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By Joel Achenbach, The death last Sunday of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman at age 46 focused media attention on the nationwide surge in heroin use and overdoses. But the very real heroin epidemic is framed by an even more dramatic increase since the beginning of the century in overdoses from pharmaceutical drugs known as opioids. These are, in effect, tandem epidemics — an addiction crisis driven by the powerful effects on the human brain of drugs derived from morphine. Prescription opioids are killing Americans at more than five times the rate that heroin is, according to the most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These drugs are sold under such familiar brand names as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet and can be found in medicine cabinets in every precinct of American society. They’re also sold illicitly on the street or crushed and laced into heroin. There have been numerous efforts by law enforcement agencies to crack down on “pill mills” that dispense massive amounts of the pharmaceuticals, as well as regulations aimed at preventing users from “doctor shopping” to find someone who will write a prescription. Those efforts have had the unintended effect, officials say, of driving some people to heroin in recent years as their pill supply dries up. © 1996-2014 The Washington Post

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 19218 - Posted: 02.08.2014

|By Carl Erik Fisher After 22 years of failed treatments, including rehabilitation, psychotherapy and an array of psychiatric medications, a middle-aged Dutch man decided to take an extraordinary step to fight his heroin addiction. He underwent an experimental brain surgery called deep brain stimulation (DBS). At the University of Amsterdam, researchers bored small holes in his skull and guided two long, thin probes deep into his head. The ends of the probes were lined with small electrodes, which were positioned in his nucleus accumbens, a brain area near the base of the skull that is associated with addiction. The scientists ran the connecting wires under his scalp, behind his ear and down to a battery pack sewn under the skin of his chest. Once turned on, the electrodes began delivering constant electrical pulses, much like a pacemaker, with the goal of altering the brain circuits thought to be causing his drug cravings. At first the stimulation intensified his desire for heroin, and he almost doubled his drug intake. But after the researchers adjusted the pulses, the cravings diminished, and he drastically cut down his heroin use. Neurosurgeries are now being pursued for a variety of mental illnesses. Initially developed in the 1980s to treat movement disorders, including Parkinson's disease, DBS is today used to treat depression, dementia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance abuse and even obesity. Despite several success stories, many of these new ventures have attracted critics, and some skeptics have even called for an outright halt to this research. © 2014 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 11: Motor Control and Plasticity
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System
Link ID: 19216 - Posted: 02.06.2014

By Deborah Kotz / Globe Staff Public health officials, politicians, and smoking researchers cheered the Wednesday announcement from CVS Caremark that they will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at CVS pharmacy stores by October. President Obama, a former smoker, said CVS is setting a “powerful example” and that will help public health efforts to reduce smoking-related deaths and illnesses. The American Public Health Association called it a “historic decision,” and the American Association of Cancer Research called it a “visionary move.” Dozens of other anti-smoking organizations and medical organizations—whose physicians treat the lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease caused by smoking—proferred their approval and hope that other big chain pharmacies would follow suit. “CVS made a very compelling argument today that if you’re in the business of healthcare, you shouldn’t be in the business of selling tobacco products,” said Vince Willmore, spokesperson for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “We’ll be taking that argument to every store with a pharmacy to make sure this is a catalyst for them.” Whether the CVS decision will result in fewer smokers remains unknown, said Margaret Reid, who directs tobacco control efforts at the Boston Public Health Commission, but added that it will certainly make tobacco products less readily available to smokers. When Boston implemented a ban on tobacco sales in pharmacies five years ago, it resulted in 85 fewer tobacco retailers in the city—about a 10 percent drop in the number of places permitted to sell cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco. © 2014 Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 19213 - Posted: 02.06.2014

By JANE E. BRODY “Even 50 years after the first surgeon general’s report on smoking and health, we’re still finding out new ways that tobacco kills and maims people,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently told me. “It’s astonishing how bad it is.” Dr. Frieden and public health specialists everywhere are seeking better ways to help the 44 million Americans who still smoke to quit and to keep young people from getting hooked on cigarettes. “Fewer than 2 percent of doctors smoke. Why can’t we get to that rate in society as a whole?” he wondered. One reason: Smoking rates are highest among the poor, poorly educated and people with mental illness, populations hard to reach with educational messages and quit-smoking aids. But when I mentioned to Dr. Frieden, a former New York City health commissioner, that the city’s streets are filled with young adult smokers who appear to be well educated and well dressed, he said television seems to have had an outsize influence. Focus groups of white girls in New York private schools have suggested a “Sex in the City” effect, he said: Girls think smoking makes them look sexy. In the last two years, middle-aged men, too, have begun smoking in increasing numbers after a half-century decline. Dr. Frieden cited “Mad Men,” the popular TV series featuring admen in the early 1960s, when well over half of American men smoked. Dr. Frieden said that an antismoking effort begun in 2008 by the World Health Organization “can make a huge difference in curbing smoking, and we should fully implement what we know works.” The program is called Mpower: © 2014 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 19170 - Posted: 01.27.2014

By Roni Jacobson Over the past 10 years the number of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers—also known as opioid analgesics—has tripled, from 4,000 people in 1999 to more than 15,000 people every year in the U.S. today. Prescription pain medication now causes more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. In 2010 one in 20 Americans older than age 12 reported taking painkillers recreationally; some steal from pharmacies or buy them from a dealer, but most have a doctor's prescription or gain access to pills through friends and relatives. Yet millions of people legitimately rely on these medications to cope with the crippling pain they face every day. How do we make sure prescription opioids are readily available to those who depend on them for medical relief but not so available that they become easily abused? Here we break down the steps taken at various levels—and the experts' recommendations for future interventions—to curb prescription opioid addiction and overdose in the U.S. © 2014 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 8: General Principles of Sensory Processing, Touch, and Pain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System
Link ID: 19159 - Posted: 01.22.2014

US President Barack Obama has said smoking marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, but still called it a "bad idea". Speaking to The New Yorker magazine, he said it was wrong to think legalising the drug would be "a panacea" that could solve many social problems. Mr Obama was referring to recent legalisation of marijuana in the states of Colorado and Washington. He has previously admitted using the drug when he was young. "As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life," Mr Obama said. But he added that in terms of its impact on the individual consumer "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol". He also said that poor people - many of them African Americans and Latinos - were disproportionately punished for marijuana use, whereas middle-class users mostly escaped harsh penalties. "It's important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished." Mr Obama described the legalisation of marijuana in Colorado and Washington as a challenging "experiment". BBC © 2014

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 19153 - Posted: 01.20.2014

By SABRINA TAVERNISE WASHINGTON — In a broad review of scientific literature, the nation’s top doctor has concluded that cigarette smoking — long known to cause lung cancer and heart disease — also causes diabetes, colorectal and liver cancers, erectile dysfunction and ectopic pregnancy. In a report to the nation to be released on Friday, the acting surgeon general, Dr. Boris D. Lushniak, significantly expanded the list of illnesses that cigarette smoking has been scientifically proved to cause. The other health problems the report names are vision loss, tuberculosis, rheumatoid arthritis, impaired immune function and cleft palates in children of women who smoke. Smoking has been known to be associated with these illnesses, but the report was the first time the federal government concluded that smoking causes them. The finding does not mean that smoking causes all cases of the health problems and diseases listed in the report, but that some of the cases would not have happened without smoking. The surgeon general has added to the list of smoking-related diseases before. Bladder cancer was added in 1990 and cervical cancer in 2004. When President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act many expected quick results, comparing the effort to the one that put man on the moon. After 42 years, what progress have we made? The report is not legally binding, but is broadly held as a standard for scientific evidence among researchers and policy makers. Experts not involved in writing the report said the findings were a comprehensive summary of the most current scientific evidence, and while they might not be surprising to researchers, they were intended to inform the public as well as doctors and other medical professionals about the newest proven risks of smoking. © 2014 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 19149 - Posted: 01.18.2014

By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News Taking substances to enhance the brain is more popular among amateur athletes than taking drugs to boost the body. Researchers in Germany found that 15% of recreational triathletes admitted to brain doping, using prescription medicines that increase attention. Some 13% of competitors reported using physical enhancers like steroids or human growth hormone. Brain doping is more popular say the scientists, because many of the substances aren't banned. The research has been published in the journal Plos One. Previous studies have shown that, among amateur competitors, the use of performance-enhancing substances is widespread. This new work used the responses of almost 3,000 triathletes taking part in events in Germany, to analyse the broader picture of physical and cognitive doping. Researchers believe that many so-called "smart drugs" are being widely used to enhance mental functions outside the patients groups they have been designed to help. They are also concerned that competitors in a variety of sports may be using these substances to gain an edge. In the study, participants were asked whether they had used physical or brain-enhancing substances in the past 12 months. Overall, 13% said they had taken drugs like EPO, steroids, or growth hormones. BBC © 2014

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 19130 - Posted: 01.15.2014

By Scott O. Lilienfeld and Hal Arkowitz “Just say no.” In 1982 First Lady Nancy Reagan uttered those three words in response to a schoolgirl who wanted to know what she should say if someone offered her drugs. The first lady's suggestion soon became the clarion call for the adolescent drug prevention movement in the 1980s and beyond. Since then, schools around the country have instituted programs designed to discourage alcohol and drug use among youth—most of them targeting older elementary schoolchildren and a few addressing adolescents. There is good reason for concern about youth substance abuse. A large U.S. survey conducted in 2012 by psychologist Lloyd D. Johnston and his colleagues at the University of Michigan revealed that fully 24 percent of 12th graders had engaged in binge drinking (defined as five or more drinks on one occasion) in the past two weeks. Moreover, 42 percent had consumed at least some alcohol in the past month, as had 11 percent of eighth graders and 28 percent of high school sophomores. In addition, 1 percent of 12th graders had tried methamphetamine, and almost 3 percent had used cocaine in the past year. In an attempt to reduce these figures, substance abuse prevention programs often educate pupils regarding the perils of drug use, teach students social skills to resist peer pressure to experiment, and help young people feel that saying no is socially acceptable. All the approaches seem sensible on the surface, so policy makers, teachers and parents typically assume they work. Yet it turns out that approaches involving social interaction work better than the ones emphasizing education. That finding may explain why the most popular prevention program has been found to be ineffective—and may even heighten the use of some substances among teens. © 2014 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 19128 - Posted: 01.14.2014

By NICHOLAS BAKALAR We know that smoking is bad for you — and that it ages you prematurely. Now a study provides photographic evidence for this claim. Scientists gathered health and lifestyle information on 79 pairs of identical adult twins who fit into one of three groups: a pair in which one was a smoker and the other had never smoked; a pair in which both were smokers; or a pair in which both were smokers but with at least a 5-year difference in the duration of their smoking habit. They photographed them and had independent judges rate the pictures side-by-side for wrinkles, crow’s feet, jowls, bags under the eyes, creases around the nose, lines around the lips and other evidence of aging skin. The differences in some other factors that can age skin prematurely — alcohol consumption, sunscreen use and perceived stress at work — were statistically insignificant between twin pairs. But the judges’ decisions on which twin looked older coincided almost perfectly with their smoking histories. “The purpose of this study was to offer scientific evidence that smoking changes not only longevity, but also quality of appearance,” said the senior author, Dr. Bahman Guyuron, chairman of the plastic surgery department at University Hospital, Case Medical Center in Cleveland. “It is harmful any way you look at it.” Copyright 2014 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 19118 - Posted: 01.11.2014

by Paul Heltzel Have you ever looked at your dorsal fin — I mean, really looked at it? Dolphins, nature’s playful jokers, apparently have a little habit they’ve been keeping a secret: They get high. A BBC film crew recently captured some unusual footage of dolphins passing a puffer fish between them. The fish then secretes a toxin — a defense mechanism — which the dolphins appear to enjoy — a lot. As the dolphins nudged the puffer fish back and forth, they fell into a trancelike state, reports the Guardian. “At one point the dolphins are seen floating just underneath the water’s surface, apparently mesmerized by their own reflections,” according to the Guardian. Filmmaker John Downer cleverly disguised underwater cameras as squid, tuna and other dolphins to record the footage. Downer told the BBC the dolphins handled the puffer carefully, so they wouldn’t hurt or kill it. “The dolphins were specifically going for the puffers,” Downer said, “and deliberately handling them with care.” © 2014 Discovery Communications, LLC.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 19088 - Posted: 01.02.2014

By ANAHAD O'CONNOR A new federal report shows that the percentage of American high school students who smoke marijuana is slowly rising, while the use of alcohol and almost every other drug is falling. The report raises concerns that the relaxation of restrictions on marijuana, which can now be sold legally in 20 states and the District of Columbia, has been influencing use of the drug among teenagers. Health officials are concerned by the steady increase and point to what they say is a growing body of evidence that adolescent brains, which are still developing, are susceptible to subtle changes caused by marijuana. “The acceptance of medical marijuana in multiple states leads to the sense that if it’s used for medicinal purposes, then it can’t be harmful,” said Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which issued the report. “This survey has shown very consistently that the greater the number of kids that perceive marijuana as risky, the less that smoke it.” Starting early next year, recreational marijuana use will also be legal in Colorado and Washington. Experts debate the extent to which heavy marijuana use may cause lasting detriment to the brain. But Dr. Volkow said that one way marijuana might affect cognitive function in adolescents was by disrupting the normal development of white matter through which cells in the brain communicate. According to the latest federal figures, which were part of an annual survey, Monitoring the Future, more than 12 percent of eighth graders and 36 percent of seniors at public and private schools around the country said they had smoked marijuana in the past year. About 60 percent of high school seniors said they did not view regular marijuana use as harmful, up from about 55 percent last year. Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 19049 - Posted: 12.18.2013

By David Nutt Imagine being an astronomer in a world where the telescope was banned. This effectively happened in the 1600s when, for over 100 years, the Catholic Church prohibited access to knowledge of the heavens in a vain attempt to stop scientists proving that the earth was not the center of the universe. ‘Surely similar censorship could never happen today,’ I hear you say—but it does in relation to the use of drugs to study the brain. Scientists and doctors are banned from studying many hundreds of drugs because of outdated United Nations charters dating back to the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the banned drugs include cannabis, psychedelics and MDMA (now widely known as ecstasy). The most remarkable example is that of the psychedelic LSD, a drug accidentally discovered by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann while he was working for the pharmaceutical company Sandoz to find new treatments for migraine. Once the ability of LSD to alter brain function became apparent, Hofmann and others realized it had enormous potential as a tool to explore and treat the brain. The immediate effects of LSD to alter brain states offered unique insight into states such as consciousness and psychosis; the long-lasting changes in self-awareness it brought on were seen as potentially useful for conditions such as addiction. Pharmaceutical company Sandoz saw LSD as so important that they chose to make it widely available to researchers in the 1950s. Researchers conducted over 1,000 studies at that time, most of which yielded significant results. However, once young Americans started using the drug recreationally—partly in protest against the Vietnam War—it was banned, both there and all over the world. Since then, research into the science behind the drug and its effects on the brain has come to a halt. Yet, we have begun to rectify the situation using the shorter-acting psychedelic psilocybin (also known as magic mushrooms). In just a couple of experiments, scientists have discovered remarkable and unexpected effects on the brain, leading them to start a clinical trial in depression. Other therapeutic targets for psychedelics are cluster headaches, OCD and addiction. © 2013 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 18983 - Posted: 11.30.2013

By Janet Davison, CBC News If headlines in the past few weeks are to be believed, a "Flesh-eating 'zombie' drug" that could devour users "from the inside out" is finding its way onto American streets. Then came reports suggesting that "krokodil," a cheap and highly addictive homemade substitute for heroin that surfaced first in Russia about 10 years ago, had appeared in Ontario's Niagara region. But so far, neither the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency nor Health Canada has identified krokodil, also known as desomorphine, in any samples they've analyzed since the DEA found two instances of it in 2004. And police in Niagara are now saying the reported cases of the drug — an ugly concoction of codeine mixed with common products such as gasoline, lighter fluid, paint thinner or industrial cleaning oil — haven't been medically confirmed. Krokodil is named for the Russian word for crocodile and its tendency to turn users' skin rough and scaly. The injectable opioid can cause brain damage and severe tissue damage, sometimes leading to gangrene, amputations and even death. It has also been linked to pneumonia, blood poisoning, meningitis, liver and kidney problems, rotting gums and bone infections. The horrific health problems the drug has caused among the well over 100,000 users in Russia and Ukraine have been well documented by researchers in publications such as the International Journal of Drug Policy. But so far there is no solid, official proof that krokodil has reached Canada. The recent news reports about the drug coupled with the lack of hard evidence to back them up underline how difficult it is for health and law enforcement officials to keep up with the evolving mix of street drugs. © CBC 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 18967 - Posted: 11.25.2013

Medical marijuana can alleviate pain and nausea, but it can also cause decreased attention span and memory loss. A new study in mice finds that taking an over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen may help curb these side effects. "This is what we call a seminal paper," says Giovanni Marsicano, a neuroscientist at the University of Bordeaux in France who was not involved in the work. If the results hold true in humans, they "could broaden the medical use of marijuana," he says. "Many people in clinical trials are dropping out from treatments, because they say, ‘I cannot work anymore. I am stoned all the time.’ ” People have used marijuana for hundreds of years to treat conditions such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. Studies in mice have shown that it can reduce some of the neural damage seen in Alzheimer's disease. The main psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat anorexia in AIDS patients and the nausea triggered by chemotherapy. Although recreational drug users usually smoke marijuana, patients prescribed THC take it as capsules. Many people find the side effects hard to bear, however. The exact cause of these side effects is unclear. In the brain, THC binds to receptors called CB1 and CB2, which are involved in neural development as well as pain perception and appetite. The receptors are normally activated by similar compounds, called endocannabinoids, that are produced by the human body. When one of these compounds binds to CB1, it suppresses the activity of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). The enzyme has many functions. For instance, painkillers such as ibuprofen and aspirin work by blocking COX-2. Researchers have hypothesized that the suppression of COX-2 could be the cause of THC's side effects, such as memory problems. © 2013 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18962 - Posted: 11.23.2013

By R. Douglas Fields San Diego—Would we have Poe’s Raven today if the tormented author had taken lithium to suppress his bipolar illness? Not likely, considering the high frequency of psychiatric illnesses among writers and artists, concluded psychiatrist Kay Jamison of Johns Hopkins Medical School speaking last week at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in San Diego. Madness electrifies the creative process, Jamison concluded, but this difficult drug-use dilemma raises an even more provocative question: Would we have Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds had the Beatles not taken LSD? Lord Tennyson, Virginia Woolf and Vincent Van Gogh are familiar examples of artists and writers who suffered serious mental illnesses, but Jamison explained that psychiatric illness was the cruel engine of their creativity. Tracing their family pedigrees, she showed that many of these artists’ siblings, parents and descendants were institutionalized in mental hospitals, committed suicide, or endured life-long struggles with mania, despair, schizophrenia or other mental disorders. The genetic backbone to mental illness is strong. Ernest Hemingway and his supermodel granddaughter Margaux Hemingway both killed themselves. Separated from one another in environment and experience by a generation, their fates were inevitably tethered by their DNA. In all, seven members of the Hemingway family died at their own hand. This raises the question of why the genes of such devastating brain dysfunctions should persist in the human gene pool. Statistics show that among all categories of creative artists, writers suffer by far the highest incidence of bipolar disorder, outstripping all other artistic professions. Why? Jamison concludes that the manic phase of bipolar disorder infuses the writer with furious energy and limitless stamina. The author foregoes sleep, is driven to take daring risks, expands their imagination and embraces grandiose thinking. © 2013 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 18961 - Posted: 11.23.2013

By Evelyn Boychuk, Ever since Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admitted to having smoked crack cocaine, various city councillors and media observers have publicly advised him to seek drug counselling. But in a CNN interview that aired Nov. 18, Ford continued to stand by his message: “I’m not an addict.” The ongoing saga of the mayor’s crack use has raised unanswered questions about how addictive the drug really is. It’s been commonly accepted that crack is more addictive than other drugs, but addictions researchers and drug counsellors say it’s hard to compare the addictiveness of specific substances because drug-taking is a highly individual experience. Robin Haslam, director of operations and procedures for Addiction Canada, says that he has never met someone who can “just casually smoke crack.” However, people have different thresholds of addiction. “I know people who have used crack once, and never touched it again. I also know people who smoked marijuana once, and became very impaired,” he says. Carl Hart, author of High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society, told CBC Radio’s Day 6 that crack “is not uniquely addictive, or it’s not something that is special, as we have all been taught.” Hart said that the percentage of people that become addicted to crack is lower than most think. “For example, 10 to 20 per cent of people will become addicted — that means that 80 to 90 per cent of people won’t become addicted.” © CBC 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 18953 - Posted: 11.21.2013

Jessica Wright A tiny fiber-optic probe inserted into the reward center of the mouse brain monitors how the mouse feels about meeting a peer — or a golf ball. The unpublished technique was presented last week at the at the 2013 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in San Diego. Mice feel the most satisfaction when sniffing another mouse’s rear and when walking away from a golf ball, the study found. The new technique is one of only a few ways to read the electrical activity of neurons in freely moving mice and is the most noninvasive, making it ideal for monitoring social interactions. The method takes advantage of a fluorescent molecule that lights up only in the presence of calcium, which rushes into the cell when neurons fire. The researchers used mice engineered to express this molecule only in neurons that make dopamine — the chemical messenger that mediates a sense of reward — in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). The researchers placed the cable in the VTA, the source of most of the brain’s dopamine neurons. The fiber-optic cable is 400 micrometers in diameter, and could probably be half that size, says Lisa Gunaydin, who developed the method as a graduate student in Karl Deisseroth’s lab at Stanford University in California. When neurons expressing the fluorescent molecule fire, the cable reads these as a series of spikes. In the study, the researchers gave thirsty mice sweet water and, as expected, their dopamine activity in the VTA spiked each time they drank. When the mice interact with a new mouse, or a golf ball, the dopamine neurons fire more on the first encounter but dull with repeated visits, suggesting that the mice are most excited by novelty. © Copyright 2013 Simons Foundation

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Link ID: 18949 - Posted: 11.21.2013

By BARRY MEIER Addiction experts protested loudly when the Food and Drug Administration approved a powerful new opioid painkiller last month, saying that it would set off a wave of abuse much as OxyContin did when it first appeared. An F.D.A. panel had earlier voted, 11 to 2, against approval of the drug, Zohydro, in part because unlike current versions of OxyContin, it is not made in a formulation designed to deter abuse. Now a new issue is being raised about Zohydro. The drug will be manufactured by the same company, Alkermes, that makes a popular medication called Vivitrol, used to treat patients addicted to painkillers or alcohol. In addition, the company provides financial support to a leading professional group that represents substance abuse experts, the American Society of Addiction Medicine. For some critics, the company’s multiple roles in the world of painkillers is troubling. Dr. Gregory L. Jones, an addiction specialist in Louisville, Ky., said he had long been concerned about financial links between the group and the drug industry, adding that the Zohydro situation amplified those potential conflicts. Dr. Stuart Gitlow, the current president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, said he had been unaware until now of Alkermes’s involvement with Zohydro. Dr. Gitlow, who is affiliated with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said that the group would seek more information from Alkermes about the situation and then decide what, if anything, to do next. Officials of Alkermes appear to recognize the issue they face. In recent years, the company has been trying to increase sales of Vivitrol, a form of a drug called naltrexone, that is used to treat both alcoholism and opioid addiction. © 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 8: General Principles of Sensory Processing, Touch, and Pain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System
Link ID: 18931 - Posted: 11.16.2013

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA—Compulsive gamblers aren’t necessarily greedier than the rest of us—their brains may just be wired to favor money over sex. That’s the conclusion of a study presented here today at the Society for Neuroscience conference. This tendency to prioritize money over more basic desires resembles other addictions like alcoholism, researchers say, and could point toward new therapies. Of the millions of people who gamble for fun or profit, about 1% to 2% qualify as pathological gamblers. They can't quit despite encountering serious negative consequences—going into debt, damaging relationships, and even smashing up slot machines and getting arrested when the habit gets out of control. This inability to stop even after sustained loss is one reason gambling recently became the first behavioral addiction to be recognized by psychiatry's most frequently used diagnostic manual, the DSM-5, says Guillaume Sescousse, a neuroscientist at the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands who led the new study. After all, he says, professional poker players can play for 10 hours a day and not be considered addicts—so long as they can stop when their luck runs out. Researchers have long hypothesized that the basis for gambling addiction might be hypersensitivity to the highs of winning money, caused by dysfunctional wiring in neural circuits that process reward. Studies have produced conflicting results, however, so Sescousse decided to investigate an alternative hypothesis. He wondered if instead of being overly sensitive to monetary reward, compulsive gamblers were less sensitive to other rewarding things, like alcohol and sex. © 2013 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 18929 - Posted: 11.14.2013