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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Prenatal Smoke Exposure May Cause Addiction

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New research suggests there may be an increased risk of addiction with children who had exposure to cigarette smoke prenatally. Cigarette smoke may interfere with the brain’s reward processing system, according to Time.com.

177 teenagers who had been exposed to cigarettes prenatally and 177 teens whose mothers did not smoke during pregnancy were studied by German researchers.

Functional MRI machines were used on the teens, recording brain activity during computer-based tasks. The teenagers we told to press a button to indicate on which side of the screen a figure appeared and they would receive a reward if they pressed the correct button fast enough.

Researchers saw less activity in the area of the brain thought to be depressed by nicotine in teens whose mothers smoked during pregnancy, compared with the teens whose mothers did not smoke while pregnant. Study participants who had prenatal smoke exposure took longer to respond to the figures that appeared on the screen.

In JAMA Psychiatry, researchers wrote, that the weaker response in this area of the brain, called the ventral striatum, responding to anticipation in teens exposed prenatally to cigarette smoke “may represent a risk factor for substance use and development of addiction later in life.”
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Monday, June 24, 2013

Positive Teenage Youth Development

Female Teenager
Theodore Caputi is a student at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Founder and director of an organization called the Student Leader Union (non-profit), focusing on student leadership and community engagement. Currently, Caputi is a policy intern at the Treatment Research Institute, also serving as a member of the Institutional Review Board.

Please take a moment to read his thoughts on teenage drug and alcohol use:

“Parents often feel helpless when it comes to teen drugs and alcohol use. But prevention research over the past two decades has shown that by encouraging their kids to get involved in the community – either through school, church, sports, etc. – parents can change their kids’ ability to turn down drugs and alcohol. That’s powerful, and as a kid who’s seen it all, it’s my firm belief that parents are still the dominant force when it comes to kids’ decisions, especially in those crucial middle school years.

In the early 1990’s, two research teams, (Donavon, Jessor, & Cost and Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller) published research that supports what I’ve witnessed from my own experience as a teenager: we need to focus on the positive potential of kids, not on the negative potential of using drugs. If we empower teens and tweens to become comfortable in their own skin, to feel connected with their communities and to realize that their locus of control is internal, they’ll have the power to overcome many obstacles. Many researchers have termed this new approach to prevention “Positive Youth Development” because, rather than focusing on problem behaviors, it focuses on the amazing potential of young people.

There are countless opportunities to prevent risky adolescent behaviors by encouraging positive engagement instead. For example, creative and artistic students may contribute to a school literary magazine, fostering a sense of confidence about their abilities, and also making a contribution to the school community. Encouraging kids to appreciate diversity could help them to feel more “at ease” with themselves and gain a greater understanding of their larger global communities. Independent research projects and afterschool study groups can show kids that they have the power to change what and how well they learn. All of these are proven to work, and to kids like me, they sound more appealing than DARE.

While a variety of structured activities can give youth an advantage when it comes to drugs and alcohol prevention, social scientists are still struggling to find the best methods for prevention. Is there an activity that can build up most – or even all – of the preventative factors to help teens turn down drugs and alcohol?

Early in my own adolescence I had a question: what separates the kids who decided to drink and do drugs from those who didn’t? Like many of my peers, I was confused. At first it seemed only the “bad” kids drank or did drugs. But as the years went by, more and more kids picked it up. By tenth grade, it seemed like most of my friends had at least experimented with drugs and alcohol, and there was no linking factor among them. Some were smart. Some struggled in school. Some were popular. Some were unpopular. Some had active parents. Some had absent parents. Some were athletes. Some were couch potatoes. What characteristic could possibly connect such a motley group of teens?

I thought it through consciously, and I decided to try a different approach. What did the teenagers who weren’t doing drugs and alcohol have in common? No social group was immune to drug and alcohol use; so what was different about the individuals who decided against it?

The answer at that point was clear. Almost all of the kids I knew who had decided against drugs and alcohol were leaders in their schools, houses of worship, and communities. They had taken on leadership positions and put forth a conscious effort to better their leadership skills. They weren’t all “natural leaders” – but the majority of them had given leadership a shot and became officers of clubs or captains of teams.

After investigating the available literature, I can see why leadership was the commonality among students who decided against drugs and alcohol, and my theory coincides with the concept of Positive Youth Development. Leadership satisfies several of the protective factors for drug and alcohol use among adolescents. Student leaders feel connected with their schools and communities. They feel responsible to both their own actions and their followers. They have meaningful relationships with adults and teachers, and through their experiences, they develop a strong sense of self-worth. Leadership has it all.

The decision to experiment or get involved with drugs and alcohol is a personal one, so it’s time we developed the people who make that decision. My suggestion to both parents and the prevention community is to consider leadership and leadership education as a method of problem behavior prevention. Research proves we can teach leadership skills to students, and it may be the magic key we’ve been looking for when it comes to Positive Youth Development.”
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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Study of Prescription Drug Abuse Laws in Kentucky

Over the years, both Florida and Kentucky have become epicenters of the prescription drug abuse problem in the United States. Each state has implemented new laws to combat the ever growing problem, but there have been questions of effectiveness on a number of levels. In Kentucky, officials announced that they will be studying the effectiveness of new laws designed to reduce prescription drug abuse, The Courier-Journal reports.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signed a bill that requires that all pain clinics be licensed, and specifies requirements for ownership and employment, and requires the Kentucky licensure board to develop regulations for pain clinics. Law enforcement agencies have easier access to the state’s prescription drug monitoring database. Doctors need to examine patients, conduct full medical histories, and check electronic prescription records before prescribing narcotics.

The University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy’s Institute for Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy will be charged with conducting the study over a year-long period. The article points out that the study will be funded through a $100,000 federal grant. The Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, Van Ingram, said his office is interested in whether or not the new laws have unintended consequences.

The state’s prescription drug monitoring program, called KASPER, is under review as well as the state's prescribing patterns. Researchers are looking at prescription-drug-related deaths and emergency room visits; they will also be looking at patient behavior and the impact on drug treatment centers.

This year a second measure was passed, which excluded some facilities and patients from certain provisions, the article notes. 

The researchers will be determining whether or not the new laws have unintended consequences for patients with pain, and to come up with recommendations for improving the laws.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Parents Do Not Supervise Prescription Medications

Most teenagers gain access to prescription narcotics for the first time in their own home. Research has shown that a number of parents are not concerned about the risk of their children getting hold of prescription drugs that have the potential for abuse. Furthermore, a new survey of eighth and ninth graders prescribed medication showed that 83.4 percent of teens say they have unsupervised access to the drugs at home.

73.7 percent took: pain relief, anti-anxiety, stimulant, and sedative medication that can be extremely dangerous, Science Daily reports. The survey was conducted online and in-person with 230 teens.

“It was surprising to me that parents were not storing medications securely because I expected them to be locked up and for parents to administer the medications,” said lead researcher Paula Ross-Durow, PhD, of the University of Michigan.

Parents are not thinking about their teens’ friends coming into their homes and stealing medications, nor the fact that teens give their prescription drugs away. They also may not realize their friends may sell the drugs, according to Ross-Durow.

“It is critical that clinicians educate parents and patients about the importance of proper storage and disposal of medications, particularly those with abuse potential,” the researchers conclude.

The report is published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Walgreens Settled DEA Suit for $80 Million

In an attempt to curb the ever growing prescription narcotic epidemic in the United States the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is going after pharmacies. The DEA alleged that Walgreen's violated federal rules with how they distributed prescription painkillers such as oxycodone. Yesterday, the pharmacy agreed to pay $80 million in civil penalties.

This is the largest settlement in DEA history, according to Reuters. The DEA claimed that Walgreens knowingly allowed drugs like oxycodone and other prescription painkillers to be diverted for abuse and black market sales.

“National pharmaceutical chains are not exempt from following the law,” Mark Trouville, special agent in charge in the DEA’s Miami Field Division, said in a statement. “All DEA registrants will be held accountable when they violate the law and threaten public health and safety.”

In Florida, six Walgreens pharmacies received suspicious drug shipments from the Jupiter Distribution Center, filling prescriptions that they knew, or should have known, were not for legitimate medical use, according to the DEA. The six pharmacies and the distribution center will be banned for two years from dispensing controlled substances.

Walgreen’s stated, “As part of the agreement with DEA and our continuing desire to work with DEA to combat prescription drug abuse, we have identified specific compliance measures – many of which Walgreens has already taken – to enhance our ordering processes and inventory systems, to provide our team members with the tools, training and support they need to ensure the appropriate dispensing of controlled substances and to improve collaboration across the industry.”
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Monday, June 10, 2013

Designated Drivers Have Been Drinking

Drink Driving Law & Motoring History
Everyday drunk drivers put their life and the lives of others in jeopardy. It is often the case that the designated driver is the individual who has consumed the least amount of alcohol and on a number of occasions that individual is drunk. About 10,000 people die in alcohol-related car crashes each year.

The University of Florida conducted a study which found that 35 percent of designated drivers have been drinking. A large proportion of designated drivers have blood-alcohol levels that qualify as being impaired, according to the report.

“If you look at how people choose their designated drivers, oftentimes they’re chosen by who is least drunk or who has successfully driven intoxicated in the past—successful meaning got home in one piece…that’s disconcerting,” lead author Adam E. Barry said in a news release.

More than 1,000 people, of which 165 said they were designated drivers, had breathalyzers administered upon leaving bars. 65 percent had no blood alcohol content, 17 percent had levels between 0.02 and 0.049, and 18 percent had levels measuring 0.05 or higher, according to The New York Times.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that states drop allowable blood-alcohol levels for drivers, from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent.

The new study was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Prescription Drug Accountability Bill

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The battle against prescription drug abuse in America continues with the passing of a new bill in the House of Representatives that will increase the security of the prescription drugs, preventing stolen or counterfeit drugs.

The new bill mandates that companies along the prescription drug supply chain verify the drugs are authentic and to contact authorities if they come in contact with suspicious or illegitimate drugs, Reuters reports; tracing drugs down to the level of entire lots, including thousands of bottles or packs of vials, the article notes.

In the past, measures that aimed at creating national standards for drug tracking failed after companies said they would be too expensive.

Last month a senate version of the bill was passed by committee, but it is not known when it will be brought to the full Senate floor. This is a big step in the right direction and if all goes well we will see a lot more accountability when it comes to prescription drugs.

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Monday, June 3, 2013

Voluntary Alcohol Nutrition Labels

Nutrition Facts about Me
As we move towards a healthier society it is becoming more and more common to include nutritional labels on just about everything we consume. In the near future it may not be uncommon to see such labels right next to health warning labels now that alcohol manufacturers can place nutrition labels on beer, wine, and spirits. The U.S. Treasury Department recently announced the new non- compulsory allowance, according to the Associated Press.

Information such as calories, servings per container, serving size, and carbohydrates will be included in the new labels. There will be certain companies who will use the labels to display low calories and carbohydrates in order to emphasize that consumers will not put on as much weight compared with other alcoholic beverages. The article pointed out that beer manufacturers may be less likely to use them, because they will not want to highlight how many calories their products have.

Michael Jacobson, Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, believes that manufacturers of alcohol products should be required to list alcohol contents on the label. Jacobson said in a statement, “Including fat and carbohydrates on a label could imply that an alcoholic beverage is positively healthful, especially when the drink’s alcohol content isn’t prominently labeled. In this era of obesity, calorie labeling is critically important to inform or remind consumers that alcoholic drinks are not ‘free’ when it comes to calories. Finally, a really useful alcohol label would state the government’s definition of moderate drinking as no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.”

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