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By Perri Klass, M.D. It’s a pretty safe bet that most of our children, in high school and in college, will be in social situations in which people drink in unwise and sometimes downright dangerous ways. Even if they don’t drink, they will at least be exposed to friends and classmates and roommates who do. What makes alcohol more problematic for some kids — and some adults? There’s been a good deal of research on the development of what is now called alcohol use disorder, and its precursors — what do we now understand, and can that understanding help us as parents to worry less, or at least, to direct our worries in the right directions? Frances Wang, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Pittsburgh who studies genetic and environmental causes of alcohol use disorders, said that often people blame only the home environment — that is to say, the parenting. But there are genetic risk factors that seem to be common across a number of disorders, she said, including alcohol use disorder, but also depression and conduct problems, like aggression and antisocial behavior, which can be predecessors of alcohol problems. Dr. Wang was the first author on a study published in 2018 in the journal Development and Psychopathology, which looks at a particular biological attribute — the functioning of serotonin, a neurotransmitter — determined by a combination of genetic factors. Investigating these common genetic risk factors might help us understand the connections. But bear in mind that there are no simple cause-and-effect stories here. And while there may be times when the home environment really is the driving force, Dr. Wang said, “for most people it’s the interaction between already having that genetic risk and an environment that increases genetic risk or makes genetic risk come out.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26724 - Posted: 10.21.2019

By Dawn MacKeen The CBD industry is flourishing, conservatively projected to hit $16 billion in the United States by 2025. Already, the plant extract is being added to cheeseburgers, toothpicks and breath sprays. More than 60 percent of CBD users have taken it for anxiety, according to a survey of 5,000 people, conducted by the Brightfield Group, a cannabis market research firm. Chronic pain, insomnia and depression follow behind. Kim Kardashian West, for example, turned to the product when “freaking out” over the birth of her fourth baby. The professional golfer Bubba Watson drifts off to sleep with it. And Martha Stewart’s French bulldog partakes, too. What is CBD? Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the lesser-known child of the cannabis sativa plant; its more famous sibling, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the active ingredient in pot that catapults users’ “high.” With roots in Central Asia, the plant is believed to have been first used medicinally — or for rituals — around 750 B.C., though there are other estimates too. Cannabidiol and THC are just two of the plant’s more than 100 cannabinoids. THC is psychoactive, and CBD may or may not be, which is a matter of debate. THC can increase anxiety; it is not clear what effect CBD is having, if any, in reducing it. THC can lead to addiction and cravings; CBD is being studied to help those in recovery. Cannabis containing 0.3 percent or less of THC is hemp. Although last year’s Farm Bill legalized hemp under federal law, it also preserved the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of products derived from cannabis. What are the claims? CBD is advertised as providing relief for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is also marketed to promote sleep. Part of CBD’s popularity is that it purports to be “nonpsychoactive,” and that consumers can reap health benefits from the plant without the high (or the midnight pizza munchies). © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26707 - Posted: 10.16.2019

By Amanda Chicago Lewis In June of 2018, Mark Pennington received troubling news from his ex-girlfriend, with whom he shared custody of their 2-year-old son. She had taken a hair follicle from the boy, she said, and had it analyzed at a lab. A drug test had returned positive for THC, the intoxicating compound in marijuana; evidently their son had been exposed to it, presumably in Mr. Pennington’s presence. He was told that, from then on, he would be permitted to see the child only once a week, and under supervision. “I was mortified,” Mr. Pennington recalled recently. “My jaw hit the floor. I just knew from the bottom of my heart I hadn’t gotten any THC in my son’s system.” However, Mr. Pennington had been providing his son with honey infused with cannabidiol, or CBD, a nonintoxicating compound that, like THC, is found in varying amounts in the plant known as cannabis. THC is federally illegal, and until recently so was all cannabis. But last December, the Farm Bill legalized hemp — cannabis that contains less than 0.3 percent THC. With that, CBD became legal. It can now be found at stores across the country, in everything from tinctures and massage oils to coffee and makeup. Mr. Pennington, who lives in Colorado, where growing hemp for CBD has been legal since 2014, worked for Colorado Hemp Honey, a company that sells CBD-infused raw honey across the country. Mr. Pennington was despondent about possibly losing custody of his child, until he spoke with Frank Conrad, the chief technology officer and lab director at Colorado Green Lab, a scientific consultant to the cannabis industry. Mr. Conrad directed him to a little-known study published in 2012 in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology that showed that a common forensic drug testing method could easily mistake the presence of CBD for THC. In short, the drug testing lab may have erred; it was entirely possible that the CBD Mr. Pennington had given his child had caused the drug test to produce a false positive for THC. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26702 - Posted: 10.15.2019

Madeline K. Sofia Carine Chen-McLaughlin smoked for more than 40 years. She didn't want to be a smoker. She'd tried to stop literally dozens of times over the decades. But she always came back. Smoking was "one of my oldest, dearest friends," she said of her habit. "To not have that relationship was very, very scary." Then she heard about a clinical trial to treat nicotine addiction with something a little unusual: magic mushrooms. Well, not actual magic mushrooms, but a little pill of a drug called psilocybin. It's the ingredient in mushrooms that gives people hallucinogenic visions. New research shows that psilocybin may be an effective treatment for diseases like depression and addiction. While the work is still in its early stages, there are signs that psilocybin might help addicts shake the habit by causing the brain to talk with itself in different ways. "These brain changes lead to, often times, a sense of unity," says Matthew Johnson, an experimental psychologist at Johns Hopkins University. It all may sound a little "woo-woo," he admits, but it seems to be working. Early results suggest that psilocybin, coupled with therapy, may be far more effective than other treatments for smoking, such as the nicotine patch. Magic mushrooms have been used by indigenous communities for thousands of years, and research on psilocybin isn't all that new, either. Work began in the 1950s and 1960s. But studies involving it and other psychedelics dropped off following the passage of the Controlled Substance Act in 1970, which outlawed hallucinogens and other drugs. "The medical applications became, really, a casualty of a political war," Johnson says. © 2019 npr

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26700 - Posted: 10.15.2019

By Katie Thomas and Sheila Kaplan In 2009, not long after Dr. Margaret Hamburg became commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, a package arrived at her home. Inside was a clunky device called an e-cigarette. “It was my first exposure to this emerging, new technology,” Dr. Hamburg recalled. The package was sent by an antismoking activist as a warning about a product that was taking off in the United States. But over the next decade, the federal government — across the span of two presidential administrations — allowed the rise of a largely unregulated industry that may be addicting a new generation to nicotine. E-cigarettes and vaping devices, with $7 billion in annual sales, have become a part of daily life for millions of Americans. Youth use has skyrocketed with the proliferation of flavors targeting teenagers, such as Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum and Zombie Blood. And nearly 1,300 people have been sickened by mysterious vaping-related lung injuries this year. Yet the agency has not vetted the vast majority of vaping devices or flavored liquids for safety. In dozens of interviews, federal officials and public health experts described a lost decade of inaction, blaming an intense lobbying effort by the e-cigarette and tobacco industries, fears of a political backlash in tobacco-friendly states, bureaucratic delays, and a late reprieve by an F.D.A. commissioner who had previously served on the board of a chain of vaping lounges. “The minute you saw cotton candy flavors — come on,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who had warned since 2013 of the harms to adolescents. “Everything that could have been done should have been done to get them off the market.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26699 - Posted: 10.14.2019

Heidi Ledford Until a few months ago, pulmonologist Sean Callahan didn’t typically ask his patients if they vaped. He thought that e-cigarettes might help smokers wean themselves off cigarettes, and that the risks of vaping would probably take years to become clear. The emergence of a mysterious, sometimes lethal, lung injury associated with vaping has changed his mind. Callahan works at the University of Utah Health in Salt Lake City, which has treated about 20 victims of the outbreak. “It was surprising: the overwhelming number of them — and how young they were,” he says. Researchers and physicians alike were caught unprepared by the illness, which has now sickened about 1,300 US vapers and killed 26. Scientists are scrambling to find out why, and to save other vapers from the same fate. “Everything is rapidly evolving,” says Brandon Larsen, a pulmonary pathologist at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. “I could tell you something today and next week it could be totally wrong.” A paper1 published by Larsen and his colleagues in the New England Journal of Medicine on 2 October undercut a popular theory behind the outbreak — and underscored how far researchers still have to go to pinpoint its cause. Many of those sickened in the outbreak had vaped cartridges containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the active ingredient in marijuana — that was diluted with oily chemicals. Larsen’s study is the largest analysis to date of lung tissue taken from sickened vapers. The scientists searched for evidence of lipoid pneumonia, a condition that arises when oil enters the lungs. It is marked by lipid found in lung tissue and also in cells called macrophages, which normally sweep up debris in the lungs. But Larsen and his colleagues did not find substantial lipid droplets in any of their samples from 17 patients. Instead, their findings point to general lung damage and inflammation caused by exposure to toxic chemicals. © 2019 Springer Nature Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26698 - Posted: 10.14.2019

By Denise Grady The outbreak of lung illnesses linked to vaping grew by more than 200 cases in a week, now totaling 1,299, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday. Twenty-nine people have died from vaping-related illnesses, health officials said. The figures mean that 219 new cases and seven new deaths were reported. Cases have occurred in 49 states, the District of Columbia and the United States Virgin Islands. A 17-year-old boy died in the Bronx last week, the youngest death so far linked to vaping. Utah and Massachusetts officials confirmed their states’ first vaping deaths this week. Indiana health officials announced late Thursday afternoon that two more people had died. The ages of those who died range from 17 years to 75 years, with a median of 49. The exact cause of the illness is still unknown. Many of those who became ill had vaped THC, some had used both THC and nicotine, and others report vaping only nicotine. Federal and state health authorities are testing vaping materials and studying tissue samples from patients in an effort to find the cause of the outbreak. They are particularly concerned about the huge amount of illicit THC products in circulation, which contain unknown mixtures of solvents, diluting agents and flavorings that may be toxic to the lungs. The United States Army said it was treating two soldiers for vaping-related illness. The Army did not say what products the two soldiers had been using, according to an earlier report in The Wall Street Journal. The military has banned e-cigarettes from the exchanges on bases. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26694 - Posted: 10.11.2019

Between 1999 and 2017, the United States experienced a 10-fold increase in the number of people who died from overdoses of Valium and other benzodiazepines. For years, scientists thought that these powerful sedatives, which are used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms, and sleeping disorders, worked alone to calm nerves. Now, in an article published in Science, researchers from the National Institutes of Health show that this view of the drugs and the neural circuits they affect may have to change. In a study of mice, scientists discovered that both may need the assistance of a ‘sticky’ gene, named after a mythological figure, called Shisa7. “We found that Shisa7 plays a critical role in the regulation of inhibitory neural circuits and the sedative effects some benzodiazepines have on circuit activity,” said Wei Lu, Ph.D., a Stadtman Investigator at NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the senior author of the study. “We hope the results will help researchers design more effective treatments for a variety of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders that are caused by problems with these circuits.” Dr. Lu’s lab studies the genes and molecules used to control synapses; the trillions of communications points made between neurons throughout the nervous system. In this study, his team worked with researchers led by Chris J. McBain, Ph.D., senior investigator at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), to look at synapses that rely on the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) to calm nerves. Communication at these synapses happens when one neuron fires off packets of GABA molecules that are then quickly detected by proteins called GABA type A (GABAA) receptors on neighboring neurons.

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 26692 - Posted: 10.11.2019

Heidi Ledford An outbreak of deadly lung injuries in vapers in the United States — many of them adolescents — shows no signs of stopping. So far, 805 e-cigarettes users have fallen ill, 12 of whom have died. The illnesses are fuelling a push among lawmakers and regulators to rein in the sale of e-cigarettes, in particular those with flavours that could be contributing to a worrying surge in youth vaping. It’s illegal for vendors in the United States to sell e-cigarettes to those younger than 18; in some states and cities, the age limit is 21. Yet more than a third of the sick vapers are younger than 21, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Public-health officials have yet to find a definitive cause for the lung injuries, according to the CDC. And they worry that some of the affected adolescents might never fully recover. But it’s unclear what impact, if any, the new restrictions on e-cigarette sales will have on the health crisis or the problem of youth vaping. In response to the recent spate of lung injuries, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — which regulates tobacco products including e-cigarettes — announced on 11 September that it plans to remove flavoured devices from the market, at least temporarily. The decision came as the agency was already seeking to regulate e-cigarettes after years of lax enforcement. Under FDA regulations, e-cigarette manufacturers must apply for agency approval to market their products. So far, none of the companies has submitted an application, but the FDA has nevertheless allowed their devices to stay on the market. The agency has given manufacturers until May 2020 to submit applications to continue selling their products.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26666 - Posted: 10.03.2019

By Matt Richtel and Sheila Kaplan The number of vaping-related lung illnesses has risen to 530 probable cases, according to an update on Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a Missouri man became the eighth to die from the mysterious ailments. During a news briefing, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the C.D.C., said officials expect more deaths because some people are suffering from severe lung illnesses. But the nation’s public health officials said they still were unable to pinpoint the cause, or causes, of the sicknesses that have resulted in hundreds of hospitalizations, with many in intensive care units. Dr. Schuchat said some patients are on ventilators and therefore are unable to tell investigators what substances they vaped. “I wish we had more answers,” she said. The C.D.C. provided the first demographic snapshot of the afflicted: Nearly three-quarters are male, two-thirds between 18 and 34. Sixteen percent are 18 or younger. “More than half of cases are under 25 years of age,” Dr. Schuchat said. Illnesses have now been reported in 38 states, and one United States territory. In the most recent case, in St. Louis, officials said on Thursday that a man in his mid-40s who had chronic pain had begun vaping last May. He was hospitalized Aug. 22 with respiratory problems and died on Wednesday. “He started out with shortness of breath and it rapidly progressed and deteriorated, developing into what is called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS),” said Dr. Michael Plisco, a critical care pulmonologist at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. “Once the lungs are injured by vaping, we don’t know how quickly it worsens and if it depends on other risk factors.” He and other officials said they did not know what substance the patient had been vaping, but Dr. Plisco said in an interview that tissue samples from his lungs showed cells stained with oil. Some products include oils that if inhaled — even small droplets — can cling to the lungs and airways and cause acute inflammation, doctors have said. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26626 - Posted: 09.20.2019

Scott Neuman New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday he will push for a ban on some electronic cigarettes amid a health scare linked to vaping — a move that would follow a similar ban enacted by Michigan and a call from President Trump for a federal prohibition on certain vaping products. Speaking in Manhattan, Cuomo, a Democrat, said the state's Public Health and Health Planning Council and state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker would issue an emergency regulation banning flavored e-cigarette products. "Vaping is dangerous," the governor said. "At a minimum, it is addicting young people to nicotine at a very early age." The push at the state and federal levels to ban certain vaping products comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that 380 confirmed or probable cases of lung disease associated with e-cigarettes had been identified in 36 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with six confirmed deaths. Earlier this month, Michigan imposed a similar ban. Bills to halt the sale of flavored vaping products have been introduced in California and Massachusetts. Last week, Trump, appearing beside Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, announced that his administration would move toward a federal ban of flavored vaping products. "Vaping has become a very big business, as I understand it, but we can't allow people to get sick and allow our youth to be so affected," the president said. © 2019 npr

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26617 - Posted: 09.17.2019

By Matt Richtel and Denise Grady Hundreds of people across the country have been sickened by a severe lung illness linked to vaping, and a handful have died, according to public health officials. Many were otherwise healthy young people, in their teens or early 20s. Investigators from numerous states are working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration in an urgent effort to figure out why. Here’s what we know so far. Who is at risk? Anyone who uses e-cigarettes or other vaping devices, whether to consume nicotine or substances extracted from marijuana or hemp, may be at risk because investigators have not determined whether a specific device or type of vaping liquid is responsible. The Food and Drug Administration is warning that there appears to be a particular danger for people who vape THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. The F.D.A. said a significant subset of samples of vaping fluid used by sick patients included THC and also contained a chemical called vitamin E acetate. The F.D.A. issued this statement: “Because consumers cannot be sure whether any THC vaping products may contain vitamin E acetate, consumers are urged to avoid buying vaping products on the street, and to refrain from using THC oil or modifying/adding any substances to products purchased in stores.” But some of the patients who have fallen severely ill said they did not vape THC. In 53 cases of the illness in Illinois and Wisconsin, 17 percent of the patients said they had vaped only nicotine products, according to an article published on Friday in The New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers who wrote the journal article cautioned, “e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless; it can expose users to substances known to have adverse health effects, including ultrafine particles, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and other harmful ingredients.” The health effects of some of those chemicals are not fully understood, the researchers wrote, even though the products are already on the market. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26591 - Posted: 09.09.2019

Giorgia Guglielmi People who have low-risk surgery in Canada and the United States fill prescriptions for opioid painkillers at nearly seven times the rate seen in Sweden, according to recent research1. Studying these differences could help nations such as the United States to develop prescribing guidelines to counteract the surge in opioid use that is devastating some communities, say the study authors. The findings, which are published on 4 September in JAMA Network Open, are the first to quantify the differences in opioid use for people who had similar types of surgery across countries. There’s anecdotal evidence that clinicians tend to prescribe more opioids after surgery in some countries than in others, says Mark Neuman, an anaesthesiologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who led the study. And over-prescription of opioids is associated with an increased risk of developing long-term dependence and addiction, he says. To investigate further, Neuman and his team gathered prescription data from between 2013 and 2016 from Canada, the United States and Sweden. The countries all have similar levels of surgical care as well as detailed data on opioid prescriptions. The team found that nearly 79% of people in Canada and about 76% of those in the United States who had one of 4 operations — and who filled their opioid prescriptions — did so within 7 days of leaving hospital, compared with 11% of people in Sweden (see ‘Painkiller prescriptions’). “That’s a striking difference,” says Gabriel Brat, a surgeon at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. The procedures were removals of the gallbladder, appendix, breast lumps or meniscus cartilage in the knee. © 2019 Springer Nature Publishing AG

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: 26590 - Posted: 09.09.2019

Selena Simmons-Duffin Peter Grinspoon got addicted to Vicodin in medical school, and still had an opioid addiction five years into practice as a primary care physician. Then, in February 2005, he got caught. "In my addicted mindframe, I was writing prescriptions for a nanny who had since returned back to another country," he says. "It didn't take the pharmacist long to figure out that I was not a 19-year-old nanny from New Zealand." One day, during lunch, the state police and the DEA showed up at his medical office in Boston. "I start going all, 'I'm glad you're here. How can I help you?' " he says. "And they're like, 'Doc, cut the crap. We know you're writing bad scripts.' " He was fingerprinted the next day and charged with three felony counts of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance. He also was immediately referred to a Physician Health Program, one of the state-run specialty treatment programs developed in the 1970s by physicians to help fellow physicians beat addiction. Known to doctors as PHPs, these programs now cover other sorts of health providers, too. The programs work with state medical licensing boards — if you follow the treatment and monitoring plan they set up for you, they'll recommend to the board that you get your medical license back, Grinspoon explains. It's a significant incentive. "The PHPs basically say, 'Do whatever we say or we won't give you a letter that will help you get back to work,' " Grinspoon says. "They put a gun to your head." But the problem, he and other critics say, is that, for various reasons, most PHPs don't allow medical professionals access to the same evidence-based, "gold standard" treatment that addiction specialists today recommend for most patients addicted to opioids: medication-assisted treatment. © 2019 npr

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26586 - Posted: 09.07.2019

By Lena H. Sun State and federal health officials investigating mysterious lung illnesses linked to vaping have found the same chemical in samples of marijuana products used by people sickened in different parts of the country and who used different brands of products in recent weeks. The chemical is an oil derived from vitamin E. Investigators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the oil in cannabis products in samples collected from patients who fell ill across the United States. FDA officials shared that information with state health officials during a telephone briefing this week, according to several officials who took part in the call. That same chemical was also found in nearly all cannabis samples from patients who fell ill in New York in recent weeks, a state health department spokeswoman said. While this is the first common element found in samples from across the country, health officials said it is too early to know whether this is causing the injuries. Vitamin E is found naturally in certain foods, such as canola oil, olive oil and almonds. The oil derived from the vitamin, known as vitamin E acetate, is commonly available as a nutritional supplement and is used in topical skin treatments. It is not known to cause harm when ingested as a vitamin supplement or applied to the skin. Its name sounds harmless, experts said, but its molecular structure could make it hazardous when inhaled. Its oil-like properties could be associated with the kinds of respiratory symptoms that many patients have reported: cough, shortness of breath and chest pain, officials said. “We knew from earlier testing by New York that they had found vitamin E acetate, but to have FDA talk about it from their overall testing plan, that was the most remarkable thing that we heard,” said one official who listened to the briefing but was not authorized to speak publicly. © 1996-2019 The Washington Post

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26581 - Posted: 09.06.2019

By Benedict Carey The announcement on Wednesday that Johns Hopkins Medicine was starting a new center to study psychedelic drugs for mental disorders was the latest chapter in a decades-long push by health nonprofits and wealthy donors to shake up psychiatry from the outside, bypassing the usual channels. “Psychiatry is one of the most conservative specialties in medicine,” said David Nichols, a medicinal chemist who founded the Heffter Research Institute in 1993 to fund psychedelic research. “We haven’t really had new drugs for years, and the drug industry has quit the field because they don’t have new targets” in the brain. “The field was basically stagnant, and we needed to try something different.” The fund-raising for the new Hopkins center was largely driven by the author and investor Tim Ferriss, who said in a telephone interview that he had put aside most of his other projects to advance psychedelic medicine. “It’s important to me for macro reasons but also deeply personal ones,” Mr. Ferriss, 42, said. “I grew up on Long Island, and I lost my best friend to a fentanyl overdose. I have treatment-resistant depression and bipolar disorder in my family. And addiction. It became clear to me that you can do a lot in this field with very little money.” Mr. Ferriss provided funds for a similar center at Imperial College London, which was introduced in April, and for individual research projects at the University of San Francisco, California, testing psilocybin as an aide to therapy for distress in long-term AIDS patients. Experiments using ecstasy and LSD, for end-of-life care, were underway by the mid-2000s. Soon, therapists began conducting trials of ecstasy for post-traumatic stress, with promising results. One of the most influential scientific reports appeared in 2006: a test of the effects of a strong dose of psilocybin on healthy adults. In that study, a team led by Roland Griffiths at Johns Hopkins found that the volunteers “rated the psilocybin experience as having substantial personal meaning and spiritual significance and attributed to the experience sustained positive changes in attitudes and behavior.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: 26580 - Posted: 09.06.2019

Nicoletta Lanese Federal health officials issued a warning yesterday (August 29), advising pregnant mothers and teens not to use marijuana. The surgeon general cautioned that marijuana use has adverse effects on brain development in teens and fetuses and has also been linked to later alcohol and opioid addiction, according to STAT News. At a press conference, officials reported that President Donald Trump has donated $100,000 toward a digital campaign to raise awareness of the risks of marijuana use in pregnancy and adolescence, according to the Associated Press. “No amount of marijuana use during pregnancy or adolescence is safe,” says Surgeon General Jerome Adams at a press conference, reports STAT News. “As I like to say, this ain’t your mother’s marijuana,” adds Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar. Between 1995 and 2014, the concentration of the psychoactive compound THC in marijuana plants tripled, according to the government advisory. “The higher the THC delivery, the higher the risk,” says Adams to NPR. Meanwhile, new delivery products such as vapes, waxes, and liquids make the drug easier to consume. See “Prenatal Exposure to Cannabis Affects the Developing Brain” Medicinal marijuana has been legalized in 33 states and the District of Columbia, and 11 states have legalized the drug’s recreational use, according to STAT News. However, no states allow recreational marijuana use by teens, and minors can only use medical marijuana with consent from a legal guardian and certification from a doctor, the AP reports. © 1986–2019 The Scientist.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26568 - Posted: 09.04.2019

By Sheila Kaplan and Matt Richtel An 18-year-old showed up in a Long Island emergency room, gasping for breath, vomiting and dizzy. When a doctor asked if the teenager had been vaping, he said no. The patient’s older brother, a police officer, was suspicious. He rummaged through the youth’s room and found hidden vials of marijuana for vaping. “I don’t know where he purchased it. He doesn’t know,” said Dr. Melodi Pirzada, chief pediatric pulmonologist at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., who treated the young man. “Luckily, he survived.” Dr. Pirzada is one of the many physicians across the country treating patients — now totaling more than 215 — with mysterious and life-threatening vaping-related illnesses this summer. The outbreak is “becoming an epidemic,” she said. “Something is very wrong.” Patients, mostly otherwise healthy and in their late teens and 20s, are showing up with severe shortness of breath, often after suffering for several days with vomiting, fever and fatigue. Some have wound up in the intensive care unit or on a ventilator for weeks. Treatment has been complicated by patients’ lack of knowledge — and sometimes outright denial — about the actual substances they might have used or inhaled. Health investigators are now trying to determine whether a particular toxin or substance has sneaked into the supply of vaping products, whether some people reused cartridges containing contaminants, or whether the risk stems from a broader behavior, like heavy e-cigarette use, vaping marijuana or a combination. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning to teenagers and other consumers, telling them to stop buying bootleg and street cannabis and e-cigarette products, and to stop modifying devices to vape adulterated substances. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26561 - Posted: 09.02.2019

Rebecca Schiller When Professor Judith Grisel sat down to write her book Never Enough (a guide to the neuroscience of addiction that has been her life’s work), she didn’t expect to share so much of her own story. Nevertheless the resulting chapters are a collision of the personal and professional, detailing the deep links between her work life and the decade of drug and alcohol addiction that almost destroyed her. On paper, Grisel was an unlikely candidate for going off the rails. One of three children, she describes a privileged upbringing in a progressive, suburban area of New Jersey. With an airline pilot father and a mother who was a registered nurse, Grisel remembers growing up in a “perfect-looking family”. As her research would go on to help demonstrate, there was no single factor that predicted her drug problems. Neuroscientists have found a complex blend of nature and nurture at work in addictive tendencies and their research shows that many genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors work together in complex ways that often remain elusive. “Why me?” is the question that underpins much of Grisel’s research, and she continues to wonder why friends who drank heavily with her in high school were spared addiction. In Never Enough she offers a smorgasbord of theories behind her own and others’ predisposition to addiction: an “extreme” personality and love of risk-taking, trying drugs at a young age, lower levels of endorphins in the brain, potential hypersensitivity to the neurological rewards of drugs alongside, more surprisingly, her own parents’ strict response to her behaviour. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26538 - Posted: 08.26.2019

By Carolyn Wilke Illicit drug use lurks in the shadows — one reason it’s difficult to study. But public health researchers pull together numbers from surveys, overdose records and other sources to look for trends in how much people spend on drugs, numbers of users and frequency of use that can help policy makers fight substance abuse. Now, an analysis released August 20 by the Rand Corporation estimates that people in the United States spent between $121 billion and $146 billion dollars annually on cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine from 2006 and 2016. The analysis puts the drugs’ combined total on the same order as Americans’ annual alcohol tab, based on market research on the alcohol industry. Among the four drugs, users in 2006 spent the most money on cocaine, around $58 billion (in 2018 dollars). But that spending on cocaine then dropped to $24 billion in 2016. Marijuana spending, meanwhile, roughly doubled to garner the greatest spending in 2016, at $52 billion. Also, from 2010 to 2016, the number of people who had used marijuana in the last month increased from an estimated 25 million to 32 million, a roughly 30 percent increase. The uptick in cannabis consumption wasn’t a surprise, says report coauthor Greg Midgette, a criminologist at the University of Maryland and the RAND Corporation. In the United States, at least 1 in 4 people now lives in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal for adults over the age of 21. Other trends also reinforce what drug policy experts knew about substance abuse in America. For instance, increasing heroin use from 2010 to 2016 likely reflects the opioid crisis (SN: 4/13/19, p. 32). But other findings were more surprising, Midgette says, such as increases in methamphetamine spending, users and consumption. From 2010 to 2016, the average purity of methamphetamine increased, and cost fell. “When the drug is available, pure and cheap, that’s troubling for public health,” he says. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2019.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 26536 - Posted: 08.24.2019