Chapter 4. The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology

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David Cox Claudia Kieffer remembers the first time she encountered the drug she describes as having “saved my life”. Eight years ago, Kieffer, who had suffered from treatment-resistant depression for decades, was given ketamine as a routine anaesthetic, as part of a post-mastectomy breast reconstruction procedure. But as well as alleviating the pain, Kieffer noticed an instantaneous change in her state of mind. “My head suddenly felt different to any previous time in my entire life,” she says. “I wasn’t high. It wasn’t like I had smoked a joint or had morphine. It was like a spring breeze had blown through my head and just cleaned out all the detritus that had built up over years and years. And when you’ve suffered from depression for as long as I had, it feels like you’re drowning. So when something comes along that makes you feel so very different and healthy, you want to know what that drug is.” Get Society Weekly: our newsletter for public service professionals Read more At the time, Kieffer had tried almost every depression-related treatment available, without success. “I’d had three nervous breakdowns and been hospitalised three times,” she remembers. “I’d had 13 rounds of electric-shock therapy and it didn’t help. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I would self-medicate, just because that’s what you do when you don’t know what else to do. I was thinking about taking my life every single day. I just wanted to fall asleep and not wake up.”

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 26071 - Posted: 03.25.2019

By Michelle Roberts Health editor, BBC News online Smoking potent 'skunk-like' cannabis increases your risk of serious mental illness, say researchers. They estimate around one in 10 new cases of psychosis may be associated with strong cannabis, based on their study of European cities and towns. In London and Amsterdam, where most of the cannabis that is sold is very strong, the risk could be much more, they say in The Lancet Psychiatry. Daily use of any cannabis also makes psychosis more likely, they found. Experts say people should be aware of the potential risks to health, even though the study is not definitive proof of harm. Lead researcher and psychiatrist Dr Marta Di Forti said: "If you decide to use high potency cannabis bear in mind there is this potential risk." Dr Adrian James from the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: "This is a good quality study and the results need to be taken seriously." People experiencing psychosis lose touch with reality, and may hear voices, see things that are not actually there or have delusional, confused thoughts. It is a recognised medical condition and different to getting high on a drug. There is disagreement as to what extent cannabis might cause or worsen mental health problems and many countries have gone ahead and legalised or decriminalised cannabis use. Doctors are concerned about the growing use of high potency cannabis that contains lots of the ingredient THC - the one that gives the high. Skunk-like cannabis with a THC content of 14% now makes up 94% of the drug sold on the streets of London, according to experts. © 2019 BBC

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 26053 - Posted: 03.20.2019

Emery N. Brown, Francisco J. Flores General anesthetics work by altering the activity of specific neurons in the brain. One main class of these drugs, which includes propofol and the ether-derivative sevoflurane, work primarily by increasing the activity of inhibitory GABAA receptors, while a second class that includes ketamine primarily blocks excitatory NMDA receptors. The GABAA receptor is a channel that allows chloride ions to flow into the neuron, decreasing the voltage within the cell relative to the extracellular space. Such hyper­polarization decreases the probability that the neuron will fire. Propofol and sevoflurane increase the chloride current going into the cell, making the inhibition more potent. The NMDA receptor allows sodium and calcium ions to flow into the cell, while letting potassium ions out, increasing the voltage within the cell relative to the extra­cellular space and increasing the probability of neural firing. Ketamine blocks this receptor, decreasing its excitatory actions. Anesthetics’ interactions with neural receptors alter how neurons work, and as a consequence, how different brain regions communicate. These alterations manifest as highly structured oscillations in brain activity that are associated with the dramatic behavioral changes characteristic of general anesthesia. © 1986 - 2019 The Scientist

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 26048 - Posted: 03.19.2019

By Haider Warraich The United States uses a third of the world’s opioids but a fifth of Americans still say they suffer from chronic pain. The only demonstrable effect of two decades of widespread prescription of opioids has been catastrophic harm. With more than 47,000 Americans dying of opioid overdoses in 2017 and hundreds of thousands more addicted to them, it was recently reported that, for the first time, Americans were more likely to die of opioids than of car accidents. This has forced many to take a step back and ponder the very nature of pain, to understand how best to alleviate it. The ancient Greeks considered pain a passion — an emotion rather than a sensation like touch or smell. During the Dark Ages in Europe, pain was seen as a punishment for sins, a spiritual and emotional experience alleviated through prayers rather than prescriptions. In the 19th century, the secularization of Western society led to the secularization of pain. It was no longer a passion to be endured but a sensation to be quashed. The concept of pain as a purely physical phenomenon reached its zenith in the 1990s, when medical organizations such as the American Pain Society and the Department of Veterans Affairs succeeded in having pain designated a “fifth vital sign,” alongside blood pressure, temperature and breathing and heart rate. This coincided with the release of long-acting opioids like OxyContin. Doctors believed they now had an effective remedy for their patients’ suffering. While opioids do help many patients with acute pain from injuries, surgeries or conditions like cancer, looking back it’s clear that using opioids to treat chronic pain — backaches, bum knees and the like — might well be considered the worst medical mistake of our era. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Pain & Touch; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 26047 - Posted: 03.18.2019

By Jonathan N. Stea Cannabis is deeply misunderstood. It has been hailed as a potential hero in the fight against all ailments, including cancer and the opioid epidemic. It has also been called the devil’s lettuce, with claims that its use will lead to laziness, madness and even murder. In part, this polarization in beliefs can be explained by the complexity of cannabis. It is not helpful or accurate to think about cannabis as a single substance, but rather as a mixture of over 500 chemicals with varying combinations of dosages. Given that cannabis is essentially a chemical soup that until recently had mostly been prepared in the black marketplace, it has been difficult to draw conclusions from research about its effects. This is particularly true in the area of addiction and mental health, where many factors contribute to the muddy the picture of whether cannabis can be helpful or harmful. In recent years, it has been suggested that cannabis could be the white knight of the opioid epidemic. Indeed, recent state regulations in the United States (e.g., Illinois, New York) have explicitly approved medical cannabis as a treatment for opioid addiction. Critics of these policy decisions have argued that there is not yet enough evidence to support and promote cannabis as an effective treatment. They are correct. There have been no randomized controlled trials evaluating cannabis specifically for the treatment of opioid addiction. © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 26043 - Posted: 03.16.2019

By Sheila Kaplan and Matt Richtel Dr. Scott Gottlieb became commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration in 2017 with an ambitious plan to reduce cigarette smoking, a habit that kills nearly half a million Americans each year, by shifting smokers to less harmful alternatives like e-cigarettes. But he was quickly embroiled in an unexpected crisis: the explosion of vaping among millions of middle and high school students, many of whom were getting addicted to nicotine. Dr. Gottlieb will depart at the end of this month, following his sudden announcement last week that he would resign, with his plans to toughen regulation of both vaping and smoking unfinished and powerful lobbying forces quietly celebrating the exit of a politically canny administrator who aggressively wielded his regulatory powers. Opponents are already swooping in, making their case to Congress and reaching out to the White House. A coalition of conservative organizations that oppose government intervention in the marketplace has harshly criticized Dr. Gottlieb’s crackdown on e-cigarettes. Retailers, including convenience store and gas station owners, are on Capitol Hill lobbying against guidelines Dr. Gottlieb proposed on Wednesday to restrict sales of most flavored e-cigarettes to separate adult-only areas and to require age verification of customers. And major tobacco companies are likely to seize on his departure to try to scuttle his long-term plans to lower nicotine levels in cigarettes to nonaddictive levels and to ban menthol cigarettes, which make up more than a third of the cigarette market and dominate sales to African-Americans. Some longtime officials inside the F.D.A. said privately that they fear these ideas could be delayed indefinitely. “There have been well-intentioned commissioners before Gottlieb,” said Jonathan Havens, a former F.D.A. tobacco lawyer now in private practice. “But they were not as good at capturing the attention of the nation, of the stakeholders. I think that momentum could very well stall on some of these products, or be lost completely.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 26042 - Posted: 03.16.2019

By Andrew Jacobs What do these ads featuring Joe Camel, Kool-Aid Man and the maniacal mascot for Hawaiian Punch have in common? All three were created by Big Tobacco in the decades when cigarette makers, seeking to diversify their holdings, acquired some of America’s iconic beverage brands. They used their expertise in artificial flavor, coloring and marketing to heighten the products’ appeal to children. That tobacco companies once sold sugar-sweetened drinks like Tang, Capri Sun and Kool-Aid is not exactly news. But researchers combing through a vast archive of cigarette company documents at the University of California, San Francisco stumbled on something revealing: Internal correspondence showed how tobacco executives, barred from targeting children for cigarette sales, focused their marketing prowess on young people to sell sugary beverages in ways that had not been done before. The archive, known as the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, was created as part of a settlement between major cigarette companies and states that were seeking to recoup smoking-related health care costs. The researchers published their findings on Thursday in the medical publication BMJ. Using child-tested flavors, cartoon characters, branded toys and millions of dollars in advertising, the companies cultivated loyalty to sugar-laden products that health experts said had greatly contributed to the nation’s obesity crisis. At a time of mounting childhood obesity, with nearly a third of children in the United States overweight or obese and rates of type 2 diabetes soaring among adolescents, the study’s authors said it was important to chart how companies created and marketed junk food and sugary drinks to youngsters. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Obesity
Link ID: 26036 - Posted: 03.15.2019

By Jan Hoffman and Abby Goodnough Three years ago this month, as alarms about the over-prescription of opioid painkillers were sounding across the country, the federal government issued course-correcting guidelines for primary care doctors. Prescriptions have fallen notably since then, and the Trump administration is pushing for them to drop by another third by 2021. But in a letter to be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday, more than 300 medical experts, including three former White House drug czars, contend that the guidelines are harming one group of vulnerable patients: those with severe chronic pain, who may have been taking high doses of opioids for years without becoming addicted. They say the guidelines are being used as cover by insurers to deny reimbursement and by doctors to turn patients away. As a result, they say, patients who could benefit from the medications are being thrown into withdrawal and suffering renewed pain and a diminished quality of life, even to the point of suicide. The letter writers form an uneasy alliance spanning differing positions on opioids — professors of addiction medicine as well as pain specialists, some patient representatives who have taken money from the pharmaceutical industry, and the former drug czars, from the Obama, Clinton and Nixon administrations. Michael Botticelli, who served as the drug czar under President Obama and now leads the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center, said he signed the letter because “there has been enough anecdotal evidence to raise the alarm bells” about the misuse of the guidelines leading to pain patients losing effective treatment. “The C.D.C. really does need a rigorous evaluation of this because we don’t know how big the problem is,” he said. “Minimally, we need some level of clarification on appropriate use of the guidelines.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Pain & Touch; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 26016 - Posted: 03.07.2019

By Carolyn Y. Johnson and Laurie McGinley The Food and Drug Administration approved a novel antidepressant late Tuesday for people with depression that does not respond to other treatments — the first in decades to work in a completely new way in the brain. The drug, a nasal spray called esketamine, has been eagerly anticipated by psychiatrists and patient groups as a powerful new tool to fight intractable depression. The spray acts within hours, rather than weeks or months as is typical for current antidepressants, and could offer a lifeline to about 5 million people in the United States with major depressive disorder who haven’t been helped by current treatments. That accounts for about one in three people with depression. “This is undeniably a major advance,” said Jeffrey Lieberman, a Columbia University psychiatrist. But he cautioned much is still unknown about the drug, particularly regarding its long-term use. “Doctors will have to be very judicious and feel their way along,” he said. The label for the drug will carry a black box warning – the most serious safety warning issued by the FDA. It will caution users they could experience sedation and problems with attention, judgment and thinking, and that there’s potential for abuse and suicidal thoughts. People who take esketamine will have to be monitored for at least two hours after receiving a dose to guard against some of these side effects. The medicine has a complex legacy because it is a component of ketamine, which was approved years ago as an anesthetic and was once popular as a party drug called Special K. Esketamine must be administered under medical supervision and can only be used in a certified doctor’s office or clinic, according to the conditions of the FDA approval. It is to be taken with an oral antidepressant. © 1996-2019 The Washington Post

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 26013 - Posted: 03.06.2019

By Benedict Carey Thousands, perhaps millions, of people who try to quit antidepressant drugs experience stinging withdrawal symptoms that last for months to years: insomnia, surges of anxiety, even so-called brain zaps, sensations of electric shock in the brain. But doctors have dismissed or downplayed such symptoms, often attributing them to the recurrence of underlying mood problems. The striking contrast between the patients’ experience and their doctors’ judgment has stirred heated debate in Britain, where last year the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists publicly denied claims of lasting withdrawal in “the vast majority of patients.” Patient-advocacy groups demanded a public retraction; psychiatrists, in the United States and abroad, came to the defense of the Royal College. Now, a pair of prominent British psychiatrists has broken ranks, calling the establishment’s position badly mistaken and the standard advice on withdrawal woefully inadequate. In a paper published Tuesday in the Lancet, the authors argued that any responsible withdrawal regimen should have the patient tapering off medication over months or even years, depending on the individual, and not over four weeks, the boilerplate advice. The paper is by far the strongest research-backed denunciation of standard tapering practice by members of the profession. “I know people who stop suddenly and get no side effects,” said Dr. Mark Horowitz, a clinical research fellow at Britain’s National Health Service and King’s College London, and one of the paper’s authors. But many people, he said, “have to pull apart their capsules and reduce the dosage bead by bead. We provided the science to back up what they’re already doing.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 26012 - Posted: 03.06.2019

/ By Jonathan S. Jones Newly unsealed documents from a lawsuit by the state of Massachusetts allege that Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin and other addictive opioids, actively sniffed out new, sinister ways to cash in on the opioid crisis. Despite years of negative press coverage, unwanted attention from regulators, multimillion dollar fines and several major lawsuits, Purdue staff and owners sought to expand the company’s sights beyond its usual array of opioid painkillers. Purdue planned to become an “end-to-end pain provider,” by branching into the market for opioid addiction and overdose medicines, looking to peddle these medicines even while the company continued to aggressively market its addictive opioids. Internal research materials coldly explained the rationale behind this plan: “Pain treatment and addiction are naturally linked.” As thousands of Americans continue to overdose on opioids annually, Purdue’s secret marketing research predicted that sales of naloxone, the overdose reversal drug, and buprenorphine, a medicine used to treat opioid addiction, would increase exponentially. Addiction to Purdue’s opioids would thus drive the sale of the company’s opioid addiction and overdose medicines. Purdue even planned to target as customers patients already taking the company’s opioids and doctors who prescribed opioids excessively, according to the Massachusetts lawsuit filing. To keep the plan quiet, Purdue staff dubbed the scheme “Project Tango.” Copyright 2019 Undark

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 26005 - Posted: 03.05.2019

Assessing the patterns of energy use and neuronal activity simultaneously in the human brain improves our understanding of how alcohol affects the brain, according to new research by scientists at the National Institutes of Health. The new approach for characterizing brain energetic patterns could also be useful for studying other neuropsychiatric diseases. A report of the findings is now online in Nature Communications. “The brain uses a lot of energy compared to other body organs, and the association between brain activity and energy utilization is an important marker of brain health,” said George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of NIH, which funded the study. “This study introduces a new way of characterizing how brain activity is related to its consumption of glucose, which could be very useful in understanding how the brain uses energy in health and disease.” The research was led by Dr. Ehsan Shokri-Kojori and Dr. Nora D. Volkow of the NIAAA Laboratory of Neuroimaging. Dr. Volkow is also the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at NIH. In previous studies they and their colleagues have shown that alcohol significantly affects brain glucose metabolism, a measure of energy use, as well as regional brain activity, which is assessed through changes in blood oxygenation. “The findings from this study highlight the relevance of energetics for ensuring normal brain function and reveal how it is disrupted by excessive alcohol consumption,” says Dr. Volkow.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Brain imaging
Link ID: 26004 - Posted: 03.05.2019

By Roni Caryn Rabin Cannabidiol, or CBD, a nonintoxicating component of the marijuana plant, is touted as a magic bullet that eases pain, anxiety, insomnia and depression. Salves, sprays, tinctures and oils containing CBD are marketed as aphrodisiacs that boost desire; as balms for eczema, pimples and hot flashes; and even as treatments for serious diseases like diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Unlike THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the “psychoactive” component of the cannabis plant, CBD won’t get you “high.” But scientists know little about what it can do: Most of the information about CBD’s effects in humans is anecdotal or extrapolated from animal studies, and few rigorous trials have been conducted. “It is a kind of a new snake oil in the sense that there are a lot of claims and not so much evidence,” said Dustin Lee, an assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University who is planning a human trial of CBD for use in quitting smoking. The Food and Drug Administration has approved some drugs made from synthetic substances similar to THC to treat poor appetite and nausea in people with A.I.D.S. or cancer. But so far, the F.D.A. has approved only one drug containing CBD, Epidiolex, after clinical trials found it reduced seizures in children with two rare, severe forms of epilepsy. “There’s a lot of hype about everything about CBD,” said Dr. Orrin Devinsky, the director of the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, who led the Epidiolex studies and went out of his way to say the drug’s effect was “not miraculous.” “There is certainly data that it has a variety of anti-inflammatory effects, but whether that translates into improving human health is unknown. Does it help people with eczema, rheumatoid arthritis or ulcerative colitis? We don’t know. There is a good theoretical basis, but the studies have not been done.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Sleep
Link ID: 25988 - Posted: 02.27.2019

By Tom Avril Smoking cigarettes has long been known for its ability to damage eyesight, on top of the harm it causes to the lungs, heart and other organs. But a new study suggests that smoking can impair vision far earlier than is commonly thought. Heavy smokers with an average age of 35 were markedly worse than nonsmokers at distinguishing colors as well as the contrast between different shades of gray, the study authors said. Previous research has linked smoking with macular degeneration and cataracts, which tend to occur decades later. The new results, published in Psychiatry Research, do not indicate how smoking damages perception of color and contrast. But the broad nature of the impairment suggests that it is not the result of damage to specific kinds of light-sensitive cells, such as rods or cones, said co-author Steven Silverstein, a professor of psychiatry and ophthalmology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Instead, cigarette use probably harms a more general aspect of vision biology, such as blood vessels or nerve cells. “There is probably some more widespread problem like overall blood flow in the eye that is compromised due to all the toxic chemicals in cigarettes,” said Silverstein, who collaborated with authors from the Perception, Neuroscience and Behavior Laboratory in Joao Pessoa, Brazil. © 1996-2019 The Washington Post

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Vision
Link ID: 25985 - Posted: 02.26.2019

A genetic variant found only in people of African descent significantly increases a smoker’s preference for cigarettes containing menthol, a flavor additive. The variant of the MRGPRX4 gene is five to eight times more frequent among smokers who use menthol cigarettes than other smokers, according to an international group of researchers supported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health. The multiethnic study is the first to look across all genes to identify genetic vulnerability to menthol cigarettes. The paper was published online in the journal PLOS Genetics (link is external) on Feb. 15. Menthol provides a minty taste and a cooling or soothing sensation, and plays a particularly troubling role in U.S. cigarette smoking patterns. According to the FDA, nearly 20 million people in the United States smoke menthol cigarettes, which are particularly popular among African-American smokers and teen smokers. In the U.S., 86 percent of African-American smokers use menthol cigarettes, compared to less than 30 percent of smokers of European descent. In addition, menthol cigarettes may be harder to quit than other cigarettes. Although not originally the focus of the study, researchers also uncovered clues as to how menthol may reduce the irritation and harshness of smoking cigarettes. “This study sheds light on the molecular mechanisms of how menthol interacts with the body,” said Andrew Griffith, M.D., Ph.D., scientific director and acting deputy director of NIH’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders (NIDCD). “These results can help inform public health strategies to lower the rates of harmful cigarette smoking among groups particularly vulnerable to using menthol cigarettes.”

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 25969 - Posted: 02.18.2019

Terry Gross Growing up, neuroscientist Judith Grisel would take little sips of alcohol at family events, but it wasn't until she was 13 that she experienced being drunk for the first time. Everything changed. "It was so complete and so profound," she says. "I suddenly felt less anxious, less insecure, less inept to cope with the world. Suddenly I was full and OK in a way that I had never been." Grisel began chasing that feeling. Over the years, she struggled with alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. But along the way, she also became interested in the neuroscience of addiction. "I'm always interested in the mechanisms of things," she says. "And when I heard that I had a disease, I kind of felt naturally that that would have a biological basis, and I figured that I could study that biological basis and understand it and then maybe fix it." Now it has been 30 years without using drugs or alcohol for Grisel, a professor of psychology at Bucknell University, where she studies how addictive drugs work on the brain. Her new book is Never Enough: The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction. Interview Highlights On how drug and alcohol abuse affects the brains of young people The changes in behavior that happen during adolescence are so important and lasting because the brain is forming permanent structures. So whatever you experience as an adolescent is going to have a much more impactful influence on the rest of your life trajectory than it would, say, if you did this at another time in development when your brain wasn't so prone to changing. © 2019 npr

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25958 - Posted: 02.13.2019

By Jill U. Adams A lot of people out there don’t get enough sleep — more than 1 in 3 American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re one of them, you probably know there are two main treatments for improving sleep: behavioral methods and medications. When you’re desperate for a good night’s sleep, medications sure do sound appealing. But there are caveats with them all — the prescription pills, the over-the-counter products and the herbal supplements. Before describing the medications in detail, I’ll remind you that the prevailing wisdom is that cognitive behavioral therapy, which involves changing habits and bedtime rituals, is the first-line treatment for insomnia. Sleep experts say CBT is more effective and longer lasting than medication for most people — but maybe you’re not most people. “There’s clearly a subset of patients who don’t improve with CBT,” says Andrew Krystal, who directs the sleep research program at the University of California at San Francisco. There’s also a problem with access, he says, as CBT requires effort. Even some of the seemingly simple online versions have fees attached. Another thing to consider before looking at medications is that sleep troubles often result from something else, such as sleep apnea or depression. Also, alcohol and caffeine intake can interfere with good sleep, as can certain medications, says Constance Dunlap, a D.C. psychiatrist in private practice. A doctor can help you rule out or address these issues. “I get a lot of information,” Dunlap says. © 1996-2019 The Washington Post

Keyword: Sleep; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25951 - Posted: 02.11.2019

By Agata Boxe Police officers investigating a crime may hesitate to interview drunk witnesses. But waiting until they sober up may not be the best strategy; people remember more while they are still inebriated than they do a week later, a new study finds. Malin Hildebrand Karlén, a senior psychology lecturer at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, and her colleagues recruited 136 people and gave half of them vodka mixed with orange juice. The others drank only juice. In 15 minutes women in the alcohol group consumed 0.75 gram of alcohol per kilogram of body weight, and men drank 0.8 gram (that is equivalent to 3.75 glasses of wine for a 70-kilogram woman or four glasses for a man of the same weight, Hildebrand Karlén says). All participants then watched a short film depicting a verbal and physical altercation between a man and a woman. The researchers next asked half the people in each group to freely recall what they remembered from the film. The remaining participants were sent home and interviewed a week later. The investigators found that both the inebriated and sober people who were interviewed immediately demonstrated better recollection of the film events than their drunk or sober counterparts who were questioned later. The effect held even for people with blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 or higher—the legal limit for driving in most of the U.S. (Intoxication levels varied because different people metabolize alcohol at different speeds.) The results suggest that intoxicated witnesses should be interviewed sooner rather than later, according to the study, which was published online last October in Psychology, Crime & Law. © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25947 - Posted: 02.11.2019

By Lisa L. Gill People have been turning to cannabis for its possible health benefits for a long, long time. Its ability to help people, for example, is mentioned in the Atharvaveda, a Hindu text that dates back to around 1500 B.C., and its use for inducing sleep is described in a 1200 A.D. Chinese medical text. Today, people are still using cannabis to help them sleep, particularly one form of it: CBD, or cannabidiol. That’s a compound found in marijuana and hemp that doesn’t get you high, and that has recently exploded in popularity because of its potential to treat other health problems, including pain and anxiety. In a recent nationally representative Consumer Reports survey, about 10 percent of Americans who reported trying CBD said they used it to help them sleep, and a majority of those people said it worked. It’s easy to understand why people are turning to CBD to help with sleep: Almost 80 percent of Americans say they have trouble sleeping at least once a week, according to another recent nationally representative CR survey of 1,267 U.S. adults. And many existing treatments, particularly prescription and over-the-counter drugs, are often not very effective—and are risky, too. A small but growing body of scientific research provides some support for CBD as a sleep aid. A study out this month, for example, suggests CBD might help people with short-term sleep problems. © 2019 Consumer Reports, Inc.

Keyword: Sleep; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25939 - Posted: 02.08.2019

By Jen Gunter Pregnant women are given a long list of medical recommendations that can come across as patriarchal don’ts: Don’t eat raw fish. Don’t consume deli meats. Don’t do hot yoga! Don’t drink. There’s scientific evidence that these activities can have negative impacts on the health of the fetus, but the one that seems to be the source of most debate is alcohol. After all, the French do it, don’t they? And many people born in the 1960s or earlier had mothers who drank. And we’re fine, right? My mother had a fairly regular glass of rye and ginger ale when she was pregnant with me. And she smoked. And I graduated from medical school at the age of 23. So my opinion, especially as someone who believes strongly in a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, may come as a surprise: It’s medically best not to drink alcohol in pregnancy. Not even a little. The source of that viewpoint? My training and practice as an OB/GYN. Some attribute this abstinence approach to the patriarchy: Clearly we doctors know that moderate alcohol is safe (we don’t!), and we just don’t trust women with that knowledge. According to this theory, we think a woman who hears that an occasional drink is O.K. will blithely go on a bender. (We don’t think that.) Some also say that, in an effort to avoid frivolous lawsuits, doctors advise against alcohol while using a nudge-nudge-wink-wink to insinuate that a glass or two is fine. But this isn’t about sexism (not this time) or dodging litigation. This is about facts. How women use those facts is, of course, their choice. The truth is that fetal alcohol syndrome is far more common than people think, and we have no ability to say accurately what level of alcohol consumption is risk free. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25935 - Posted: 02.06.2019