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Tina Rosenberg It has been nearly 30 years since the first needle exchange program opened in the United States, in Takoma, Wash., in 1988. It was a health measure to prevent injecting drug users from sharing needles, and therefore spreading H.I.V. and hepatitis. The idea was controversial, to say the least. Many people felt — and still feel — that it enables drug use and sends a message that drug use is O.K. and can be done safely. Today the evidence is overwhelming that needle exchange prevents disease, increases use of drug treatment by winning users’ trust and bringing them into the health system, and does not increase drug use. Its utility has won over some critics. When Vice President-elect Mike Pence was governor of Indiana, he authorized needle exchange programs as an emergency response to an H.I.V. outbreak. “I do not support needle exchange as antidrug policy, but this is a public health emergency,” he said at a news conference in 2015. Needle exchange saved New York City from a generalized H.I.V. epidemic. In 1990, more than half of injecting drug users had H.I.V. Then in 1992, needle exchange began — and by 2001, H.I.V. prevalence had fallen to 13 percent. America has another epidemic now: overdose deaths from opioids, heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic opioid so powerful that a few grains can kill. A thousand people died of overdose in the city last year — three times the number who were killed in homicides. Nationally, drug overdose has passed firearms and car accidents as the leading cause of injury deaths. If there is a way to save people from overdose death without creating harm, we should do it. Yet there is a potent weapon that we’re ignoring: the supervised injection room. According to a report by the London-based group Harm Reduction International, 90 supervised injection sites exist around the world: in Canada, Australia and eight countries in Europe. Scotland and Ireland plan to open sites this year. In the United States, state officials in New York, California and Maryland, and city officials in Seattle (where a task force recommended two sites), San Francisco, New York City, Ithaca, N.Y., and elsewhere, are discussing such facilities. © 2017 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: 23120 - Posted: 01.18.2017

By Catherine Caruso If you give a mouse a beer, he’s going to ask for a cookie—and another, and another. If you give a person enough beer, she might find herself wolfing down a plate of greasy nachos. But why does binge drinking make us binge eat as well? The reason may lie not in the stomach but in the brain, recent research suggests. A study published today in Nature Communications found alcohol activated brain cells that control hunger, sending drunk mice scampering for snacks even when they were not really hungry. Researchers from The Francis Crick Institute Mill Hill Laboratory in London got mice drunk, then tagged and recorded the electrical activity in brain cells linked to hunger, uncovering a neural mechanism that could explain why the animals ate significantly more after binge-drinking sessions even though their bodies did not need the calories. Although hunger pangs in our stomach usually alert us that it is time to eat, the impulse to consume food originates in our brains, and brain cells located in the hypothalamus called agouti-related protein (AgRP) neurons play a key role in controlling hunger. A previous study showed that when AgRP neurons are activated, mice almost immediately seek out food and start eating, even if their stomachs are full. By contrast, when AgRP neurons are deactivated, hungry mice will not eat. AgRP neurons play a similar role in human hunger: Under natural conditions they are activated when our bodies need calories, signaling to us that we should find food. Something different happens, however, when alcohol is involved. Although alcohol is second only to fat in caloric density, previous studies have shown drinking causes humans to eat more, a paradox that made lead authors Craig Blomeley and Sarah Cains and colleagues wonder whether the brain could be to blame. © 2017 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 23083 - Posted: 01.11.2017

By Virginia Smart, CBC News A controversial Canadian program that gives a regulated, hourly dose of wine to alcoholics to help manage their addiction and keep them safe has caught the attention of health care researchers in Australia. The managed alcohol programs (MAPs) that have sparked the international interest have been giving new hope and new lives to many alcoholics struggling with homelessness and troubles with addiction in communities from British Columbia to Ontario. Kate Dolan, a professor at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Australia, has visited programs in Ottawa and Vancouver and was impressed. "We used to lead the world in harm reduction services," Dolan tells the fifth estate, but "the alcohol field has not progressed as much as the illicit drug use field." Research led Dolan to Ottawa's MAP. She found MAPs to be cost-effective through reductions in spending on health care and emergency services. Participants also significantly reduce their alcohol consumption and learn a sense of community. The Pour Lucia Ali monitors 'The Pour,' the hourly distribution of a prescribed dose of alcohol dictated by the in-house nurse at the Oaks, a residence for stabilized alcoholics in Ottawa. (CBC) When participants arrive at a MAP, Dolan wrote in her study, "it is all about me, myself and I." But as they progress, they lose the "chip on their shoulder and open up." ©2016 CBC/Radio-Canada.

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: 23061 - Posted: 01.06.2017

By Don Lattin In the fall of 1965, a 33-year-old father of three named Arthur King—a patient on the alcoholics ward at Baltimore’s Spring Grove Hospital—swallowed an LSD pill and laid back on his bed in a special unit called “Cottage Thirteen.” Sanford Unger, the chief of psychosocial research at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, knelt beside King’s bed, holding his hand and reassuring the patient as he started to feel the drug’s mind-altering effects. This was not a normal psychotherapy session. During his 12-hour experience, designed to help stop his destructive drinking habit, King sat on the edge of the bed and looked at the photo of his son that he’d brought. Suddenly, the child became alive in the picture, which initially frightened him. Then King noticed that a lick of his son’s hair was out of place, so he stroked the photo, putting the errant strands back in place. His fear vanished. Later, Unger held out a small vase with a single red rose. King looked at the flower, which seemed to be opening and closing, as though it were breathing. At one point, Unger asked him whether he’d like to go out to a bar and have a few drinks. King didn’t say anything but was shocked when the rose suddenly turned black and dropped dead before his eyes. He never picked up another drink. Arthur King was one of thousands of research subjects who were given LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline as therapeutic tools in the 1950s and 1960s, often with government support and with promising results. But by the time King was enjoying his sobriety, the backlash against psychedelic testing had already begun. By the mid-1970s, the legal exploration of the therapeutic benefits of psychedelic drugs was over.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 23048 - Posted: 01.03.2017

Linda Bauld January is a time for New Year’s resolutions and if you’re one of the world’s one billion smokers, your resolution may be to stop smoking. For some people, this year’s quit attempt might involve an electronic cigarette, and a recent study in England, published in the BMJ, suggested that these devices helped at least 18,000 smokers to stop in 2015 who would not otherwise have done so. That’s very good news, but will there be as many quit attempts in 2017 as there have been in the past with e-cigarettes? I’m not so sure. Since I last wrote about e-cigarettes in this column one year ago, headlines about the dangers of these devices have continued to appear and show no sign of abating. The result is clear. More people believe today, compared with a year ago, that e-cigarettes are as harmful as smoking. In fact these incorrect perceptions have risen year on year, from fewer than one in ten adults in Great Britain in 2013 to one in four this past summer. Surveys of smokers show similar patterns, with an increasing proportion believing that e-cigarettes are more or equally harmful than tobacco. Yet we know that these harm perceptions are wrong. There is now very strong evidence, from a range of studies, that vaping - inhaling nicotine without the combustion involved in smoking - is far less risky than smoking cigarettes. Just a few months ago this body of evidence was brought together by the Royal College of Physicians who published an authoritative report analysing dozens of studies and concluded that the hazard to health arising from long term vapour inhalation from e-cigarettes is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco. The RCP, and since then other UK doctor’s organisations such as the Royal College of General Practitioners, have made clear that it is important to promote the use of e-cigarettes, along with other non-tobacco nicotine products (like Nicotine Replacement Therapy such as gum or inhalators) to smokers who are trying to quit. The work of these organisations is underpinned by a consensus statement endorsed by many of the main health charities and public health bodies in the UK. They agree that vaping is safer than smoking, and while these products are not risk free and should not be promoted to children or never smokers, they have a legitimate and positive role to play in tobacco control. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

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: 23046 - Posted: 01.02.2017

By KEVIN DEUTSCH An anesthetic commonly used for surgery has surpassed heroin to become the deadliest drug on Long Island, killing at least 220 people there in 2016, according to medical examiners’ records. The drug, fentanyl, is a synthetic opioid, which can be 100 times more potent than morphine. The numbers from Long Island are part of a national pattern, as fentanyl fatalities have already surpassed those from heroin in other parts of the country, including New England, as its use has skyrocketed. Part of the reason for the increase is economic — because fentanyl can be manufactured in the lab, it is much cheaper and easier than cultivating heroin. In New York City, more than 1,000 people are expected to die from drug overdoses this year — the first recorded four-digit death total in city history, according to statistics compiled by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Nearly half of all unintentional drug overdose deaths in the city since July have involved fentanyl, the health department said. The medical examiners of Long Island’s two counties, Nassau and Suffolk, compiled the new numbers. “Fentanyl has surpassed heroin as the most commonly detected drug in fatal opioid overdoses,” Dr. Michael J. Caplan, the Suffolk County medical examiner, said in a written statement about the statistics, which were obtained by The New York Times ahead of their release. “The influx of illicitly manufactured fentanyl from overseas is a nationwide issue that requires a multidisciplinary intervention from all levels of government.” Nationwide, recorded deaths from opioids surpassed 30,000 in 2015, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And overdoses caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl increased by 72.2 percent in 2015 over 2014 — one of the deadliest year-over-year surges for any drug in United States history, the same data shows. © 2016 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: 23032 - Posted: 12.29.2016

By Kai Kupferschmidt New York City is known for its strange sights. But on 12 July, even locals were shocked by what they saw: more than 30 people staggering around a Brooklyn block with empty stares, shuffling their arms and feet and occasionally groaning. What sounds like the opening of a horror movie was suspected from the start to be the work of a synthetic cannabinoid. Now, a new analysis, out today in The New England Journal of Medicine, confirms those suspicions. But it has also raised scientific ire over its prolific use of the word “zombie.” Developed by academics and pharma companies to study cannabinoid receptors in the human body, synthetic cannabinoids act on the same receptor on brain cells as cannabis. The compounds, which can be up to 100 times more potent than cannabis, are a rapidly growing class of drugs, usually dissolved in liquid and sprayed on leaves to be smoked. There are hundreds of different compounds, and though they are quickly made illegal in many places, new ones appear every year. To find out what was responsible for the Brooklyn episode, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), started with a foil-wrapped pouch of herbs found on one of the patients, labeled “AK-47 24 Karat Gold.” When they analyzed a sample, they found it contained the substance AMB-FUBINACA, a powerful synthetic cannabinoid similar to a compound first patented by Pfizer in 2009. The researchers also found breakdown products of AMB-FUBINACA in the blood of eight patients. © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science

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: 22991 - Posted: 12.15.2016

Laura Sanders Fewer teenagers in the United States used drugs in 2016 than in previous decades. The positive news comes from an annual survey of almost 45,500 U.S. students in grades eight, 10 and 12. “There’s a lot of good news here,” says pediatrician Sharon Levy of Boston Children’s Hospital. Public health messages from pediatricians, educators and others seem to be sinking in, she says. “I think that’s fabulous. Substance use is one of the most important — yet modifiable — behavioral health issues of adolescents.” Adolescents’ use of many of the substances, including alcohol and cigarettes, hit an all-time low since the survey, known as the Monitoring the Future study, began collecting data 42 years ago. Heroin, methamphetamines, inhalants and stimulants also hit lows this year. E-cigarettes have been particularly concerning as more adolescents gave the new devices a try, reaching a high in 2015 (SN: 5/28/16, p. 4). For the first time, the number of students who vape is declining, the survey found. In 2015, 16.3 percent of 12th-graders reported vaping in the last 30 days. In 2016, that fell to 12.5. Similar declines were evident among eighth- and 10th-graders. In a happy surprise, misuse of prescription opioid use decreased in the last five years among 12th-graders. The drop was “a big surprise,” particularly against a backdrop of a much wider opioid epidemic in the general population (SN: 9/3/16, p. 14), Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Md., said December 13 at a news briefing. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2016.

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: 22984 - Posted: 12.14.2016

By CATHERINE SAINT LOUIS As the opioid epidemic sweeps through rural America, an ever-greater number of drug-dependent newborns are straining hospital neonatal units and draining precious medical resources. The problem has grown more quickly than realized and shows no signs of abating, researchers reported on Monday. Their study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, concludes for the first time that the increase in drug-dependent newborns has been disproportionately larger in rural areas. The rising rates are due largely to widening use of opioids among pregnant women, the researchers found. From 2004 to 2013, the proportion of newborns born dependent on drugs increased nearly sevenfold in hospitals in rural counties, to 7.5 per 1,000 from 1.2 per 1,000. By contrast, the uptick among urban infants was nearly fourfold, to 4.8 per 1,000 from 1.4 per 1,000. “The problem is accelerating in rural areas to a greater degree than in urban areas,” said Dr. Veeral Tolia, a neonatologist who works at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas and was not involved in the new report. Other recent studies have underscored the breadth of the problem. The hospital costs associated with treating addicted newborns rose to $1.5 billion in 2013, from $732 million in 2009, according to a study in the Journal of Perinatology. Some neonatal intensive care units, called NICUs, now devote 10 percent of their hours to caring for infants who have withdrawal symptoms. Hospitals in the eye of this storm are commonly underresourced, experts said. “Typically, rural hospitals that deliver babies have traditionally focused on the lower-risk population in areas they serve,” said Dr. Alison V. Holmes, an associate professor of pediatrics at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. © 2016 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 22983 - Posted: 12.13.2016

By MATT RICHTEL Soaring use of e-cigarettes among young people “is now a major public health concern,” according to a report being published Thursday from the United States Surgeon General. It is the first comprehensive look on the subject from the nation’s highest public-health authority, and it finds that e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youths, surpassing tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarettes, which turn nicotine into inhalable vapor, can harm developing brains of teenagers who use them, and also can create harmful aerosol for people around the user, the equivalent of secondhand smoke, the report said, citing studies in animals. “Adolescent brains are particularly sensitive to nicotine’s effects,” and can experience “a constellation of nicotine-induced neural and behavioral alterations,” the report said. It urged stronger action to prevent young people from getting access to e-cigarettes. Some researchers have said that e-cigarette use among youth could act as a gateway to traditional smoking, but the report says the relationship is not yet fully established. Cigarette smoking among youth has fallen sharply in recent years but use of nicotine products over all remains essentially flat among young people. With its focus on youth, the report did not address adult use of e-cigarettes, and the most divisive issue of whether the technology is an effective tool to help smokers of traditional cigarettes quit their deadly habit. The report also did not break new scientific ground, but public health advocates said the voice of the surgeon general in the debate marked a milestone. “It’s the most comprehensive and objective answer to the question of whether e-cigarette use is a matter of serious concern that requires government action,” said Matthew Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. “The answer, based on the findings, is: yes.” © 2016 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 22963 - Posted: 12.08.2016

People who consistently smoked an average of less than one cigarette per day over their lifetime had a 64 percent higher risk of earlier death than never smokers, and those who smoked between one and 10 cigarettes a day had an 87 percent higher risk of earlier death than never smokers, according to a new study from researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Risks were lower among former low-intensity smokers compared to those who were still smokers, and risk fell with earlier age at quitting. The results of the study were reported Dec. 5, 2016, in JAMA Internal Medicine. NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health. When researchers looked at specific causes of death among study participants, a particularly strong association was observed for lung cancer mortality. Those who consistently averaged less than one cigarette per day over their lifetime had nine times the risk of dying from lung cancer than never smokers. Among people who smoked between one and 10 cigarettes per day, the risk of dying from lung cancer was nearly 12 times higher than that of never smokers. The researchers looked at risk of death from respiratory disease, such as emphysema, as well as the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. People who smoked between one and 10 cigarettes a day had over six times the risk of dying from respiratory diseases than never smokers and about one and half times the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease than never smokers. Smoking has many harmful effects on health, which have been detailed in numerous studies since the U.S. Surgeon General’s 1964 report linking smoking to lung cancer. The health effects of consistent low-intensity smoking, however, have not been well studied and many smokers believe that low-intensity smoking does not affect their health.

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: 22954 - Posted: 12.06.2016

By Greg Miller In the mid-19th century, some European doctors became fascinated with a plant-derived drug recently imported from India. Cannabis had been used as medicine for millennia in Asia, and physicians were keen to try it with their patients. No less an authority than Sir John Russell Reynolds, the house physician to Queen Victoria and later president of the Royal College of Physicians in London, extolled the medical virtues of cannabis in The Lancet in 1890. “In almost all painful maladies I have found Indian hemp by far the most useful of drugs,” Reynolds wrote. Like other doctors of his day, Reynolds thought cannabis might help reduce the need for opium-based painkillers, with their potential for abuse and overdose. “The bane of many opiates and sedatives is this, that the relief of the moment, the hour, or the day, is purchased at the expense of to-morrow’s misery,” he wrote. “In no one case to which I have administered Indian hemp, have I witnessed any such results.” More than 125 years later, the misery caused by opioids is clearer than ever, and there are new hints that cannabis could be a viable alternative. Some clinical studies suggest that the plant may have medical value, especially for difficult-to-treat pain conditions. The liberalization of marijuana laws in the United States has also allowed researchers to compare overdoses from painkiller prescriptions and opioids in states that permit medical marijuana versus those that don’t. Yet following up on those hints isn’t easy. Clinical studies face additional hurdles because the plant is listed on Schedule I, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) list of the most dangerous drugs. © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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: 22832 - Posted: 11.04.2016

Ian Sample Science editor The devastating impact of cigarette smoke on the body’s DNA has been laid bare by the first comprehensive study into the damage tobacco inflicts on human cells. People who smoke a pack of cigarettes each day for a year develop on average 150 extra mutations in every lung cell, and nearly 100 more mutations than usual in each cell of the voice box, researchers found. More still build up in the mouth, bladder, liver and other organs. While chemicals in tobacco smoke have long been known to raise the risk of at least 17 forms of cancer, the precise molecular mechanisms through which they mutate DNA and give rise to tumours in different tissues have never been clear. “This is about running down the root cause of cancers,” said David Phillips, a professor of environmental carcinogenesis at King’s College London and a co-author on the study. “By identifying the root causes, we gain the sort of knowledge we need to think more seriously about cancer prevention.” More than 70 of the 7,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke are known to cause cancer. Some damage DNA directly, but others ramp up mutations in more subtle ways, often by disrupting the way cells function. The more mutations a cell acquires, the more likely it is to turn cancerous. © 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

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: 22828 - Posted: 11.04.2016

By SABRINA TAVERNISE WASHINGTON — A decade after electronic cigarettes were introduced in the United States, use has flattened, sales have slowed and, this fall, NJoy, once one of the country’s biggest e-cigarette manufacturers, filed for bankruptcy. It is quite a reversal for an invention once billed as the biggest chance to end smoking as we know it and take aim at the country’s largest cause of preventable death. Use of the devices is slumping because they are not as good as cigarettes at giving a hit of nicotine. Dealing another strike against them, the country’s top public health authorities have sent an unwavering message: Vaping is dangerous. The warning is meant to stop people who have never smoked — particularly children — from starting to vape. But a growing number of scientists and policy makers say the relentless portrayal of e-cigarettes as a public health menace, however well intentioned, is a profound disservice to the 40 million American smokers who could benefit from the devices. Smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans a year. “We may well have missed, or are missing, the greatest opportunity in a century,” said David B. Abrams, senior scientist at the Truth Initiative, an antismoking group. “The unintended consequence is more lives are going to be lost.” American public health experts, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have long been suspicious of e-cigarettes. The possible risks of vaping are vast, officials warn, including the potential to open a dangerous new door to addiction for youth. Scientists will not know the full effect for years, so for now, they caution, be wary. But mounting evidence suggests vaping is far less dangerous than smoking, a fact that is rarely pointed out to the American public. Britain, a country with about the same share of smokers, has come to the opposite conclusion from the United States. This year, a prestigious doctors’ organization told the public that e-cigarettes were 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes. British health officials are encouraging smokers to switch. © 2016 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: 22826 - Posted: 11.03.2016

By Laura Wright, Researchers have the clearest-ever picture of the receptor that gives humans the 'high' from marijuana, which could lead to a better understanding of how the drug affects humans. Scientists have long known that molecules from THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, bind to and activate the receptor known as CB1. But now they know that it has a three-dimensional crystal structure. The authors of the paper, which was published Thursday in the journal Cell, say this information is crucial to improve our understanding of this receptor as marijuana use becomes widespread and, in many places, legalized. Now that they know the shape of the receptor, they can get a better idea of how different molecules bind to it, which is what causes reactions in humans. "What is important is to understand how different molecules bind to the receptor, how they control the receptor function, and how this can affect different people," said Raymond Stevens, co-author of the study. Dr. Mark Ware, the executive director of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids and the director of clinical research at the Alan Edwards pain management unit at the McGill University Health Centre, called the discovery a "breakthrough." "Suddenly we've been given the design of the building," he explained. "We can work out ways to get in the building, we know where the windows and doors and stairs are, and we know kind of how the building is structured now." They both said that knowing the receptor's design can lead to better drug design. K2 synthetic pot It's also a key step to understanding the differences between natural cannabinoids, found in the marijuana plant, and synthetic cannabinoids, made in labs. ©2016 CBC/Radio-Canada.

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: 22776 - Posted: 10.22.2016

By DONNA DE LA CRUZ Some of the most troubling images of the opioid crisis involve parents buying or using drugs with their children in tow. Now new research offers a glimpse into the addicted brain, finding that the drugs appear to blunt a person’s natural parenting instincts. Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania scanned the brains of 47 men and women before and after they underwent treatment for opioid dependence. While in the scanner, the study subjects looked at various images of babies, and the researchers measured the brain’s response. The brain scans were compared with the responses of 25 healthy people. What the study subjects didn’t know was that the photos had been manipulated to adjust the “baby schema,” the term used to describe the set of facial and other features like round faces and big eyes that make our brains register babies as irresistible, kicking in our instinct to care for them. Sometimes the babies’ features were exaggerated to make them even more adorable; in others, the chubby cheeks and big eyes were reduced, making the faces less appealing. Studies show that a higher baby schema activates the part of the brain called the ventral striatum, a key component of the brain reward pathway. Compared with the brains of healthy people, the brains of people with opioid dependence didn’t produce strong responses to the cute baby pictures. But once the opioid-dependent people received a drug called naltrexone, which blocks the effects of opioids, their brains produced a more normal response. “When the participants were given an opioid blocker, their baby schema became more similar to that of healthy people,” said Dr. Daniel D. Langleben, one of the researchers. “The data also raised in question whether opioid medications may affect social cognition in general.” © 2016 The New York Times Company

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: 22760 - Posted: 10.15.2016

Lauren Silverman It's been a wild ride for kratom lately. Since Aug. 31, when the Drug Enforcement Administration announced its intention to classify the plant as a Schedule I substance, a group of kratom vendors filed a lawsuit against the government to block the move, angry advocates took to social media in protest and scientists questioned whether they would be able to continue kratom research. Now, the DEA is withdrawing its notice of intent to put kratom in the most restrictive category of controlled substances, with drugs like LSD and heroin. The DEA says it will instead open an official public comment period — to last until Dec. 1, 2016 — for people to share their experiences using kratom as a medical treatment. It has also requested that the Food and Drug Administration expedite scientific research. DEA spokesman Russ Baer says the DEA received more than 2,000 phone calls since August, mostly in opposition to the plan to classify kratom as Schedule I. "So in a spirit of transparency, and to open this up to public dialogue, we withdrew our notice to temporarily schedule kratom," Baer says. "We will then give full consideration to those comments before we move forward with any action." Kratom is derived from the leaves of a tree native to Southeast Asia. It is a relative of the coffee plant. According to David Kroll, a pharmacologist and medical writer, farmers and indigenous people have used it for hundreds of years as both a stimulant to increase work output and also as a way to relax. © 2016 npr

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: 22752 - Posted: 10.13.2016

By MIKE IVES HONG KONG — President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines was elected in May after pledging to kill 100,000 criminals in his first six months in office, vowing that fish in Manila, the capital, would grow fat from eating the bodies of drug dealers and other “do nothings.” In Mr. Duterte’s first three months as president, his bloody campaign led to the killing of about 1,400 drug suspects by the police and hundreds of others by extrajudicial means, according to official estimates. He has also publicly accused thousands of government officials of being involved in the drug trade, in some cases offering no evidence. The campaign has taken particular aim at people who use or sell shabu, a cheap form of methamphetamine that has caused grave health and social problems across the country. Mr. Duterte has likened shabu addicts to zombies and claimed — absent evidence — that many are “no longer viable for rehabilitation” because abusing the drug shrinks their brains. What is methamphetamine? Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant that can be made from ephedrine and other readily available chemicals. It typically comes in either tablets, called yaba in parts of Asia, or crystalline form. The first variety is common in mainland Southeast Asia, and the second — known as shabu, ice or crystal meth, among other names — is more popular in the Philippines and many other countries. It also tends to be more potent and more deeply intertwined with international drug manufacturing and smuggling networks, according to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. How does the drug affect people who use it? Smoking, snorting, ingesting or injecting methamphetamine can cause aggression, memory loss and a range of other health complications, including heart attack or sudden death. Links between methamphetamine abuse and crime, disease transmission and other social problems have also been documented. A study by the RAND Corporation found that the effects of methamphetamine abuse, including the burden of addiction and treatment, cost the United States $23.4 billion in 2005. © 2016 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: 22751 - Posted: 10.13.2016

Ben Allen Louis Casanova is playing cards with a friend on the back deck of a recovery house in Philadelphia's northern suburbs. He's warm and open as he talks about his past few years. The guy everyone calls Louie started using drugs like Xanax and Valium during his freshman year of high school. At age 18, Casanova turned to heroin. About two years later, the rehab shuffle began. "I relapsed and then I was just getting high. And then I went to treatment again in February of 2015," he says. "Then I relapsed again and went back to treatment." He's 23 now. He's hurt people close to him and his criminal record, fueled by his drug addiction, is long. By Louie's count, he has been through eight inpatient rehabs. Louis says his stays have ranged from about 18 to 45 days. "I did 30 days, and after that I came here," he concludes, talking about his latest visit. A month's stay can be pretty typical among people who go to an inpatient facility. But why? "As far as I know, there's nothing magical about 28 days," says Kimberly Johnson, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at SAMHSA, the federal agency that studies treatment services. Anne Fletcher, author of the book Inside Rehab, agrees. "It certainly is not scientifically based," she says. "I live in Minnesota where the model was developed and a lot of treatment across the country really stemmed from that." She says the late Daniel Anderson was one of the primary architects of the "Minnesota model," which became the prevailing treatment protocol for addiction specialists. At a state hospital in Minnesota in the 1950s, Anderson saw alcoholics living in locked wards, leaving only to be put to work on a farm. © 2016 npr

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: 22719 - Posted: 10.02.2016

By MAIA SZALAVITZ Drug education is the only part of the middle school curriculum I remember — perhaps because it backfired so spectacularly. Before reaching today’s legal drinking age, I was shooting cocaine and heroin. I’ve since recovered from my addiction, and researchers now are trying to develop innovative prevention programs to help children at risk take a different road than I did. Developing a public antidrug program that really works has not been easy. Many of us grew up with antidrug programs like D.A.R.E. or the Nancy Reagan-inspired antidrug campaign “Just Say No.” But research shows those programs and others like them that depend on education and scare tactics were largely ineffective and did little to curb drug use by children at highest risk. But now a new antidrug program tested in Europe, Australia and Canada is showing promise. Called Preventure, the program, developed by Patricia Conrod, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal, recognizes how a child’s temperament drives his or her risk for drug use — and that different traits create different pathways to addiction. Early trials show that personality testing can identify 90 percent of the highest risk children, targeting risky traits before they cause problems. Recognizing that most teenagers who try alcohol, cocaine, opioids or methamphetamine do not become addicted, they focus on what’s different about the minority who do. © 2016 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: 22715 - Posted: 09.30.2016