Chapter 4. The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology

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By Dina Fine Maron One evening this past fall a patient stumbled into the emergency room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “I don’t feel so…” she muttered, before losing consciousness. Her breathing was shallow and her pupils were pinpoints, typical symptoms of an opioid overdose. Her care team sprang into action. They injected her with 0.4 milligram of naloxone, an overdose antidote—but she remained unresponsive. They next tried one milligram, then two, then four. In total they used 12 milligrams in just five minutes, says Edward Boyer, the physician overseeing her care that night. Yet the patient still had trouble breathing. They put a tube down her throat and hooked her to a ventilator. Twenty minutes later she woke up—angry and in drug withdrawal, but alive. The patient, whose identifying details may have been altered to protect patient confidentiality, had apparently injected herself with a synthetic opioid such as fentanyl right outside of the hospital building. That gave her just enough time to seek help. But many users of synthetic opioids are not so lucky. These drugs, which bear little chemical resemblance to any opioid derived from the opium poppy, are much more powerful than poppy-based heroin and semisynthetic opioids such as oxycodone or hydrocodone. Thus, the standard dose of naloxone employed by first responders (and sold in bystander overdose kits) is often not potent enough to save a synthetic opioid user’s life. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Pain & Touch
Link ID: 24505 - Posted: 01.09.2018

Nicola Davis The prospect of a non-addictive alternatives to morphine and other opioids has moved a step closer as scientists say they have cracked a key challenge in developing safe and effective substitute painkillers. Overuse of highly addictive opioids has led to a health crisis across the world, especially in the US where more than 60,000 people died after overdoses in 2016 alone; president Donald Trump has declared the epidemic a public health emergency. Researchers looking for alternatives examined a receptor protein that interacts with opioids in the brain, and have now revealed its structure as it binds to a molecule related to morphine. While the structure of the receptor had previously been reported, this is the first time scientists have unveiled its structure as it interacts with a drug. The development, they say, could prove pivotal. The protein, known as the kappa opioid receptor, is one of four that interacts with opioids, but – crucially – while it can trigger pain-killing effects, it is not linked to problems including constipation, addiction risk and death as a result of overdose. “Tens of thousands of people are dying every year in the US because of opioid overdoses; in the last year more than 50,000 people died. That is as many as died in the Vietnam war in the US. It is a terrible, terrible crisis,” said Bryan Roth, co-author of the research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Pain & Touch
Link ID: 24497 - Posted: 01.06.2018

By Richard Stone Even 3 decades later, Seyed Naser Emadi's first encounter with nerve agents haunts him. In 1987, as a soldier fighting for Iran in its war with Iraq, he came across a hillside strewn with comrades killed by an Iraqi nerve agent, perhaps tabun or sarin. Unable to breathe, the victims had clawed at their necks to try to open a hole in their throats, recalls Emadi, now a dermatologist in Tehran. In fact, their windpipes were clear; the nerve agent had shut down control of breathing in the central nervous system. They "had no choice except death," he says. The long-term effects of nerve agents remain uncertain, but with the right antidotes, these poisons need not be an immediate death sentence. A few years after Emadi's experience, U.S. soldiers in 1991's Gulf War carried autoinjectors filled with drugs that—in principle—would keep them breathing and protect them from seizures if Iraqi forces again unleashed nerve agents. They never did, most historians agree, but the threat remains real today, as chemical attacks in Syria's ongoing civil war make clear. It is spurring urgent efforts to find better countermeasures, with several promising compounds in the pipeline. First synthesized by German chemists on the eve of World War II, nerve agents kill by binding to acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme that dismantles the neurotransmitter acetylcholine when it is released into synapses. One of the most efficient enzymes known, a single AChE molecule can hydrolyze 600,000 acetylcholine molecules per minute, says Palmer Taylor, a pharmacologist at the University of California, San Diego. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Neurotoxins
Link ID: 24492 - Posted: 01.05.2018

By Alfonso Serrano Elvis Alonzo began smoking cannabis as a last resort. Three years as a Marine Corps officer and 13 years with the Glendale Police Department in Arizona—where he was exposed to murders, suicides and people dying in his arms—had left him emotionally crippled. Toward the end of his police service, doctors diagnosed Alonzo with post-traumatic stress disorder and prescribed various medications to temper his nightmares and flashbacks. The drugs “turned me into a zombie,” he says. “I was so out of it that I couldn’t even drive, so they (the police department) had to medically retire me.” Alonzo stopped showering. His wife left him, and he nearly lost his house. Then a friend suggested he try marijuana to relieve his symptoms. “It’s been a godsend,” he says. “It curbs my anxiety, and it makes me sleep fantastic for at least four hours. It needs to be studied.” Thousands of military veterans have echoed Alonzo’s claim for years. They have pressured federal and state legislators to legalize medicinal cannabis and ease rules on research into the plant’s apparent therapeutic properties, arguing that it could help reduce suicide rates among former soldiers. Backed by overwhelming public support for broader legalization, their demands are starting to resonate in statehouses across the country. This past November, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo chose Veterans Day to make PTSD a qualifying condition for the state’s tightly controlled medical marijuana program. New York joined seven other states this year—and 27 overall—that include PTSD in their lists of conditions that qualify for medical cannabis. © 2018 Scientific America

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Stress
Link ID: 24491 - Posted: 01.05.2018

/ By Robin Lloyd Most Americans drink safely and in moderation, as many of us could attest earlier this week. But a steady annual increase in trips made to emergency rooms as a result of drinking alcohol added up to 61 percent more visits in 2014 compared with 2006, according to a study published this week in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. The increase is alarming but also a bit mysterious to neuroscientist Aaron White, one of the study’s authors, in part because the same nine-year period showed a mere 2 percent increase in per capita alcohol consumption overall, and an 8 percent increase in the number of emergency room visits for any reason. White and his four co-authors, three of whom work with him at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, have yet to understand what’s behind the dramatic increase in alcohol-related ER visits. “The lowest hanging fruit in terms of hypotheses is that there must be an increase in risky drinking in some people,” White says. “Even though that is not showing up in increases in overall per capita consumption, it’s enough to drive the increase in alcohol-related emergency department visits.” But there is no strong evidence for a national increase in binge drinking, he added. The new finding comes from an analysis of a nationally representative data set that includes information on about 30 million visits to U.S. hospital-based emergency departments annually, from 945 hospitals in 33 states and Washington, D.C. Copyright 2018 Undark

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24490 - Posted: 01.05.2018

Beyond the usual suspects of snakes, spiders, and scorpions, the animal kingdom is filled with noxious critters: snails, frogs, fish, anemones, and more make toxins for defense or predation. The noxious chemicals these animals produce are potent, and they often strike where it hurts: pain pathways. These compounds have long captivated researchers hoping to understand their effects and use that knowledge to develop drugs that suppress pain in a wide variety of ailments affecting humans. Paradoxically, some of these toxins are themselves analgesic, and researchers have worked to develop synthetic derivatives that can be tested as painkillers. Such is the case for the only toxin-derived analgesic to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA): ziconotide (Prialt), a compound 1,000 times more potent than morphine that was inspired by a component of the venom of the cone snail Conus magus. Other toxins elicit pain, and researchers have used these compounds to identify inhibitors of ion channels on the pain-sensing neurons they target. Despite more than half a century of research in this field, however, scientists have had a frustrating time developing effective analgesics. Challenges include ensuring that the drugs are highly specific to their targets—each family of ion channels involved in pain sensing in humans contains several conserved proteins—and getting them to those targets, which often lie beyond the blood-brain barrier in the central nervous system. Nevertheless, several toxin-derived candidates are beginning to prove their worth in preclinical experiments and a handful of clinical trials, and bioprospectors continue to mine the animal kingdom’s vast library of venoms and poisons for more leads. The next big thing in painkillers could soon be slithering, creeping, hopping, or swimming into the pipeline. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Pain & Touch; Neurotoxins
Link ID: 24485 - Posted: 01.04.2018

/ By Drew Smith For decades, no industry has been a more reliable moneymaker than pharmaceuticals. Immune to recession, drug companies regularly score 15 percent profit margins year after year. There is no danger of market saturation and, in the U.S., little prospect of government restraint of prices. Nearly all regulatory submissions win approval, and turnaround times are steadily decreasing. If you are an investor, what’s not to like? But all dominant and expanding industries are fueled by resources of one type or another. Some of these are tangible and obvious, like gold deposits. Their exploitation follows a familiar arc. There is an initial rush to simply pick nuggets up off the ground. When the nuggets have been picked, miners must search for pebbles, then sand, then dust. There are still fortunes to be made, but more and more capital investment is needed to separate the gold from the dross. If you are a drug company, drug targets are your resource. Our conception of disease has progressed through many understandings — as demonic possession, humoral imbalance, blockage of chi, disordering of machinery — and has now landed on the notion that it is either an invasion by microscopic creatures or bad behavior by large protein molecules. Health is restored by poisoning the invaders or correcting the proteins. Drugs are the agents that accomplish these goals. To a first approximation, drugs are small molecules that bind to specific large molecules. This is the one-disease, one-protein, one-drug paradigm, and it is the essential value proposition of the pharmaceutical industry. Companies identify protein targets and make drugs that alter target behavior. They are very, very good at this. So good that the supply of new drugs largely depends on the supply of new drug targets. Copyright 2018 Undark

Keyword: Depression; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 24480 - Posted: 01.03.2018

Linda Bauld Search for the term ‘vaping’ online and you’d be forgiven for thinking that it is an activity fraught with risks. The top stories relate to health problems, explosions and that vaping leads to smoking in teenagers. For the average smoker seeking information on vaping, a quick internet search offers little reassurance. Might as well continue smoking, the headlines imply, if these products are so dangerous. But the reality is that they are not. In the past year, more than any other, the evidence that using an e-cigarette is far safer than smoking has continued to accumulate. 2017 saw the publication of the first longer term study of vaping, comparing toxicant exposure between people who’d stopped smoking and used the products for an average of 16 months, compared with those who continued to smoke. Funded by Cancer Research UK, the study found large reductions in carcinogens and other toxic compounds in vapers compared with smokers, but only if the user had stopped smoking completely. A further recent study compared toxicants in vapour and smoke that can cause cancer, and estimated excess cancer risk over a lifetime from smoking cigarettes or vaping. Most of the available data on e-cigarettes in this study suggested a cancer risk from vaping around 1% of that from smoking. E-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking because they don’t contain tobacco. Inhaling burnt tobacco - but also chewing it - is hugely damaging to human health. Remove the tobacco and the combustion and it is hardly surprising that risk is reduced. That doesn’t mean e-cigarettes are harmless. But it does mean that we can be relatively confident that switching from smoking to vaping will have health benefits. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24474 - Posted: 12.30.2017

John Daley Seven years ago, Robert Kerley, who makes his living as a truck driver, was loading drywall onto his trailer when a gust of wind knocked him off. He fell 14 feet and hurt his back. For pain, a series of doctors prescribed him a variety of opioids: Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin. In less than a year, the 45-year-old from Federal Heights, Colo., says he was hooked. "I spent most of my time high, laying on the couch, not doing nothing, sleeping, dozing off, falling asleep everywhere," he says. Kerley lost weight. He lost his job. His relationships with his wife and kids suffered. He remembers when he hit rock bottom. One night hanging out in a friend's basement, he drank three beers and the alcohol reacted with an opioid in his system. "I was taking so much morphine that I respiratory arrested because of it," Kerley says. "I stopped breathing." An ambulance arrived, and EMTs administered the overdose reversal drug naloxone. Kerley was later hospitalized. As the father of a 12-year-old son, he knew he needed to turn things around. That's when he signed up for Kaiser Permanente's Integrated Pain Service. "After seven years of being on narcotics and in a spiral downhill, the only thing that pulled me out of it was going to this class," he says. "The only thing that pulled me out of it was doing and working the program that they ask you to work." © 2017 npr

Keyword: Pain & Touch; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24465 - Posted: 12.29.2017

By Simon Makin The brain's reward system learns the actions that produce positive outcomes, such as obtaining food or sex. It then reinforces the desire to initiate those behaviors by inducing pleasure in anticipation of the relevant action. But in some circumstances this system can become oversensitized to pleasurable but harmful behaviors, producing pathological impulses like drug addiction, binge eating and compulsive gambling. But what if we could spot impulsive urges in the brain and intervene to prevent the act? This is the promise of a new study published December 18 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, led by neurosurgeon Casey Halpern, of Stanford University. His team identified a “signature” of impulsive urges in part of the brain's reward-learning circuitry, the nucleus accumbens. Delivering electrical pulses to this region on detecting this activity reduced binge-eating behavior in mice. They also observed the same signature in a human brain, suggesting the technique has potential for treating a range of conditions involving compulsive behaviors. “We've identified a brain biomarker of loss of control,” Halpern says. “If we can use that to prevent any of these potentially dangerous actions, we can help a lot of people.” Researchers used a variation on deep-brain stimulation (DBS) in their experiments, a well-established treatment to diminish the shaking present in Parkinson's disease that is also showing promise in other conditions including depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Exactly how DBS has beneficial effects is still being debated, but there can be side effects. When treating movement disorders, patients may experience tingling and muscle contraction, says neurosurgeon Tipu Aziz of the University of Oxford. The long-term consequences in other regions are unknown but could include seizures, or effects on cognition, he says. © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Obesity
Link ID: 24441 - Posted: 12.20.2017

Esther Landhuis Picture this: While reaching for the cookie jar — or cigarette or bottle of booze or other temptation — a sudden slap denies your outstretched hand. When the urge returns, out comes another slap. Now imagine those "slaps" occurring inside the brain, protecting you in moments of weakness. In a report published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Stanford neuroscientists say they've achieved this sort of mind-reading in binge-eating mice. They found a telltale pattern of brain activity that comes up seconds before the animals start to pig out — and delivering a quick zap to that part of the brain kept the mice from overindulging. Whether this strategy could block harmful impulses in people remains unclear. For now the path seems promising. The current study used a brain stimulation device already approved for hard-to-treat epilepsy. And based on the new findings, a clinical trial testing this off-the-shelf system for some forms of obesity could start as early as next summer, says Casey Halpern, the study's leader and an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Stanford. He thinks the approach could also work for eating disorders and a range of other addictive or potentially life-threatening urges. As a physician-researcher, Halpern specializes in deep brain stimulation (DBS), a surgical treatment in which battery-powered implants send electrical pulses to brain areas where signals go awry. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Obesity; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24440 - Posted: 12.19.2017

Angus Chen Psychedelic drugs are getting a makeover, with scientists exploring their potential in treating debilitating conditions like cluster headaches, addiction or anxiety, with promising results. That's despite the fact that very few researchers are legally allowed to study psychedelics, largely because of LSD's decades-old reputation as a counterculture drug that sparked bad trips. Back in the 1960s, LSD was touted as a tool to shed social conventions and fast-forward to enlightenment – or as LSD advocate Timothy Leary memorably said, "Turn on, tune in, drop out." He was hardly the first to feel the chemical's allure. Back in the 1930s, Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann had shelved LSD after first testing it as a treatment for heart disease. But he couldn't shake the feeling that there was something more to it. After accidentally ingesting a bit and having a mild psychedelic experience, Hofmann decided to go further. He eats 250 micrograms of LSD and, scientist that he is, starts journaling his experience. He only gets one entry down before he starts having really intense hallucinations. As he bikes home, he feels like time and space are standing still and objects around him are warping and wavering in weird shapes. In the 1930's, Albert Hofmann accidentally ingested LSD during an experiment, which led him to experience a psychedelic reaction. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24435 - Posted: 12.18.2017

By SHEILA KAPLAN Chris Beekman, whose company sells the dietary supplement Opiate Detox Pro, does not understand what all the fuss is about. “If it works, it works,” Mr. Beekman, the owner of NutraCore Health Products, said in an interview. “If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.” His customers, addicts trying to shake a dependence on opioids, can always get their money back, he said. Opiate Detox Pro’s label says, “Opioid addiction ease,” and the company’s website claims, “Our ingredients are the most effective on the market for treating withdrawal symptoms.” Mr. Beekman said he did not have scientific evidence to prove that the product worked, and would not be conducting research to buttress the company’s claims. “It’s just not going to happen,” he said, citing what he called the prohibitive cost of scientific studies and clinical trials. Peter Lurie thinks that is an unacceptable position from someone who sells supplements that purport to treat addiction. Dr. Lurie, a former Food and Drug Administration official, runs the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, which on Friday urged the F.D.A. and the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on businesses that target addicts with products that make unproven health claims. The F.D.A. has already zeroed in on another supplement, kratom, a botanical substance that has been promoted as a safe substitute for opioids and an adjunct to opioid use. Last month, the agency issued a public health advisory for kratom, warning that the product carried “deadly risks,” and linked about three dozen deaths to it. Earlier, the agency had ordered that kratom imports be seized and told companies to take it out of supplements. In general, the agency can fine companies that make and distribute them, or take other enforcement actions. In the past few weeks, reacting to other agency warnings, Amazon has stopped making available some products claiming to assist in opioid withdrawal. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24410 - Posted: 12.09.2017

Paula Span Jeannie Cox currently enjoys a flavor called Coffee & Cream when she vapes. She’s also fond of White Lotus, which tastes “kind of fruity.” She buys those nicotine-containing liquids, along with her other e-cigarette supplies, at Mountain Oak Vapors in Chattanooga, Tenn., where she lives. A retired secretary in her 70s, she’s often the oldest customer in the shop. Not that she cares. What matters is that after ignoring decades of doctors’ warnings and smoking two packs a day, she hasn’t lit up a conventional cigarette in four years and four months. “Not one cigarette,” she said. “Vaping took its place.” Like Ms. Cox, some smokers have been able to stop smoking by switching to e-cigarettes, and many are trying. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more smokers now attempt to quit by using e-cigarettes as a partial or total substitute for cigarettes than by using nicotine gum or lozenges, prescription medications or several other more established methods. Her success is what researchers disdainfully call “anecdotal evidence,” however. There’s “no conclusive evidence” that e-cigarettes help people stop smoking long-term, said Brian King, deputy director of the C.D.C.’s Office of Smoking and Health. At the moment, therefore, neither the C.D.C., the Food and Drug Administration nor the United States Preventive Services Task Force has approved or recommended e-cigarettes for smoking cessation. In fact, the rise of e-cigarettes has generated contentious debate among public health officials and advocates. But while the proportion of Americans who smoke continues to decrease — down to 15.1 percent in 2015 — the decline has stalled among older adults. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24409 - Posted: 12.09.2017

Aimee Cunningham To halt the misuse of opioids, it may help to slash the number of pills prescribed, a new study suggests. Five months after the implementation of new opioid prescription guidelines at a University of Michigan hospital, roughly 7,000 fewer pills went home with patients — a drop that might reduce the risk of accessible pills leading to substance abuse. But the opioid reduction didn’t leave patients who had undergone a routine surgery with more pain, the team reports online December 6 in JAMA Surgery. “The decline in opioid volume after the intervention was dramatic,” says physician Mark Bicket of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study. Around 50 percent of people who misuse opioids get the drugs from a friend or relative for free, while 22 percent obtain them from a doctor, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Michael Englesbe, a surgeon at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, says that part of doing a better job of managing patients’ pain “will be preventing chronic opioid use after surgical care and making sure fewer pills get into the community.” Englesbe and colleagues looked at 170 people who had a minimally invasive surgery to remove their gall bladders at the University of Michigan hospital from 2015 to 2016. All had received a prescription for opioids. Of those patients, 100 completed a survey detailing how much of the prescription they took, whether they also used a common painkiller such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, and how they rated their pain during the first week after surgery. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Pain & Touch
Link ID: 24400 - Posted: 12.07.2017

By DOUGLAS QUENQUA If you grew up as part of the D.A.R.E. generation — kids of the 1980s and ’90s who learned about drugs from alarmist public service announcements — you know all too well the dangers of so-called gateway drugs. Go to bed with marijuana or beer, you were taught, and risk waking up with cocaine or heroin. Three decades later, scientists and politicians still debate whether using “soft” drugs necessarily leads a person down a slippery slope to the harder stuff. Critics note that marijuana has, in some cases, been shown to actually prevent people from abusing other substances. And even D.A.R.E. now acknowledges that the overwhelming majority of people who smoke pot or drink never graduate to pills and powders. But new research is breathing fresh life into the perennially controversial theory, and the timing seems apt. As marijuana legalization and the opioid epidemic sweep across the country, parents are once again questioning the root causes of addiction. And politicians opposed to legalization, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, have routinely used the gateway effect as their chief argument against reform. A Columbia University study published in November in Science Advances showed that rats exposed to alcohol were far more likely than other rats to push a lever that released cocaine. The researchers also found that the alcohol suppressed two genes that normally act as cutoff switches for the effects of cocaine, creating a “permissive environment” for the drug within the rodents’ brains. A similar study from 2011 — conducted by some of the same researchers, most notably Denise Kandel, who helped formulate the gateway theory in 1975 — produced comparable findings using nicotine and mice. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24399 - Posted: 12.07.2017

Terry Gross This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Here's how my guest describes his work. He writes, (reading) I am an anesthesiologist. I erase consciousness, deny memories, steal time, immobilize the body. I alter heart rate, blood pressure and breathing, and then I reverse these effects. I eliminate pain during a procedure, and I prevent it afterwards. I care for sick people, and I have saved lives, but it's rare that I'm the actual healer. That's from the opening of Dr. Henry Jay Przybylo's new memoir, "Counting Backwards: A Doctor's Notes On Anesthesia." He specializes in pediatric anesthesiology and estimates he treats about 1,000 children a year from micropreemies (ph) to teenagers. He's dealt with benign conditions, like the removal of a skin mole, as well as potentially fatal ones, like clipping a cerebral artery aneurism and heart transplants. He's also an associate professor at the Northwestern University School of Medicine. Dr. Przybylo, welcome to FRESH AIR. Your book is called "Counting Backwards." So why do anesthesiologists ask patients to count backwards from 100? HENRY JAY PRZYBYLO: You know, I'm not sure. I searched the Internet and everything to try and find the answer to that, and the closest I can come to is that around 1940s, we came up - medicines were developed to induce anesthesia that were given through veins - IV - and they were extremely quick-acting. And I think sometime, some anesthesiologist somewhere just wanted to see how long it would take and asked the patient to start counting backwards from a hundred, realizing they never made it out of the 90s before they were anesthetized, and I think that just stuck. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 24375 - Posted: 11.29.2017

By Claudia Wallis American parents have been warning teenagers about the dangers of marijuana for about 100 years. Teenagers have been ignoring them for just as long. As I write this, a couple of kids are smoking weed in the woods just yards from my office window and about a block and a half from the local high school. They started in around 9 A.M., just in time for class. Exaggerating the perils of cannabis—the risks of brain damage, addiction, psychosis—has not helped. Any whiff of Reefer Madness hyperbole is perfectly calibrated to trigger an adolescent's instinctive skepticism for whatever an adult suggests. And the unvarnished facts are scary enough. We know that being high impairs attention, memory and learning. Some of today's stronger varieties can make you physically ill and delusional. But whether marijuana can cause lasting damage to the brain is less clear. Advertisement A slew of studies in adults have found that nonusers beat chronic weed smokers on tests of attention, memory, motor skills and verbal abilities, but some of this might be the result of lingering traces of cannabis in the body of users or withdrawal effects from abstaining while taking part in a study. In one hopeful finding, a 2012 meta-analysis found that in 13 studies in which participants had laid off weed for 25 days or more, their performance on cognitive tests did not differ significantly from that of nonusers. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 24370 - Posted: 11.28.2017

By Nathaniel Morris Depression afflicts an estimated 16 million Americans every year, many of whom go to their doctors in despair, embarking on an often stressful process about what to do next. These visits may entail filling out forms with screening questions about symptoms such as mood changes and difficulty sleeping. Doctors may ask patients to share intimate details about such issues as marital conflicts and suicidal urges. Some patients may be referred to mental-health specialists for further examination. Once diagnosed with depression, patients frequently face the question: “Are you interested in therapy, medications or both?” As a resident physician in psychiatry, I’ve seen many patients grapple with this question; the most frequent answer I’ve heard from patients is “I’m not sure.” Deciding between different types of medical treatment can be challenging, especially amid the fog of depression. Moreover, patients rely on doctors to help guide them, and we’re often not sure ourselves which is the best approach for a specific patient. People commonly associate psychotherapy with Freud and couches, but newer, evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy have become prominent in the field. CBT helps patients develop strategies to address harmful thoughts, emotions and behaviors that may contribute to depression. There are many proposed explanations for how specific psychotherapies treat depression. These possibilities include giving patients social support and teaching coping skills, and researchers are using neuroimaging to study how these treatments affect depressed patients’ brains. © 1996-2017 The Washington Post

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 24362 - Posted: 11.26.2017

Sarah Marsh In fields across Switzerland the harvest time for cannabis is coming to an end, and workers are distributing the crop to shops in France and Switzerland. Soon, the plants could be available across much of Europe. The man behind the operation is 31-year-old Jonas Duclos, a former banker, and what he is doing is legal. His business, CBD420, sells BlueDream, a strain of hemp cultivated to ensure the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, is low enough (0.2%) to be lawful in most European countries. The UK is one of the exceptions: any trace of THC is outlawed. While low in THC, BlueDream is high in cannabidiol (CBD), another compound found in cannabis, which is non-psychoactive and has been shown to have medicinal qualities, for example, acting as a powerful anti-inflammatory. CBD is not a controlled substance in Europe, and in Britain does not require a licence from the Home Office to be sold if it can be extracted from cannabis. Duclos’s “legal weed” is on sale in more than 1,000 tobacco shops in Switzerland, where THC is allowed up to 1% concentration, and in 15 to 20 shops in France, where the limit is 0.2%. “There is a loophole that lets us bring it on the market,” Duclos explains. The plan is now to take the product elsewhere in Europe, with Italy among his next targets. While the company’s low-THC hemp is illegal in the UK, its CBD oils and balms will be available in some British shops from mid-December. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24361 - Posted: 11.26.2017