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Monday, December 31, 2012

Military Institutes New Methods for Treating Addiction

Drinking in the military has long been a problem worth addressing considering the fact that alcohol related issues have been steadily rising over the years. In response to a new report published by the Institute of Medicine, the United States military has formed a number of new measures to combat the report's findings.

According to the report, substance abuse in the military and their families has become a public health crisis. Their findings showed that the Defense Department’s methods for preventing and treating substance abuse are outdated. Binge drinking in the military increased from 35 percent in 1998, to 47 percent just a decade later.

The new initiatives include:
  • Random breathalyzer tests to Marine Corps members.
  • Bans on some overnight liquor sales for U.S. military personnel in Germany.
  • Barring American service members in Japan from leaving their residences after having more than one alcoholic beverage.
Chairman of the panel, Dr. Charles P. O'Brien director of the Center for Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote the report and spoke with NBC about his findings; he stated that the panel found that there is only one doctor in the entire U.S. Army that has training in addiction medicine. "This is a specialty where we need more people and they’re not there," he said. "So, most people are not getting treated with evidence-based medicine."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Can Addiction be Cured?

Is it possible to cure addiction? It has long been argued that addiction is a disease that cannot be cured only maintained through a path of recovery. There is no quick fix for dealing with one’s addiction; those who have managed to maintain a successful recovery achieved it through hard work, heartache, and strife. Fortunately, recovery is possible for those who want it bad enough.

Despite this long held belief, there are a number of scientists and doctors who continue to work tirelessly to find a cure for addiction. In China, a controversial surgical procedure attempting to cure addiction by destroying parts of the brain’s “pleasure centers” is being studied, Time.com reports. The subjects being studied are alcoholics and people addicted to heroin.

However, not surprisingly, the procedure risks permanently damaging a person’s ability to have longings and feel joy, according to the article. Despite the Chinese Ministry of Health banning the procedure in 2004, some doctors were granted permission to continue to perform the dangerous operation for research purposes only.

The journal Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery published a new study and the researchers called the surgery "a feasible method for alleviating psychological dependence on opiate drugs." Nevertheless, the researchers also noted that more than half of the 60 patients in the study had lasting side effects, including the loss of memory and loss of motivation. Although, after five years, 47 percent of the test subjects were still drug free.

Experts are opposed to using the procedure to treat addiction - thankfully. "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.
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Monday, December 24, 2012

Walgreens Illegally Dumps Pharmaceuticals

Proper disposal of prescription drugs is of the utmost importance, it is the only sure way to keep powerful narcotics out of the wrong hands. Every year prescription drug take back days are organized across the country, allowing individuals to hand over unwanted medications to the authorities for safe disposal. What’s more, businesses that handle pharmaceuticals are obligated to dispose of medication and bio-hazardous waste safely; drugs cannot just being thrown in the normal waste bins. Apparently one pharmacy chain failed to receive the memo.

Walgreens was caught illegally dumping pharmaceutical and bio-hazardous waste in California and has been ordered to pay $16.5 million in damages, to settle a lawsuit on the matter. The suit claimed that employees of the drugstore chain illegally dumped the drugs and waste into regular trash bins, instead of sending it to authorized disposal sites. District attorneys who represent more than half of the counties in the state were behind filing the suit.

Naturally, Walgreens admits no wrongdoing, and settled the case to avoid lengthy litigation. “All hazardous materials are shipped by licensed environmental haulers to a hazardous waste disposal facility, where they are incinerated,” spokesman Jim Graham said. “We are continuing to strengthen our programs to ensure that these procedures are properly followed.”

Walgreens will pay $16.5 million in penalties and costs, and will fund environmental projects to advance consumer protection and environmental enforcement in the state, according to the Contra Costa Times.

We wish all our readers a very Healthy and Merry Christmas. 
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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Maintaining Sobriety Through the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, considered by most people as the "happiest time of the year." Family, food, and presents are on every one's mind as we all prepare to rejoice together. Unfortunately, many of those in recovery find this time of the year especially stressful which often leads to relapse.

A number of addicts while in the grips of their addiction become estranged from family members and in many cases have lost their welcome at family gatherings due to past indiscretions. Rebuilding ties can take years of recovery, leaving many with the feeling of loneliness during the holidays.

A well known physician in the field of addiction made this list of common challenges that present themselves at this time of the year:
  • Families can be a strong trigger, especially during the holidays.
  • Painful memories of holidays past come to the forefront.
  • Social situations offer an abundance of alcohol and days with opportunities to relapse.
  • Travel and busy schedules increase overall stress and fatigue and can lead to emotional swings.
  • We are often away from our support network and our routines, enhancing a feeling of aloneness and making it harder to "work our program." We also often "beat ourselves up" because we believe we should be happy now that we are sober, but we often actually feel more isolated.
Fortunately, in most cities you can find a meeting every hour of the day during the major holidays. There is always someone to talk to about how you are feeling; one never has to be by themselves if they do not want to be. It is important that you stay active throughout the holidays, reaching out to those who are new to recovery.

We wish everyone a happy holiday and hope you all stay safe...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Marijuana Users Not a Top Priority for Obama

It's been just over a month since Americans went to the polls to exercise their the right to vote. Most Americans are aware that both Washington and Colorado voted to legalize the recreational use of Marijuana despite it being continued to be classified as a Scheduled I drug federally. A fact made clear by President Obama in a news interview with Barbara Walters; however he believes that it should not be a top priority for federal law enforcement officials, stating, "We’ve got bigger fish to fry."

Obama does not currently support widespread legalization of the drug, although he acknowledged public opinion on the issue is changing and there are few government resources to punish people who use marijuana.

"This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law," he said. "I head up the executive branch; we're supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we're going to need to have is a conversation about, 'How do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it’s legal?'"

Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department have been asked by the President to look into legal issues involved in the conflicting federal and state laws on drugs.

"There are a number of issues that have to be considered, among them the impact that drug usage has on young people, [and] we have treaty obligations with nations outside the United States", Holder told ABC News.
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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Genetics Can Lead to Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is a major problem amongst teenagers and young adults, a problem that sends thousands to the emergency room every year and can cause loss of life. Those who binge drink are not necessarily alcoholics, but the behavior can certainly lead to alcoholism. A new study conducted by scientists on mice and teenage boys in London found a genetic variation that may play a role in binge drinking in teenagers, Reuters reports.

“People seek out situations which fulfill their sense of reward and make them happy, so if your brain is wired to find alcohol rewarding, you will seek it out,” lead researcher Professor Gunter Schumann of King’s College Institute of Psychiatry in London said in a news release.

The gene called RASGRF-2 was found by researchers, they determined that it is important in controlling how alcohol stimulates the brain to release the brain chemical dopamine, causing a feeling of reward. Previous studies conducted believed that RASGRF-2 increased the risk for alcohol abuse, but the mechanism was unclear, the article notes.

The RASGRF-2 gene was removed from the mice by the researchers in order to see how they would react to alcohol. Without the gene they found it to significantly reduce alcohol-seeking behavior. When the mice consumed alcohol, there was a reduction in the release of dopamine in the brain, limiting the sense of reward.

The brains of 663 teenage boys were scanned during the course of the study. When the boys were expecting a reward in a mental test, those with genetic variations in the RASGRF-2 gene had more activity in the brain involved in dopamine release. This suggests that people with the genetic variation release more dopamine when they anticipate a reward.

The researchers re-tested the boys two years later; many of the boys had begun drinking frequently by that time. The boys with the gene variation drank more often than those without it.  

The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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Monday, December 10, 2012

Genetics and Addiction

Marc A. Schuckit, MD
Modern medicine has come a long way over the last 100 years in the field of addiction. What was once thought to be a moral disorder and a lack of will power has become recognized as medical disease that can be treated much like any other medical ailment. Addiction is a disease that can arise from heavy use of a substance over an extended period of time or can be passed down genetically from one generation to the next.

New research has shown that genes account for about 60 percent of the risk for addiction, while the environment accounts for the other 40 percent, according to Marc A. Schuckit, MD, distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. Schuckit is an expert who has developed a pilot program to prevent high-risk drinking in college freshman. He based the first evaluation of a prevention program on his 30 years of research in the field, dealing with more than 400 families.

Dr. Schuckit explained how genes and the environment relate to the risk for alcoholism at the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse annual meeting, laying out the risk factors that impact alcoholism. “Genes operate through these risk factors,” he notes. One of the risk factors is a low sensitivity to alcohol. “Some people are a good deal less sensitive to alcohol from the very first time they drink,” Dr. Schuckit says. “They require higher doses of alcohol to get the effect they want.” Low sensitivity to alcohol is seen in groups of people at high risk for alcoholism, including children of alcoholics and Native Americans, he adds. Low sensitivity to alcohol predicts alcoholism and alcohol-related problems, he says.

The low sensitivity to alcohol combined with factors in the environment magnify the risk of alcoholism, some environmental factors are associating with heavy-drinking peers or higher levels of life stress where alcohol is used to help cope with the stress. Dr. Schuckit has identified four genes related to the low response to alcohol.

Schuckit is planning on beginning a much larger, potentially more definitive study in 2013.  

The study results were published earlier this year in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New Report on Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic drugs continue to make headlines with more and more people ending up in emergency rooms after use. Substances like synthetic marijuana and bath salts contain chemicals that have hardly been tested and are clearly harmful to one's health. A new government report has found that synthetic marijuana sent more than 11,000 to the emergency rooms in 2010.

The majority of those experimenting with synthetic marijuana and bath salts were teenagers and young adults, USA Today reports. The report found 12-to-17-year-olds accounted for one-third of the emergency room visits, while young adults ages 18 to 24 accounted for an additional 35 percent. Among patients ages 12 to 29, the report found 59 percent of those who made visits to the emergency room for synthetic marijuana use had no evidence of other drugs in their system.

Commonly known as K2 or Spice, synthetic marijuana is a mixture of herbs, spices or shredded plant material that have been treated with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC which is the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana.

The effects of synthetic marijuana include:
  • Loss of Control
  • Lack of Pain Response
  • Increased Agitation
  • Pale Skin
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Profuse Sweating
  • Uncontrolled Spastic Body Movements
  • Elevated Blood Pressure
  • Elevated Heart Rate
  • Heart Palpitations
Users experience:
  • Severe Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased Agitation
President Obama signed legislation last July banning synthetic drugs.
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Monday, December 3, 2012

Updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders To Be Published Spring 2013

After a decade of debate addiction and substance abuse finally have their place in the American Psychiatric Association's handbook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM). In the new (DSM-5), substance abuse and dependence will be combined into a single category of “substance use and addictive disorders.” The DSM is the official guide to classifying psychiatric illness, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-4), substance abuse is defined as short-term binging, whereas substance dependence is considered to be addiction, notes the WSJ. There will be 11 specific symptoms for the new spectrum of substance use and addictive disorders; including the inability to cut down or meet obligations at home or at work. A person with two or three symptoms will be diagnosed with a mild disorder. Someone who meets six or more will be diagnosed with a more severe disorder.

The updated classification will affect who qualifies for:
  • Subsidized Services
  • Insurance Reimbursements
  • Treatment Programs
The DSM-5 will also combine the subcategories of autism, such as Asperger’s syndrome, into one category of autism spectrum disorder.

The new edition of the manual will be published next spring.
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