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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

UCLA Meth Mouth Study

Methamphetamine has been the bane of America for some time now, destroying lives at an accelerated rate; long-term use of the drug can lead to a slew of problems, including terrible: medical, psychological, sociological consequences - as well as mood disturbances and violent behavior. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that more than 10 million Americans have tried methamphetamine, while more than 1.4 million are habitual users.

Methamphetamine literally eats away at you from the inside out - with the potential to damage major organs as well as one’s teeth. Methamphetamine addicts develop something called “Meth Mouth” which is an accelerated dental disease. “Very little is known about the epidemiology of "meth mouth" or the underlying mechanisms that contribute to accelerated dental decay”, according to Medical News Today; a hindrance to dentists who are unable to spot the disease in its early stages and are then unable to set up the best practices for treating the condition.

If dentists were trained to identify “Meth Mouth” early on, they might be able to guide the addict to help on top of fixing their teeth. In many ways dentists have the ability to be the first line of defense on the war on meth. UCLA was recently granted $1.86 million from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse to study the destruction of the oral cavity by methamphetamine use.

“Our finding that dental disease is a prominent marker of methamphetamine use creates opportunities to implement targeted interventions in the dental office - a hitherto unexploited setting in the management of this epidemic”, Dr. Vivek Shetty, a professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery said. “Funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse will allow us to further characterize methamphetamine's oral disease burden so as to support dental professionals who, as oral health specialists, are in a unique position to detect the drug's use and participate as integral members of a collaborative care team tending to methamphetamine users”.

Sandra Shagat
University of California - Los Angeles
Medical News Today

Monday, June 28, 2010

Incapacity of Addicted Individuals to Counteract Pathological Modifications Caused by the Drug to All the Users

Every year people try drugs for the first time. People experience different feelings when they are on drugs and some people end up liking drugs more than is good for them - not that drugs are ever a good thing in any shape or form. Why some people can put down drugs and others cannot has puzzled doctors and scientists for a long time. Even those who become dependent on drugs a lot of the time after a proper detox have the ability to never touch drugs again; sadly, there is another group who are incapable of putting down drugs without long term residential treatment.

The teams of Pier Vincenzo Piazza and Olivier Manzoni, at the Neurocentre Magendie in Bordeaux (Inserm unit 862) have been tackling this subject and seem to be making some headway. Medical News Today reported that the scientists recently discovered that the "transition to addiction could result from a persistent impairment of synaptic plasticity in a key structure of the brain". This is the first time the correlation has been claimed to exist between synaptic plasticity and the transition to addiction. "The results from the teams at Neurocentre Magendie call into question the hitherto held idea that addiction results from pathological cerebral modifications which develop gradually with drug usage. Their results show that addiction may, instead, come from a form of anaplasticity, i.e. from incapacity of addicted individuals to counteract the pathological modifications caused by the drug to all users".

Drugs have a severe impact on the human brain regardless of whether or not addiction develops; repeated drug use will change the physiology of the brain. The question that the scientists are trying answer is which modification to the physiology of the brain causes addiction? The goal, at the end of the day is to be able to provide more effective treatment by understanding the brain chemistry of drug addiction. Treatment facilities look to this type of research to better understand and improve their treatment models to promote successful recovery.

This research is published in the journal Science on 25 June 2010.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Magic Drink Claims To Reduce The Effects of Alcohol

People who drink alcohol excessively are always looking for a way to process alcohol quicker so that they have the ability to continue partying or even drive home. Hangovers are fairly common experience for those who drink excessively and there is a host of products on the market that claim to reduce the chance of a hangover. What most people do not realize is that when you put a chemical like alcohol into your system a whole series of chemical reactions take place. The idea that you could use a magical product that would counter the effects alcohol has on the human body is magical thinking. The rate at which the body processes alcohol varies from person to person depending on a number variables, taking something to counter the effects of alcohol is not only unhealthy but it is also very dangerous.

The release of a "magic" drink claiming to reduce drunkenness and ease hangovers is being negotiated in France this week. Products like this exist all over the world and they have health experts concerned that people will use these products to help them drive home from the bar. The sparkling canned drink is made by of Outox, they claim that it is a "revolutionary" product that "greatly speeds up" the breakdown of alcohol in the blood. Skeptics of the product worry that people will make even poorer decisions if they have a magical drink that they think will sober them up - not true.

There have been no medical breakthroughs in the scientific world that have shown to reduce the effects of alcohol on the human system. Alcohol will affect a person until it is out of their system no matter how many new substances are introduced to the system. The key to driving sober is to not drink and the key to not being hungover is to not drink too much; a person can take all the magical drinks they want it will not change the fact that they are drunk. If alcohol is getting in the way of your driving and affecting you the next day, you may need more help than a magical drink can provide!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Prescription Drug Use On The Rise

Andrew and Ted Koppel

Prescription drugs are in the news more these days, one story after another involving pharmaceuticals and death. The pairing of the two is no coincidence considering that prescription medications are cleaner forms of street drugs, equally or more potent than their dirty street "cousins" heroin and meth. Oxycontin is clean heroin and Adderall is clean meth, benzodiazapams like Valium and Xanax could be called dehydrated alcohol; all of these drugs dosed improperly could result in death. The most recent prescription drug related death that is being discussed is the death of the son of ABC's Ted Koppel, who accidentally overdosed on a slew of drugs.

Andrew Koppel had consumed a number of different chemicals leading up to his death, the medical examiner found cocaine, diazepam, heroin, Levamisole (a drug used to cut other drugs), and alcohol in Koppel's system - it was a lethal combination. Koppel's death is just one more example of the dangers of drugs and alcohol and his name can added to the long list of prescription drug related deaths this year. There were many deaths in the last 365 days involving prescription drugs: Michael Jackson, Corey Haim, Casey Johnson, and Brittany Murphy... Clearly there is a prescription drug epidemic occurring in this country and it needs to be addressed.

A new study was just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that had some pretty startling findings worth noting. There are an estimated 980,000 people in America who suffer from prescription opiate addiction; nearly a million people in the United States are hooked on some type of opiate derivative. On top of that, emergency room trips tied to non-medical use of prescription opiates has more than doubled. "The prescription painkillers being abused include oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone. And in six states—Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Utah and Vermont—accidental drug deaths due to use of anxiety medications increased 64 percent between 2004 and 2007", according to the Take Away.

These findings should not be too surprising considering that pharmaceutical addiction probably touches every household in America. No one seems to know how to curb the spreading epidemic? Treatment only addresses the problem after it has arrived, but, a preemptive strike is imperative if we are going to see those numbers drop.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The American Drug War in Mexico

The violence in Mexico is escalating rapidly, hundreds of people have lost their lives in the past week beginning with the execution of 19 people at a drug treatment facility; this is some of the worst violence seen since the U.S.-backed drug war began. This has prompted Mexican President Felipe Calderon to release a 5,000 word manifesto stating that the fight must continue "or we will always live in fear". Calderon makes some very valid points that are worth consideration, especially his placement of blame on the United States for the entire war. "The origin of our violence problem begins with the fact that Mexico is located next to the country that has the highest levels of drug consumption in the world," Calderón wrote. "It is as if our neighbor were the biggest drug addict in the world".

Sadly, the Mexican president is not that far off the mark, it is true that America has the highest demand for illegal drugs in the world. Impoverished Mexico happens to be right across the border from that demand so it makes sense that criminal enterprises would take advantage. According to the Washington Post, "experts estimate that $10 billion to $25 billion in drug profits flow to Mexico each year from the north. About 90 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States passes through Mexico, which also smuggles at least half of the marijuana and methamphetamine sold in U.S. cities". In order for the cartels to keep control of the drug trade they use violence perpetuated by the guns smuggled into Mexico from the United States. Mexico brings us their drugs and we send them our weapons, a vicious cycle that will only in addiction and bloodshed.

Last week in Mexico:
  • 19 executed at the Fey y Vida treatment facility
  • gunmen killed 15 federal police officers in separate attacks in two states known for heavy narcotics trafficking.
  • mafia assassins used burning buses to block a major highway and ambush a convoy of police returning to the capital, killing 12 officers and wounding at least eight others.
  • 29 prisoners from rival gangs attacked one another with pistols, an assault rifle and knives in the Mazatlan jail
  • seven or eight people are killed in drug-related violence every day in Juarez, barely making the paper.

We need to ask ourselves whether America is doing enough. If that death toll were in the United States, it is hard to believe we would just let this continue.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mexican Drug Clinic Massacre

Nine people were killed in attack on a Mexican drug clinic in northern Mexico, when dozens of gunmen stormed the private facility in the city of Chihuahua. Mexico is controlled by the drug cartels that operate throughout the country without any fear of impunity. This incident adds to a long list of violent murders that have taken place in drug treatment facilities. Ex-cartel members will hide out in places like Fe y Vida, or Faith and Life, to either change their life or to recruit new members. This has brought on a number of murders inside treatment centers in the past year, catching a number of innocent people in the crossfire.

The LA Times reported that, "Rene Castillo, the center's pastor, said the men, outfitted with protective vests and face masks, first claimed to be police officers. They fatally shot some of the victims in their rooms, but herded most outside the three-story center before executing them". Martin Sandoval, once treated at Fey y Vida, lives close to the treatment and was able to hear the gunfire; he claimed that he knew several people at Fey y Vida and that some had been part of the Mexicles gang, who has rivaled with another violent gang the Aztecas for control of drug trafficking routes through Juarez.

Sadly, not every person murdered last week was a member of the cartels; some people were legitimately trying get their life on track when it was taken away. One's innocence and repentance has no bearing on whether or not the cartels will take your life away. More than 23,000 people have been killed in Mexico since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon vowed to combat the cartels and ordered troops to fight them. The war for control of Mexican drug routes will continue to wage on because the cartels control more than just the drug trade - they control the entire nation.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Genetic Factors Have A Hand In Gambling

Like any other addiction, Gambling, has had a hand in ruining the lives of many people. In the past, every type of addiction was treated as a completely different animal than the next, but, science has given us the ability to see and the tools to understand the chemical complexities of the mind. We now have the ability to see that addiction is addiction is addiction! The idea that an alcoholic is somehow different than someone hooked on pain medicine is no longer valid in the medical community. Addiction is a disease that can be passed down genetically, predisposing individuals to become dependent on anything that is gratifying, to such an extreme, that their life and the lives of the people surrounding them are at risk. Genetics play a very important role in how people act, interact, and react to situations.

Gambling is harder to understand in comparison to alcohol consumption, both habit forming to the point of addiction; yet, with gambling there is no drug or drink consumed - a series of actions are performed which releases chemicals in the brain that provide a high. How could an action provide someone a high, so profound and powerful, that it would prompt someone to throw away everything they ever worked for just to achieve that high one more time? The answer is addiction, and addiction, sadly, is a handicap that millions of people are born with. Scientists in Australia have been researching the genetic factors behind addiction and recently published their findings in the June issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry after studying twins. Research has shown that genetic factors seem to have an effect on the development of gambling disorders in both men and women according to Dr Wendy S. Slutske, a professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and colleagues.

The results showed:

  • Many of the individuals were frequent gamblers: nearly all had gambled at least once, about half had gambled at least once a month, and one third had gambled at least once a week.
  • 2.2 per cent of the participants (3.4 per cent of the men and 1.2 per cent of the women) met criteria for pathological gambling.
  • 12.5 per cent (18.2 per cent of the men and 8.3 per cent of the women) had experienced at least one symptom of pathological gambling.
  • A link between genetic factors and gambling susceptibility: "the estimate of the proportion of variation in liability for disordered gambling (DG) due to genetic influences was 49.2 per cent", wrote the authors.
  • No evidence that similar environments influenced susceptibility: "no evidence for shared environmental influences contributing to variation in DG liability".
  • No evidence that the causes are different in men and women: "no evidence for quantitative or qualitative sex differences in the causes of variation in DG liability".
(Layman provided by Medical News Today)

Gambling is an addiction just as powerful as any other. Drugs and alcohol do not kill addicts, addictive thinking and behavior is what is actually responsible; just as betting money is not harmful as long as you have the ability to stop when you want.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Drunk Driver Killed Calvin Santos

Calvin Santos and Martin Candia

Every day, alcoholism and alcoholic behavior affect countless lives across the globe. The disease of addiction tears through the lives of people who have never had a drink of alcohol and people who are not even old enough to understand anything about alcohol. Either while passengers of motor vehicles or pedestrians caught in the cross fire of a drunk driver, children are killed all the time from alcohol related accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2008 "1,347 children ages 14 and younger died as occupants in car accidents and of those deaths, 216 (approx 16%) were the direct result of drunk drivers". That statistic is a clear example of the fallout of the bomb that is alcoholism.

Last summer Diane Schuler killed seven people including her while driving heavily intoxicated the wrong way down the Taconic Parkway. Four out of the eight victims were children, all of which were under the age of ten. People are still trying to piece together the events of that fatal day in New York, but, one thing is certain - Diane Schuler was drunk. In the Chicago area a young boy was killed by drunk driver, Calvin Santos was only in the third grade - just ten years old. The young boy was walking between two parked SUVs when a van, driven by Martin Candia, slammed into one of the vehicles, which Calvin was sandwiched between ultimately killing the young boy.

"Candia, 30, was charged with felony drunken driving and reckless homicide — as well as several traffic offenses, including driving on a suspended license — following the crash in the 6900 block of North Ashland Avenue", according to Chicago Sun-Times. This tragedy is another example of the long reach of addiction and just how people can be affected. We would like to extend our condolences to Calvin's family in their time mourning.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Prescription Drug Abuse With Teens

Prescription drug abuse is a major concern in America as more and more teens are experimenting with them. Prescriptions are of little importance when obtaining pharmaceuticals, there are so many floating around that kids have almost unlimited access to them. A new study has shown that there are more teens abusing prescription meds than one might think. The CDC states in its National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, just over one in five high school students in the U.S. admits that they have used prescription drugs without a doctor's prescription. According to the CDC, 20.2% of high school students said they had taken a drug such as Ritalin, Xanax, or OxyContin without prescriptions.

The survey of more than 16,000 youths found that:
  • Prescription drug abuse was most common among white students, at 23%
  • Hispanics at 17%
  • African-Americans at 12%.
  • Prescription drug abuse was most common among seniors (26%) and least common among freshmen (15%).
  • There was no difference in prescription drug abuse by sex -- 20% for both male and female students.

The survey asked a number of questions related to drug and alcohol use in its 2009 tally. Finding:

  • 72% of high school students said they had used alcohol.
  • 37% said they had used marijuana.
  • 6.4% said they had used cocaine.
  • 4.1% said they had used methamphetamine.
  • 6.7% said they had used ecstasy.
  • 2.5% had used heroin.
  • 8% had used hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD or mescaline.
The numbers above are not uplifting and need to be addressed sooner rather than later. We are faced with an epidemic of epic proportions and there isn't really a solution in sight. More counseling and education are needed to give teens the tools to resist experimenting with prescription drug. Parents need to talk to their kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol before a problem develops. What are your thoughts on the subject?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Prison Drug Treatment Failures

"We're very concerned," said Rona Siegert, director of Idaho Department of Correction Health Services.

Prisons in the United States are comprised mainly of non-violent drug offenders, people in prison who did not murder or commit a sexual offense who are probably there for a drug charge. Jails and institutions have been the answer to America's addiction epidemic; lock someone up and after they are clean for a while we spit them back on to the streets to repeat the same actions as before. Recidivism with drug offenders is absolutely staggering even with the advance in drug treatment programs which have found a way to get inside the prisons and try and help inmates who suffer from addiction. The programs are state funded and usually are not even close to the caliber of private treatment facilities; inmates rarely get the vital tool they need to stay sober on the streets. The AP recently reported that a medical audit, by Idaho Department of Correction officials, earlier this year shows that a private prison outside Boise has: "extensive problems administering medical care, including inadequate records; delays in providing medications, immunizations and mental health care; and a lack of follow-up or oversight when inmates are returned to the lockup after being hospitalized".

The state of Idaho is ordering the private prison company Correction Corporation of America to pay thousands of dollars and fix problems with drug and alcohol treatment and medical care at the Idaho Correctional Center. CCA was contracted to provide drug treatment counselors and medical care to inmates. Ten of 13 drug and alcohol counselors who were provided by CCA were unqualified to provide adequate treatment, according to the AP, "the state ordered CCA to provide it with a plan to fix the medical care problems by May 25, but the company has already missed that deadline".

"That's the whole purpose of the audit, to find these things before they get to a level where they're critical", said Siegert. The problems happening at private prisons in Idaho echo the problems occurring in prisons all over the country - lack of adequate treatment. A lot of money gets funneled into prison drug rehabilitation programs and very little results have been seen.

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