Chapter 4. The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology

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A National Institutes of Health-funded study found that treatment of opioid use disorder with either methadone or buprenorphine following a nonfatal opioid overdose is associated with significant reductions in opioid related mortality. The research, published today (link is external) in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was co-funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, both parts of NIH. Study authors analyzed data from 17,568 adults in Massachusetts who survived an opioid overdose between 2012 and 2014. Compared to those not receiving medication assisted treatment, opioid overdose deaths decreased by 59 percent for those receiving methadone and 38 percent for those receiving buprenorphine over the 12 month follow-up period. The authors were unable to draw conclusions about the impact of naltrexone due to small sample size, noting that further work is needed with larger samples. Buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone are three FDA-approved medications used to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). The study, the first to look at the association between using medication to treat OUD and mortality among patients experiencing a nonfatal opioid overdose, confirms previous research on the role methadone and buprenorphine can play to effectively treat OUD and prevent future deaths from overdose. Despite compelling evidence that medication assisted treatment can help many people recover from opioid addiction, these proven medications remain greatly underutilized. The study also found that in the first year following an overdose, less than one third of patients were provided any medication for OUD, including methadone (11 percent); buprenorphine (17 percent); and naltrexone (6 percent), with 5 percent receiving more than one medication.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25107 - Posted: 06.20.2018

By Roni Caryn Rabin The director of the nation’s top health research agency pulled the plug on a study of alcohol’s health effects without hesitation on Friday, saying a Harvard scientist and some of his agency’s own staff had crossed “so many lines” in pursuit of alcohol industry funding that “people were frankly shocked.” A 165-page internal investigation prepared for Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, concluded that Kenneth J. Mukamal, the lead investigator of the trial, was in close, frequent contact with beer and liquor executives while designing the study. Buried in that document are disturbing examples of the coziness between the scientists and their industry patrons. Dr. Mukamal was eager to allay their concerns, respond to their questions and suggestions, and secure the industry’s buy-in. Dr. Mukamal has repeatedly denied communicating with the alcohol industry while planning the trial, telling The Times last year that he had, “literally no contact with the alcohol industry.” In a statement issued on Friday, Dr. Mukamal said he and his colleagues “stand fully and forcefully behind the scientific integrity” of the trial. But the report documented conference calls he held with alcoholic beverage companies and lengthy memos written in response to their concerns, long before the N.I.H. even announced it would sponsor the trial. Beer and liquor companies offered their own suggestions for carrying out the trial. Carlsberg, the Danish beer company, at one point suggested that clinical trial centers be established in Russia, China and Denmark. (A trial site was located in Copenhagen, but not in Russia or China.) The strategy of engagement with industry was effective. Five large beer and liquor companies eventually agreed to pick up most of the $100 million tab for the 10-year-long randomized trial. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25102 - Posted: 06.19.2018

by William Wan and Lenny Bernstein The National Institutes of Health on Friday canceled a mammoth study of moderate drinking after determining that officials had irrevocably compromised the research by soliciting over $60 million from beer and liquor companies to underwrite the effort. NIH Director Francis S. Collins said the results of the 10-year, $100 million study would not be trusted because of the secretive way in which staff at an institute under NIH met with major liquor companies, talked to them about the trial’s design and convinced them to pick up most of the tab for it. “Many people who have seen this working-group report were frankly shocked to see so many lines crossed,” he said, calling the staff interaction with the alcohol industry “far out of bounds.” Collins ordered the examination of what was originally planned as a study of more than 7,800 people around the globe after the New York Times reported in March that officials had aggressively sought the industry funding and routed their donations through the institutes’ nongovernmental foundation. In May, NIH suspended enrollment of participants in the research, which was already underway when the newspaper published its story. The findings released Friday address the scientific merit of the study. The review found that the staff who met with five liquor companies did not follow existing rules that required them to report such contacts. In a statement, NIH said that “a small number” of employees at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) violated policies and that “appropriate personnel actions” would be taken, without specifying what that would entail. The report includes a lengthy appendix with emails between staff and industry representatives. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25096 - Posted: 06.16.2018

Christine Herman A painkiller prescription could become a ticket for medical marijuana in Illinois. Lawmakers there passed a bill making anyone with a prescription for opioids eligible for its medical cannabis program. With this move, Illinois joins a growing number of states turning to legal cannabis in the fight against painkiller addiction. "As we see the horrible damage inflicted by opioid use and misuse, it seems like a very low-cost and low-risk alternative," says state Sen. Don Harmon, a Democrat from Oak Park, Ill., and sponsor of the Senate version of the bill. The Alternatives to Opioids Act would allow millions of patients to apply for temporary access to the state's existing medical cannabis pilot program. The bill, which passed on May 31, is now awaiting Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's signature. Though the bill has bipartisan support, marijuana advocates have some doubts about whether he'll sign it, given his past opposition to medical cannabis. Lawmakers in several states have taken action to initiate or expand their medical marijuana programs in light of the opioid crisis. Among them, in Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a law adding PTSD and intractable pain to the list of conditions covered in its medical marijuana program in May. And New York state Sen. George Amedore, a Republican, introduced legislation that would allow doctors to prescribe cannabis oil as an alternative to opioids for certain conditions. Under Illinois' proposed new law, anyone 21 or older with a condition for which opioids might be prescribed could get near-immediate access to cannabis products at licensed dispensaries by presenting paperwork signed by their doctor. They would no longer be fingerprinted or need criminal background checks, or wait months for approval. The measure would reduce the backlog of applications, Harmon says. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Pain & Touch; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25094 - Posted: 06.16.2018

By Melissa Healy At some point in their treatment for cancer, somewhere between 17% and 75% of patients with malignancies that don’t affect the central nervous system report the sensation that a mental fog has set in. For months or years after their hair has grown back, the exhaustion has lifted and the medical appointments taper off, the “new normal” for these patients includes problems with concentration, word-finding, short-term memory and multitasking. Their doctors nod their heads knowingly: It’s “chemobrain,” they report. Among the nation’s roughly 15.5 million cancer survivors, the ranks of those who’ve experienced mental fog after cancer treatment are probably increasing as detection and therapies improve, survival rates rise and lives are extended. But when it comes to cancer’s cognitive aftermath, the medical profession’s expertise ends. Why chemobrain happens, how long it will linger, and what deficits it actually causes — and especially whether it could be treated, or even prevented — are questions for which oncologists have no answers. But they want them. And three specialists from the National Cancer Institute have issued an appeal to neuroscientists for help. “We need an infusion of new ideas," said Todd S. Horowitz, a cognitive psychologist and program director in the institute’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences. “Cognitive neuroscience would help us characterize the deficits people have and allow us to connect them to particular brain systems." Writing this week in the journal Trends in Neurosciences, Horowitz and two fellow researchers at the institute drafted a road map toward a better understanding of the condition officially known as cancer-related cognitive impairment, which was first described by breast cancer survivors.

Keyword: Neurotoxins; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 25089 - Posted: 06.14.2018

The Home Office has rejected a County Tyrone mother's plea to legalise cannabis oil for her epileptic son. Charlotte Caldwell accused Home Office minister Nick Hurd of having "likely signed my son's death warrant". Ms Caldwell brought cannabis oil from Canada for her son Billy, but it was confiscated at Heathrow on Monday. In 2017, the 12-year-old became the first person in the UK to be prescribed cannabis oil, but last month his GP was told he could no longer do so. Ms Caldwell, from Castlederg, said she was "absolutely devastated" to have the supply confiscated after she declared it to border officials. Ms Caldwell later met Mr Hurd at the Home Office to plead with him "parent to parent" to get the oil back. "It's Billy's anti-epileptic medication that Nick Hurd has taken away, it's not some sort of joint full of recreational cannabis," she said. "We had an honest and genuine conversation. I have asked him to give Billy back his medicines, but he said no." She also warned of the dangers of Billy missing his first dose of cannabis oil in 19 months. "The reason they don't do it is that it can cause really bad side-effects - they wean them down slowly," she said. "So what Nick Hurd has just done is most likely signed my son's death warrant." A Home Office spokeswoman said it was "sympathetic to the rare situation that Billy and his family are faced with". © 2018 BBC.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Epilepsy
Link ID: 25079 - Posted: 06.12.2018

Jon Hamilton For six years now, life has been really good for James. He's got a great job as the creative director of an advertising firm in New York City. He enjoys spending time with his wife and kids. And it's all been possible, he says, because for the past six years he's been taking a drug called ketamine. Before ketamine, James was unable to work or focus his thoughts. His mind was filled with violent images. And his mood could go from ebullient to dark in a matter of minutes. Ketamine "helped me get my life back," says James, who asked that we not use his last name to protect his career. Ketamine was developed as a human and animal anesthetic in the 1960s. And almost from the time it reached the market it's also been used as a mind-bending party drug. But ketamine's story took a surprising turn in 2006, when researchers at the National Institutes of Health showed that an intravenous dose could relieve severe depression in a matter of hours. Since then, doctors have prescribed ketamine "off label" to thousands of depressed patients who don't respond to other drugs. And pharmaceutical companies are testing several new ketamine-related drugs to treat depression. Johnson & Johnson expects to seek approval for its nasal spray esketamine later this year. Meanwhile, doctors have begun trying ketamine on patients with a wide range of psychiatric disorders other than depression. And there is now growing evidence it can help people with anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and perhaps even obsessive-compulsive disorder. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25054 - Posted: 06.04.2018

Aimee Cunningham Opioids have quickly become a major cause of death among young Americans aged 25 to 34, with one in five deaths in 2016 tied to the drugs, researchers report online June 1 in JAMA Open Network. That’s a steep rise from 2001, when opioids accounted for 4 percent of all deaths in that age group. The second-most affected age group was 15-24, for whom 12 percent of all deaths in 2016 were attributed to opioid overdoses, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s the younger populations “where we really see this huge contribution of opioid overdoses,” says epidemiologist and study coauthor Tara Gomes of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. “We’re losing so much potential life.” |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25049 - Posted: 06.02.2018

By Lora Jones Business reporter, BBC News For travellers looking forward to their summer holidays, what to pack can be a source of stress. But did you know that taking an e-cigarette with you to countries such as Thailand could land you with a fine - or even time in jail? Countries including the Seychelles, Brazil and Argentina have also banned the sale of e-cigarettes, but spending on them globally is going up. These charts tell the story of a growing industry - but how many people vape, how much is being spent on e-cigarettes and why do people buy them? 1. Vaping is increasingly popular According to the latest statistics from the World Health Organization, there has been a small but steady decrease in the estimated number of smokers globally since 2000 - from 1.14 billion then to about 1.1 billion now. But it's a different matter when it comes to vaping. The number of vapers has been increasing rapidly - from about seven million in 2011 to 35 million in 2016. Market research group Euromonitor estimates that the number of adults who vape will reach almost 55 million by 2021. 2. Spending on e-cigarettes is growing The e-cigarette market is expanding, as the number of vapers rises. The global vapour products market is now estimated to be worth $22.6bn (£17.1bn) - up from $4.2bn just five years ago. The United States, Japan and the UK are the biggest markets. Vapers in the three countries spent a combined $16.3bn on smokeless tobacco and vaping products in 2016. European countries such as Sweden, Italy, Norway and Germany also feature in the top 10. © 2018 BBC

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25042 - Posted: 06.01.2018

By Barry Meier Purdue Pharma, the company that planted the seeds of the opioid epidemic through its aggressive marketing of OxyContin, has long claimed it was unaware of the powerful opioid painkiller’s growing abuse until years after it went on the market. But a copy of a confidential Justice Department report shows that federal prosecutors investigating the company found that Purdue Pharma knew about “significant” abuse of OxyContin in the first years after the drug’s introduction in 1996 and concealed that information. Company officials had received reports that the pills were being crushed and snorted; stolen from pharmacies; and that some doctors were being charged with selling prescriptions, according to dozens of previously undisclosed documents that offer a detailed look inside Purdue Pharma. But the drug maker continued “in the face of this knowledge” to market OxyContin as less prone to abuse and addiction than other prescription opioids, prosecutors wrote in 2006. Based on their findings after a four-year investigation, the prosecutors recommended that three top Purdue Pharma executives be indicted on felony charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, that could have sent the men to prison if convicted. But top Justice Department officials in the George W. Bush administration did not support the move, said four lawyers who took part in those discussions or were briefed about them. Instead, the government settled the case in 2007. Prosecutors found that the company’s sales representatives used the words “street value,” “crush,” or “snort” in 117 internal notes recording their visits to doctors or other medical professionals from 1997 through 1999. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25031 - Posted: 05.29.2018

Vanessa Romo Bay mussels in Washington's Puget Sound have tested positive for trace amounts of oxycodone, providing more evidence that the opioid prescription medication is truly ubiquitous. Researchers at the Puget Sound Institute who analyzed the mussels said the discovery of pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs in harbors in the Seattle and Bremerton areas is not uncommon — but the organization noted this is the first time that opioids have been found in local shellfish. "We found antibiotics, we found antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs, heart medications and also oxycodone," biologist Jennifer Lanksbury, who led the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife study, told K5 News. Scientists determined that the slew of medications are passed into the Puget Sound through discharge from wastewater treatment plants. The analysis is part of the state's biennial Puget Sound Mussel Monitoring Program, in which uncontaminated mussels are transplanted into various locations to study pollution levels. The reason mussels are the preferred test subject to track toxins in marine life is because they are filter feeders, eating microscopic plants and animals that they strain out of seawater. In the process, "they pick up all sorts of contaminants, so at any given time their body tissues record data about water quality over the previous two to four months," the institute explains. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25027 - Posted: 05.26.2018

Nicola Davis The proportion of young people using marijuana as their first drug doubled in the 10 years from 2004, a US-based study has found. The government study reveals that among people aged between 12 and 21, the proportion of those who tried cigarettes as their first drug fell from about 21% to just under 9% between 2004 and 2014. However, the proportion who turned first to marijuana almost doubled from 4.4% to 8%. While some studies have suggested that, overall, use and abuse of marijuana has fallen among teenagers in the US, the latest research sought to look at trends in which drug, if any, young people turned to first. “We have, particularly in the US, done prevention programmes that are really focused on alcohol and tobacco – and they are relatively easy arguments to make to young people,” said Dr Renee Johnson, a co-author of the study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. But she said the “fear factor” is less likely to work for marijuana, noting that public programmes need instead to educate young people so they can make good decisions around drugs, and offer support to help them cope with difficulties in life and think about their life plans. “Once we teach young people about that, that will address the unhealthy marijuana use,” she said. The study, published in the journal Prevention Science, is based on an analysis of data from more than 275,000 participants aged between 12 and 21 collected as part of the US national survey on drug use and health – an annual study that involves participants across all 50 states who are interviewed in person. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24997 - Posted: 05.19.2018

by Joel Achenbach The National Institutes of Health has ordered a halt to a $100 million, 10-year study of moderate drinking that’s being funded in large part by the alcoholic-beverage industry. Thursday morning’s announcement by NIH Director Francis Collins reflects the seriousness of allegations that surfaced in news reports in recent months, including a story in March in the New York Times that described two scientists and a federal health official pitching the idea for the study to liquor company executives at a 2014 gathering in Palm Beach, Fla. The alcohol industry agreed to fund the research via a private foundation that supports NIH. The goal of the study, which involves 7,000 individuals, is to assess whether moderate drinking — a single drink a day — has a health benefit. Some research has suggested such a benefit, but the conclusion remains controversial, and the U.S. dietary guidelines recommend that people who do not drink alcohol should not start. The Moderate Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health (MACH) trial is based at Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a grantee of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Collins has ordered two reviews of the study. The first, by the Office of Management Assessment, will “determine if any process or conduct irregularities occurred with grants associated with the MACH Trial,” according to NIH. The second review, by an advisory committee to Collins, will examine the scientific merit of the study. “NIH has requested that the grantee, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, pause all study activities until the reviews are completed,” NIH said in a brief announcement that gave no further details on the reasons for the pause. NIH said Thursday that the reviews are expected to be concluded in June. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24995 - Posted: 05.18.2018

Richard Harris Children and adolescents are getting fewer prescription drugs than they did in years past, according to a study that looks at a cross-section of the American population. "The decrease in antibiotic use is really what's driving this overall decline in prescription medication use that we're seeing in children and adolescents," says Craig Hales, a preventive medicine physician at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics and lead author of a study published Tuesday in JAMA. Hales says that's a good thing. "Thirty percent of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary and potentially dangerous," he says. They're often given for colds and other viral infections, where they are useless. And they may have side effects. Antibiotic overuse also increases the risk that these drugs lose their curative powers. The study is based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study, which included more than 38,000 children and adolescents. The study compared prescription drug use from 1999 to 2002 with prescriptions given in 2011 to 2014, the last period for which data were available. Overall, the proportion of children and teenagers getting prescriptions dropped from about 25 percent to 22 percent. Prescriptions for some drugs increased, such as for treatments for asthma, contraception and attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The survey also noted a large gap in prescription use among children and adolescents who were insured versus those who weren't. Some 23 percent of insured youth had recently taken a prescription of some sort, compared with 10 percent of those who were uninsured. © 2018 npr

Keyword: ADHD; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24981 - Posted: 05.16.2018

by Eli Rosenberg In what is believed to be one of the first deaths from an e-cigarette explosion, a 38-year-old man in Florida was killed when his vape pen exploded, sending projectiles into his head and causing a small fire in his house. Tallmadge D’Elia was found May 5 in the burning bedroom of his family’s home in St. Petersburg, according to the Tampa Bay Times. An autopsy report released his week blamed a vape pen explosion for his death, local news outlets reported. The cause of death was listed as “projectile wound of head” — the pen exploded into pieces, at least two of which were sent into his head, the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner said — and he suffered burns on about 80 percent of his body. The “mod”-type pen, distributed by Smok-E Mountain, is manufactured in the Philippines, according to a company Facebook page, the Times reported. The Facebook page is not currently publicly accessible. According to a report from the U.S. Fire Administration, which is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, there were at least 195 incidents in which an electronic cigarette exploded or caught fire from 2009 through 2016, resulting in 133 injuries, 38 of which were severe. But there were no recorded deaths in the study's period. The explosions usually occur suddenly, the report found, “and are accompanied by loud noise, a flash of light, smoke, flames, and often vigorous ejection of the battery and other parts.” © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24980 - Posted: 05.16.2018

Michael Pollan first became interested in new research into psychedelic drugs in 2010, when a front-page story in the New York Times declared, “Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning in Again”. The story revealed how in a large-scale trial researchers had been giving terminally ill cancer patients large doses of psilocybin – the active ingredient in magic mushrooms – to help them deal with their “existential distress” as they approached death. The initial findings were markedly positive. Pollan, author of award-winning and bestselling books about botany, food politics and the way we eat, was born in 1955, a little too late for the Summer of Love. That New York Times story, however, was the beginning of an “adventure” that saw him not only explore the new research, but also detail the history of psychedelic drugs, the “moral panic” backlash against them and – partly through personal experiments with LSD, magic mushrooms and ayuhuasca, the “spiritual medicine” of Amazonian Indians – to examine whether they have a significant part to play in contemporary culture. The result of that inquiry is a compulsive book, How to Change Your Mind: Exploring the New Science of Psychedelics. This interview took place by phone last week. Pollan was speaking from his home in northern California. Do you see this book on psychedelics as a departure in your writing, or part of a continuum? Both, really. I have this abiding interest in how we interact with other plant and animal species and how they get ahead in nature by gratifying our desires. And one of those desires I have always been keenly interested in is the desire to change consciousness. You propose the idea at one point that neurochemistry is perhaps the language by which plants communicate with us. Isn’t it more that magic mushrooms have evolved a clever way of making themselves invaluable? They have. There is no intention involved, obviously. But evolution does not depend on intention. One strategy that these fungi seem to have hit on is manufacturing a chemical that can unlock these effects in the animal brain. Obviously some drug plants benefit us by relieving pain or boredom, but others do interesting things with consciousness.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Depression
Link ID: 24965 - Posted: 05.12.2018

Katie Nicholson, Joanne Levasseur Cannabidiol oil, or CBD, is generating a lot of buzz in the world of alternative medicine and many Canadians are buying in. The oil, which is extracted from marijuana plants, doesn't have the same mind-altering effects as smoking pot. People rub it on their achy joints or put it under their tongue to help them sleep. Some purveyors say it's completely legal in Canada and can be used for a long list of ailments, including epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. But federal authorities say CBD oil, which is widely available at head shops and online, is indeed illegal without a medical marijuana prescription. And its purported health benefits are also still in question. Cannabis products not yet legal Canadian affiliates of HempWorx, a multi-level marketing company based in Las Vegas, have been pushing CBD oil products through websites that say the product is allowed in Canada. They also list how much people should take for a long list of diseases. HempWorx did not respond to multiple interview requests. But in April, one of its Winnipeg-based affiliates told CBC News that its sale is "100 per cent legal." Under current Canadian law, the possession or sale of cannabidiol oil is illegal the same way other cannabis products are illegal. The same goes for importing or exporting the substance. The fact that it doesn't get you high doesn't matter. ©2018 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Pain & Touch
Link ID: 24961 - Posted: 05.11.2018

A new discovery shows that opioids used to treat pain, such as morphine and oxycodone, produce their effects by binding to receptors inside neurons, contrary to conventional wisdom that they acted only on the same surface receptors as endogenous opioids, which are produced naturally in the brain. However, when researchers funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) used a novel molecular probe to test that common assumption, they discovered that medically used opioids also bind to receptors that are not a target for the naturally occurring opioids. NIDA is part of the National Institutes of Health. This difference between how medically used and naturally made opioids interact with nerve cells may help guide the design of pain relievers that do not produce addiction or other adverse effects produced by morphine and other opioid medicines. “This ground-breaking study has uncovered important distinctions between the opioids that our brain makes naturally and therapeutic opioids that can be misused,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “This information can be mined to better understand the potential adverse actions of medically prescribed opioids and how to manipulate the endogenous system to achieve optimal therapeutic results without the unhealthy side effects of tolerance, dependence, or addiction.” Naturally occurring opioids and medically used opioids alike bind to the mu-opioid receptor, a member of a widespread family of proteins known as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Recent advances in understanding the three-dimensional structure of GPCRs have enabled researchers to create a new type of antibody biosensor, called a nanobody, that generates a fluorescent signal when a GPCR is activated. This enables scientists to track chemicals as they move through cells and respond to stimuli.

Keyword: Pain & Touch; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24960 - Posted: 05.11.2018

By Lloyd I. Sederer Psychoactive drugs chemically alter the brain and change the way we feel, think, perceive and understand our world. They are ubiquitous: alcohol, cannabis, opioids, tobacco, stimulants, sedatives and hallucinogens, to name a few. Some occur naturally—nature’s contribution to our bodies and psyches—and some are synthesized in labs to impact the same brain receptors as do those found in forests, deserts and open fields. We are in a psychoactive drug epidemic in our country, most notably the opioids, because of their tragic death toll. We need solutions to the epidemic to save lives, families and communities—and government treasuries. But if we focus only on the drug itself, whatever it may be, we will miss what really matters when it comes to how human beings respond to psychoactive agents. Here are nine things that matter when it comes to drugs: 1. Age. It’s one thing to start drinking or smoking dope when you are 21. It is very different when at 12 or 13 or 15, even 18. That’s because the human brain is still under construction until well into the 20s, later for males than females. It takes almost three decades for the brain to fully lay down the fatty substance, myelin, that surrounds the nerve connections and permits reflection and controls impulsive action, for the cortex to stand a chance against the drive centers deeper in the brain. Repetitive or high doses of psychoactive drugs like cannabis, alcohol and hallucinogens interfere with the normal development of the brain. Not a good thing, and cause for controls on the access youth can have to substances. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24952 - Posted: 05.09.2018

By Aaron E. Carroll The benefits and harms of medical marijuana can be debated, but more states are legalizing pot, even for recreational use. A new evaluation of marijuana’s risks is overdue. Last year, the National Academies of Sciences, Medicine and Engineering released a comprehensive report on cannabis use. At almost 400 pages long, it reviewed both potential benefits and harms. Let’s focus on the harms. The greatest concern with tobacco smoking is cancer, so it’s reasonable to start there with pot smoking. A 2005 systematic review in the International Journal of Cancer pooled the results of six case-control studies. No association was found between smoking marijuana and lung cancer. Another 2015 systematic review pooled nine case-control studies and could find no link to head and neck cancers. Another meta-analysis of three case-control studies of testicular cancer found a statistically significant link between heavier pot smoking and one type of testicular cancer. But this evidence was judged to be “limited” because of limitations in the research (all of which was from the 1990s). There’s no evidence, or not enough to say, of a link between pot use and esophageal cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, penile cancer or bladder cancer. There’s also no evidence, or not enough to say, that pot has any effect on sperm or eggs that could increase the risk of cancer in any children of pot smokers. (Using marijuana while pregnant does pose other risks, as discussed below.) Heart disease Another major risk with cigarettes, heart disease, isn’t clearly seen with pot smoking. Only two studies quantified the risk between marijuana use and heart attacks. One found no relationship at all, and the other found that pot smoking may be a trigger for a heart attack in the hour after smoking. But this finding was based on nine patients, and may not be generalizable. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Pain & Touch
Link ID: 24948 - Posted: 05.07.2018