical therapy and acupuncture. 

The survey involving 580 family doctors, internists and general practitioners nationwide, showed that 85 percent believe narcotic painkillers, such as oxycodone, are overused, the article reports. About half of the doctors surveyed said they were "very concerned" about risks such as addiction, death and traffic crashes associated with narcotic painkiller overuse. A number of doctors reported they believe that adverse effects, like tolerance (62 percent) and physical dependence (56 percent) occur often, even when patients use the medications as directed.

It is worth pointing out that while doctors’ have a high level of concern about opioid painkillers, 88 percent reported confidence in their own ability to prescribe opioid drugs appropriately.

The researchers report in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Nursing Home Addresses Elderly Addiction

In the United States, one of the fastest growing populations of addicts and alcoholics is the elderly. In 2009, the journal Addiction published a report which indicated that the number of Americans over 50 with substance abuse problems was expected to reach 5.7 million by 2020, double the 2006 figure, according to the Associated Press.

The reasons behind elderly substance abuse are varied, from problems with pain leading to opioid addiction, to alcohol problems resulting from idle time and loneliness. The loss of a spouse or close friends, coupled with retirement, leaves people alone and without purpose; seniors often turn to the bottle to find comfort and solace.

Pain is an unavoidable side-effect of getting older as our bodies begin to deteriorate; it is no secret that America is guilty of over-prescribing prescription narcotics. It can be difficult for doctors to deny elderly patients painkillers, even if they are showing signs of dependence.

Addressing the needs of the elderly often falls upon assisted living programs, such as nursing homes and retirement communities; places often unequipped to deal with addiction and dependence, especially on a large scale. Unfortunately, seniors rarely reach out for help regarding addiction and even in medical settings the elderly are not often screened for substance abuse.

Which is why, a nursing home in the Bronx has set out to address the problem, the AP reports. After a stay in the hospital, all patients 60 and older who come in for rehab at the Jewish Home Lifecare (JHL) nursing home are screened for addiction and offered a chance at recovery.

The JHL expects to get 480 patients a year and has set aside eight beds for patients that need assistance with addiction problems. Associate Administrator Gregory Poole-Dayan believes it's the first nursing home to integrate addiction recovery into medical rehabilitation.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Natural ‘High’ Could Avoid Chronic Marijuana Use

Marijuana is used more in America than any other drug. While the reasons for marijuana use are vast, many report using marijuana chronically as a means of treating depression and anxiety. New research conducted at Vanderbilt University suggests that replenishing the supply of a molecule that normally activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain could relieve mood and anxiety disorders, enabling some people to quit using marijuana, Science Daily reports.

Cannabinoid receptors are normally activated by compounds in the brain called endocannabinoids, the most abundant of which is 2-AG. They also are “turned on” by the active ingredient in marijuana.

Study leader, Sachin Patel, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues genetically modified mice to have impaired ability to produce 2-AG in the brain. The researchers observed that the mice showed anxiety-like behaviors, and female mice also displayed behaviors resembling depression. Researchers then blocked the enzyme that normally breaks down 2-AG and restored the supply of the endocannabinoid to normal levels. After doing this the researchers observed that the symptoms of anxiety and depression were reversed.

While there is no 2-AG research that has been conducted on humans to date, the researchers concluded that if further findings confirm that some people who are anxious and depressed have low levels of 2-AG, "normalizing 2-AG deficiency could represent a viable ... therapeutic strategy for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders."

Paradoxically, the researchers point out that chronic use of marijuana down-regulates cannabinoid receptors, increasing anxiety and marijuana use. This is a "vicious cycle" that can lead to addiction. Many people use drugs to cope with moods disorders, they are often unaware that the drug that they use to treat the problem is actually making the problem worse. Without realizing it, people use more and more of the drug when they should actually be using less. The perceived cure is only amplifying the problem.

 The research was reported in the journal Cell Reports.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

The holidays can be a difficult time for those in recovery, especially in new recovery; many feelings may arise that can be trying. The stress of the holidays is often times a catalyst for relapse; so it is important to stay connected with your support network even if you are out of you local area for the holidays. There are resources available to help you stay linked to the 12-step community. In many cases there are meeting houses that are holding a meeting every hour throughout the day.

Whether you are traveling or staying in your area, we have listed below some resources that may be helpful, if you find yourself struggling or feel the need to reach out to others who might be having a hard time and you want to help.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous

On Thanksgiving 2014, there are hundreds of meeting happening in the Orange County area, you can find information on meetings here, and if you need help you can call the 24 Hour Hotline: (714) 556-4555

At Hope by the Sea we wish everyone a safe and sober holiday. If you find yourself in trouble please do not hesitate to call for help, you are not alone.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Quitting Cigarettes Harder for Heavy Drinkers

It is often the case that alcohol and cigarettes go hand in hand, there isn’t a bar in the United States that doesn’t have a smoking area near one of the establishment's exits. In many cases, when people are asked if they smoke, a common response heard is, ‘only when I drink.’ In fact, new research suggests that smokers who drink heavily have a tougher time quitting cigarettes than smokers who drink moderately or not at all.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Yale Cancer Center and Yale School of Medicine, found that using tobacco-oriented telephone counseling to help people with hazardous drinking habits quit, can also help smokers. The researchers defined hazardous drinking as a weekly consumption of at least 14 drinks for men and seven drinks for women at least once in the past year.

The researchers point out the need for telephonic counseling quitline programs, research indicates that hazardous-drinking smokers are at a greater risk of developing several types of cancer and other serious health problems, than smokers who drink less. The researchers determined that 20% of all tobacco quitline callers drink at hazardous levels, said the study’s principal investigator, Benjamin A. Toll, associate professor of psychiatry and program director of the Smoking Cessation Service at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale in New Haven.

“This was the first quitline study to offer alcohol intervention counseling to hazardous drinking smokers, and we found that the quitline coaches can be trained to counsel that group effectively to improve smoking cessation and limit alcohol use,” Toll said. “If quitlines across the country use this method, we could reach millions of people seeking help.”

The research was supported by the:
  • National Institutes of Health
  • National Cancer Institute
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  • New York State Department of Health
  • Connecticut State Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services
The study was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Yale News

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Opioid Dependent Pregnant Women

While the overall rate of opioid dependent pregnant women is low, 0.39 percent, new research suggests that the percentage of opioid dependent pregnant women more than doubled from 1998 to 2011, HealthDay reports.

The rise in opioid dependent mothers is the direct result of prescription opioid epidemic in America. Over prescribing of drugs, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, has trickled into every corner of life, even babies are at risk of being born dependent on those powerful narcotics.

The study looked at the use of prescription painkillers, as well as illegal opioids, by mothers, such as:
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Heroin
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston analyzed data on almost 57 million deliveries between 1998 and 2011. The findings showed that women dependent on opioids were more likely to deliver by cesarean section and have extended hospital stays. Opioid dependent mothers were almost five times as likely to die during hospitalization, according to the article. Babies born to opioid dependent mothers were twice as likely to be stillborn, premature and have poor growth. Mothers were three times as likely to experience placental abruption, a condition where the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus prematurely.

“This increase in opioid abuse and dependence in the pregnant population is happening along with that in the general population,” Lead researcher Dr. Lisa Leffert said. “These women were more likely to deliver by cesarean and have extended hospital stays.”

The findings are published in the journal Anesthesiology.

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