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Monday, March 31, 2014

College Student Stimulant Use Leads to Addiction

College students who use certain drugs may be at a greater risk of addiction later in life, according to a new study. At the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, researchers led by Katia Harlé, PhD, uncovered impaired neuronal activity among those college students who had used stimulant drugs.

"Right now there are no treatments for stimulant addiction and the relapse rate is upward of 50%," says Dr. Martin Paulus, professor of psychiatry at UCSD and co-senior author of the study. "Early intervention is our best option."

"If you show me 100 college students and tell me which ones have taken stimulants a dozen times, I can tell you those students' brains are different," says Dr. Paulus. 

Plans are underway to do more extensive research in order to determine whether the brain changes are permanent, or whether they can be reversed. It might be possible to strengthen the areas of the brain that became weakened by stimulant use.

"Our study is telling us, it's not 'this is your brain on drugs,' it's 'this is the brain that does drugs.'" 

It may be possible to use brain activity patterns to predict whether youths are at risk of drug addiction before they start down that road, according to the findings.

The research is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Alcohol Related Traffic Deaths Under-Reported

Drunk Driving Among US College Students Still ...
Traffic deaths make up significant number of deaths every year in the United States; it comes as no surprise that a large portion of those fatalities are related to alcohol. However, a new study has found that alcohol related traffic deaths are severely under-reported according to death certificates.

In the ten year period, from 1999 to 2009, researchers concluded that just over 3 percent of the 450,000 traffic related fatalities cited alcohol as a contributing factor on the death certificate. In fact, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) showed that 21 percent of those deaths actually involved legally drunk individuals, according to MedicalXpress.

Researchers believe the lack of reporting may have to do with impatience, medical examiners and coroners don’t feel like waiting for blood-alcohol reports to come back from the lab. In most places death certificates are required to be filled out within three to five days of the death, but toxicology reports usually take much longer.

States that rarely reported alcohol related factors on death certificates are:
  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
A researcher at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Ralph Hingson, believes that it is important to have an understanding of alcohol's role in the death of young people. Without proper reporting it is impossible for researchers to study the effects of alcohol related policies designed to reduce deaths, says Hingson. “You want to know how big the problem is, and if we can track it,” Hingson said in a news release. “Is it going up, or going down? And what policy measures are working?”  

The findings are published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
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Monday, March 24, 2014

Treating PTSD With Marijuana, Study Awaits Approval

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) plagues millions of war veterans; with few treatments to help cope with the problem many turn to drugs, alcohol, and even suicide. In fact, an estimated 11-20% of troops​ who served in the Middle East suffer from PTSD, according to The Department of Veterans Affairs. With an estimated 7.7 million Americans having the disorder, reports the National Institutes of Health.

Sadly, researchers have not found any treatments that hold much water, causing some researchers to think outside the box. A handful of scientists are looking to marijuana to determine if the highly controversial drug has qualities that might be beneficial to PTSD sufferers. In fact, no controlled test has ever been conducted to find out if marijuana suppresses PTSD symptoms; such as flashbacks, insomnia and anxiety, says Suzanne Sisley, the lead researcher on a proposed study of marijuana and PTSD, according to USA Today.

As one might imagine, the study proposed by Sisley had to work its way through the appropriate government channels in order to receive the clearance needed to move forward. Sisley received a stamp of approval by the Food and Drug Administration in 2011 and this month she got the O.K. from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Public Health Service division, according to the article.

Sisley has one more hoop to jump through, she needs approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the third and final agency. How long this last approval will take is anyone’s guess, as the DEA has yet to make a statement, reports the newspaper.

If approved, the research will involve a 10-week study, focusing on 50 veterans with moderate to severe symptoms of the disorder. The marijuana used in Sisley’s study will come from America’s only federal government marijuana farm at the University of Mississippi.

"It's hopefully a great starting point to begin to uncover some innovative ways of treating PTSD," Sisley told USA Today.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Designated Driver Equals Person Most Sober

The definition of a “designated driver” is often the person who is the most sober, as far as teens are concerned, a new survey has found. One would like to think that a “designated driver” has been chosen because they have abstained from consuming any mind altering substance. Sadly, about one in five teenagers surveyed said that the person designated to drive can have some alcohol or other drugs, provided they can still handle the task of driving.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) report on fatal crashes involving drivers ages 16 to 20, showed that about 18 percent of the drivers were under the influence in 2011. 

The Liberty Mutual and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) conducted the survey, which included 2,537 students in 11th and 12th grades, according to Bloomberg News. David Melton, Managing Director for Global Safety at Liberty Mutual, said that teens “seem to think that unless they’re really falling-down drunk, that it’s OK for them to drive”.

“Long before you’re at .08, you’re definitely impaired in terms of your judgment,” Melton said. “You may not be over the legal limit, but you are driving with a buzz on and that’s not a good thing.” 

The survey’s disturbing results showed that 4 percent of teens viewed their designated driver as the one who was most sober when it came time to drive. What’s more, one in 10 teens who had claimed to have never driven drunk, admitted that they had in fact driven under the influence.

Stephen Gray Wallace, Senior Advisor for Policy, Research and Education at SADD, said in a statement, “With teens reporting these lax definitions of what it means to be ‘under the influence',  a zero tolerance approach is the only answer to prevent potential tragedy. The parents and community have a responsibility to initiate and maintain an open dialogue with teens about exactly what driving under the influence means.”
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Monday, March 17, 2014

Teen E-cigarettes Use Encourages Conventional Cigarettes Use

its hard keeping this one on one hand and the ...
Teen e-cigarette use encourages conventional cigarette use, those who smoke e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke traditional tobacco than their peers who do not use the devices, according to a new study. The research suggests that the use of e-cigarettes may make it more difficult for teens to quit, reports the New York Times.

The lead researcher of the study, Stanton Glantz of the University of California, San Francisco, said, “the use of e-cigarettes does not discourage, and may encourage, conventional cigarette use among U.S. adolescents.”

Many who use e-cigarettes are also smoking regular cigarettes at the same time. E-cigarettes are favored when indoors and traditional cigarettes are desired when outdoors, most public settings have yet to decide whether the devices should be banned and until something happens users of the devices continue to exploit the loophole.

Last year, a government survey found that among young people who use e-cigarettes, many also smoke regular cigarettes. However, research has shown that even though the use of e-cigarettes doubled from 2011 to 2012 amongst teens, the use of regular cigarettes hit an all time low of 9.6 percent in 2013, according to the article.

“It looks to me like the wild west marketing of e-cigarettes is not only encouraging youth to smoke them, but also it is promoting regular cigarette smoking among youth,” said Glantz in a new release.

Whether e-cigarettes help people quit smoking or lead to the smoking of regular cigarettes is unclear, experts are of many different opinions.

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Senator Joins Fight Against Zohydro

The battle against pure hydrocodone continues, with a senator joining the fight against Zohydro. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in an attempt to overrule the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of Zohydro. Zohydro’s potential for addiction is extremely high due to the drug's potency and there is evidence to support that the risk of overdose among patients is high as well. Many lawmakers are up in arms over the fact that the FDA’s own panel of experts voted 11-2 against the drugs approval.

Last year, 28 attorneys general wrote to the FDA’s Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg in an effort to stop the drug from being released on the market. What’s more, a month ago, a coalition of health groups wrote a letter to Commissioner Hamburg stating their concerns about Zohydro's impact.

Senator Manchin, in his letter, urged Secretary Sebelius to act in order to keep this dangerous drug off the market. You can read Manchin’s letter in its entirety below:

Dear Secretary Sebelius: 

I write to respectfully request that you overturn the Federal Drug Administration’s recent approval of Zohydro Extended Release (ER), a powerful and dangerous opioid drug product with a high potential for abuse. For inexplicable reasons, the FDA approved Zohydro ER despite strong opposition from its own Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee, which voted 11-2 against allowing Zohydro ER to advance in the approval process. Simply put, the FDA’s approval of Zohydro ER, in its current form, must be stopped before this dangerous drug is sold to the public. 

Zohydro ER is a controversial new prescription painkiller, which has up to 10 times as much hydrocodone as Vicodin and Lortab and will come in a formulation that can be easily crushed, snorted and injected. The prescription drug problem ravaging our nation, and our youth, is already an epidemic. Drug overdose deaths, including those from hydrocodone and hydrocodone combination products, have increased significantly every single year for over a decade. Indeed, 16,000 Americans die each year from abusing opioid painkillers, like hydrocodone. It’s no wonder the FDA finally decided in October of last year to reschedule hydrocodone combination drugs to Schedule II, despite taking more than 14 years to properly evaluate all the evidence. I applaud this long-awaited decision and am eager to see it finalized during the rule-making process. However, I am perplexed that the FDA decided the very next day to approve Zohydro ER, the most powerful hydrocodone drug ever. How can the FDA exhibit its awareness about the addictive nature of hydrocodone by recommending reclassification, but then approve a powerful hydrocodone drug which can be easily abused? Its inability to provide a satisfactory answer necessitates your involvement. 

I am deeply troubled that the reason for Zohydro ER’s approval may be linked to allegations that the FDA gave manufacturers of prescription drugs the opportunity to pay thousands of dollars for the privilege to attend private meetings with FDA officials. The Washington Post and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in October of 2013 that each company paid as much as $25,000-$35,000 to participate in these pay-to-play meetings, giving them undue influence over FDA’s approval process for prescription painkillers. Allegations have been raised that a new, scientifically questionable methodology for drug approval was created at these pay-to-play meetings. If true, we have an alarming explanation for the indefensible decision of the FDA to approve Zohydro despite the FDA’s own Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee voting 11-2 against approval. 

This is not the first letter you’ve received on this topic, and the FDA has been urged many times to overturn their approval. Senators and Congressmen from both parties have written several times demanding an explanation for the FDA’s head-scratching approval and requesting your intervention. In addition, a coalition of health care and consumer groups, as well as 40 addiction treatment centers, joined last month to fight the FDA’s decision due to the unquestionable heavy abuse which will take place if the drug is released to the market. And in December, 28 attorneys general wrote to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg warning that the approval of Zohydro ER “has the potential to exacerbate our nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic.” 

These demands cannot fall on deaf ears; too much is at stake. 

I hope you will agree that there is a pressing need to stop the FDA from allowing Zohydro ER to be sold to the public. The FDA is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through proper regulation and supervision. In this area, it has failed in its duty. That is why I turn to you to either stop the FDA from moving forward in its approval process for Zohydro or require the agency to work with drug manufacturers to incorporate abuse-deterrent technologies into all dangerous opioids introduced to the market. 

Given the potentially imminent release of Zohydro later this month, it is imperative that you act as soon as possible to keep this dangerous drug off the market.
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Monday, March 10, 2014

Republicans Oppose Minimum Sentences for Drug Offenders

Português: Uma cela moderna em Brecksville Pol...
In the United States, mandatory minimum sentencing laws for a drug related non-violent offense have proven to be expensive and ineffective, according to the New York Times. Severely overpopulated prisons and high recidivism rates have shown that mandatory minimum sentences hurt society more than help, forcing lawmakers to reevaluate the treatment of drug offenders.

In August, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder brought to light a plan by the Justice Department to alter prosecution methods of non-violent drug offenders. In December, President Obama commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates, six of which were doing life sentences for possession of crack cocaine. Drug offenders, deemed to be non-violent, who are not in any way affiliated with gangs, would no longer be looking at minimum sentences.

Holder will provide federal prosecutors guidelines for drafting criminal complaints when dealing with non-violent, low-level, unaffiliated drug offenders. This will create a safeguard against triggering mandatory minimum sentences throughout the legal system.

Now, libertarian Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and others are joining with Holder in opposing mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, according to the article. Libertarian Republicans who are against long prison sentences are behind a sentencing overhaul bill in the Senate. The House is also considering similar legislation that would take a more enlightened approach to fair sentencing.

Actions like these are steps in the right direction when it comes to reducing prison overpopulation. Ridding the system of mandatory minimum sentences will give judges and prosecutors the freedom to offer drug and alcohol treatment as opposed to jail, a sentence that has proven to be more useful in saving lives and reducing recidivism.
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Binge Drinking Increases Risk of Death

Alcoholic beverages
People who drink large amounts or binge drink less frequently often have higher death rates, when put next to people who drink small amounts more regularly, according to new research. A study was conducted of moderate drinkers, ages 55 to 65, which looked at overall drinking patterns, according to HealthDay.

The University of Texas at Austin conducted the study of patterns with moderate drinkers; researchers looked at whether they spread out their alcohol consumption, or drank less frequently but in larger amounts.

“Among older moderate drinkers, we found that those who binge have double the odds of dying within the next 20 years compared to those who do not binge,” lead researcher Charles Holahan told HealthDay.

Researchers looked at 446 moderate drinkers, men who drank no more than four alcoholic beverages daily and no more than 14 drinks a week. They also looked at women who had no more than three a day, and no more than seven drinks a week.

The findings showed that 372 participants spread out their drinking evenly and 74 had periods of extensive heavy drinking. 

“Heavy episodic drinking concentrates alcohol’s toxicity and is linked to mortality by damaging body organs,” said Holahan. He added in a news release, “These findings demonstrate that, among older adults, drinking patterns need to be addressed along with overall consumption in order to understand alcohol’s health effects.”

The study can be read in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
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Monday, March 3, 2014

Amy Winehouse Foundation Addiction Program

English: Amy Winehouse at the Eurockéennes of 2007
In life, Amy Winehouse’s music reached millions of people; the hope is that her legacy will reach countless children who may be struggling with addiction, the Guardian reports.

Mitch Winehouse, Amy’s father, has created a foundation in her name aimed at addressing the ever growing problem of addiction. The foundation is launching a five-year program that will bring recovering alcoholics and addicts into schools. The goal is to create a forum for young people to talk openly about issues related to substance abuse.

Mr. Winehouse believes that the British government is reluctant to make addiction education a compulsory facet of national curriculum, which may have helped his daughter before the problem got out of hand. Winehouse has taken it upon himself to bring the face of addiction into the school system.

"Just after Amy passed away we went to see the Department for Education and the Department of Health and we spoke to them about getting the drug and alcohol education on to the school curriculum, and they really felt there was no necessity for it," Winehouse said. "They felt there was adequate education on that subject in schools, but there isn't. There are very good, well-meaning people out there, but it's on an ad hoc basis and we decided that, rather than wait for the government to galvanize itself into some kind of action, we would take the first steps."

The program will be assessed by Harvard University over the five year period in order to determine its efficacy. Backed by £4.3m grant from the Big Lottery Fund, the program will go into 50 schools and reach 250,000 students. "I hope it makes people sit up and think," said the Big Lottery Fund England director, Dharmendra Kanani. "There is unbelievable brand value that is provided by the Amy Winehouse Foundation. It provides a real opportunity to win the hearts and minds of young people, because they can relate to someone from their living memory. It's very powerful."

Around 250 people in recovery will share their experience with students, conducting workshops that deal with self-esteem, peer pressure and risky behavior.

"The Department for Education felt that it was inappropriate that people in recovery should be delivering the message," Winehouse said. "They wanted the local policeman or the head nurse or the headmaster to deliver it. But they are totally the wrong people to deliver that kind of discussion. Kids wouldn't listen to them, and so we started formulating our plans about three months after Amy passed."
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