Chapter 4. The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology

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Liam Drew The emergence of disease-causing bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics is often attributed to the overuse of antibiotics in people and livestock. But researchers have homed in on another potential driver of resistance: antidepressants. By studying bacteria grown in the laboratory, a team has now tracked how antidepressants can trigger drug resistance1. “Even after a few days exposure, bacteria develop drug resistance, not only against one but multiple antibiotics,” says senior author Jianhua Guo, who works at the Australian Centre for Water and Environmental Biotechnology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. This is both interesting and scary, he says. Globally, antibiotic resistance is a significant public-health threat. An estimated 1.2 million people died as a direct result of it in 20192, and that number is predicted to climb. Early clues Guo became interested in the possible contributions of non-antibiotic drugs to antibiotic resistance in 2014, after work by his lab found more antibiotic-resistance genes circulating in domestic wastewater samples than in samples of wastewater from hospitals, where antibiotic use is higher. Guo’s group and other teams also observed that antidepressants — which are among the most widely prescribed medicines in the world — killed or stunted the growth of certain bacteria. They provoke “an SOS response”, Guo explains, triggering cellular defence mechanisms that, in turn, make the bacteria better able to survive subsequent antibiotic treatment. © 2023 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 28645 - Posted: 01.27.2023

By Jan Hoffman PHILADELPHIA — Over a matter of weeks, Tracey McCann watched in horror as the bruises she was accustomed to getting from injecting fentanyl began hardening into an armor of crusty, blackened tissue. Something must have gotten into the supply. Switching corner dealers didn’t help. People were saying that everyone’s dope was being cut with something that was causing gruesome, painful wounds. “I’d wake up in the morning crying because my arms were dying,” Ms. McCann, 39, said. In her shattered Philadelphia neighborhood, and increasingly in drug hot zones around the country, an animal tranquilizer called xylazine — known by street names like “tranq,” “tranq dope” and “zombie drug” — is being used to bulk up illicit fentanyl, making its impact even more devastating. Xylazine causes wounds that erupt with a scaly dead tissue called eschar; untreated, they can lead to amputation. It induces a blackout stupor for hours, rendering users vulnerable to rape and robbery. When people come to, the high from the fentanyl has long since faded and they immediately crave more. Because xylazine is a sedative and not an opioid, it resists standard opioid overdose reversal treatments. More than 90 percent of Philadelphia’s lab-tested dope samples were positive for xylazine, according to the most recent data. “It’s too late for Philly,” said Shawn Westfahl, an outreach worker with Prevention Point Philadelphia, a 30-year-old health services center in Kensington, the neighborhood at the epicenter of the city’s drug trade. “Philly’s supply is saturated. If other places around the country have a choice to avoid it, they need to hear our story.” A study published in June detected xylazine in the drug supply in 36 states and the District of Columbia. In New York City, xylazine has been found in 25 percent of drug samples, though health officials say the actual saturation is certainly greater. In November, the Food and Drug Administration issued a nationwide four-page xylazine alert to clinicians. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28630 - Posted: 01.14.2023

By Andrew Jacobs PORTLAND, Ore. — The curriculum was set, the students were enrolled and Oregon officials had signed off on nearly every detail of training for the first class of “magic” mushroom facilitators seeking state certification. But as the four-day session got underway inside a hotel conference room in early December, an important pedagogical tool was missing: the mushrooms themselves. That’s because state officials, two years after Oregon voters narrowly approved the adult use of psilocybin, were still hammering out the regulatory framework for the production and sale of the tawny hallucinogenic fungi. Instead, the students, most of them seasoned mental health professionals, would have to role play with one another using meditation or intensive breathing practices that could lead to altered states of consciousness — the next best thing to the kind of psychedelic trip they would encounter as licensed guides. Not that anyone was complaining. Like many of the two dozen students who paid nearly $10,000 for the course, Jason Wright, 48, a hospital psychiatric nurse in Portland, said he was thrilled to be part of a bold experiment with national implications. “It’s incredible to be on the front lines of something that has the potential to change our relationship with drugs that should never have been criminalized in the first place,” he said. On Jan. 1, Oregon became the first state in the nation to legalize the adult use of psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic that has shown significant promise for treating severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and end-of-life anxiety among the terminally ill, among other mental health conditions. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Depression
Link ID: 28617 - Posted: 01.04.2023

By Yan Zhuang Delirium. Fever. Hallucinations. Not what you expect when adding baby spinach to a salad, but these are among the alarming symptoms dozens of Australians have experienced after consuming what are thought to be contaminated batches of the leafy greens. More than 100 people reported symptoms, including at least 54 who have sought medical help, after eating baby spinach that the authorities believe to be tainted. Four major supermarket chains have recalled products containing the suspect spinach. The authorities said that the spinach had caused “possible food-related toxic reactions” with those affected experiencing symptoms including delirium, hallucinations, blurred vision, rapid heartbeat and fever. Some Australians took to social media to jokingly ask how they could obtain hallucinogenic spinach. “Never have I been so interested in salad,” one Twitter user said. But the authorities have stressed that the symptoms are far from pleasant. “They’re unable to see properly, they’re confused, they’re having hallucinations,” Darren Roberts, the medical director of New South Wales’s Poisons Information Center, said of the victims in an interview on local television. “And we’re talking about scary hallucinations; it’s nothing that’s fun.” Its producer, Riviera Farms in the state of Victoria, said it believed its product had been “contaminated with a weed.” What weed could make spinach hallucinogenic? The health department of the state of Victoria has said that the symptoms suggested “anticholinergic syndrome,” a type of poisoning mainly caused by plants in the Solanaceae family, which includes nightshade, jimson weed and mandrake root. Anticholinergic plants and drugs inhibit the production of a brain chemical called acetylcholine, which is linked to memory, thinking and the visual system, according to Dominic ffytche, a professor of visual psychiatry at King’s College London, who specializes in visual hallucinations (and who really does lowercase his last name). Acetylcholine can also be lost naturally and is linked to Alzheimer’s, some type of dementias and other neurodegenerative diseases, he said. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28607 - Posted: 12.21.2022

By Susan Coll Last summer, my husband had gone hiking with our two dogs when one of them — a year-old rescue who weighs in at over 50 pounds, can scale steep inclines like a mountain goat and has the speed and grace of an Olympic athlete — suddenly collapsed. Unable to stand, Dafna was disoriented and had also become incontinent. Was it a seizure? A stroke? A snake bite? We piled into our car and headed to an emergency veterinary clinic. I held Dafna’s head in my lap, convinced the end was near. This puppy had destroyed two pairs of my prescription eyeglasses, a new leather wallet, and had torn gashes in my clothes. She’d chewed through my daughter’s internet cords. Still, I loved her like no other. At the clinic, the staff rushed Dafna to a back room with the professionalism expected in a life-or-death situation. But we thought we also noticed a hint of amusement? Even a smirk? A few moments later, we learned why. The vet explained that while they were running a urine test to confirm their suspicions, they were pretty sure Dafna had ingested THC, maybe from a marijuana plant growing wild along the trail, or perhaps she’d eaten a discarded pot roach. Basically, our dog was stoned. It turns out that’s not so unusual these days. In Vermont, where we were and where possession and use of marijuana was legalized in 2018, the vet said she now sees as many as 10 cases per week of pot intoxication. According to ASPCApro and local vets, that’s happening across the country. © 1996-2022 The Washington Post

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28599 - Posted: 12.17.2022

Miryam Naddaf More than 3,500 genetic variations that potentially affect smoking and drinking behaviour have been identified in a study involving almost 3.4 million people with African, American, East Asian and European ancestry. The findings, published in Nature on 7 December1, highlight how increasing the sample size and ethnic diversity improves the power of such genome-screening analyses — called genome-wide association studies (GWASs) — to reveal how various traits are linked to genes, combinations of genes or mutations. Smoking and drinking are important risk factors for several physical and mental illnesses, including cardiovascular diseases and psychiatric disorders. Although both behaviours are influenced by environmental and social factors, there is evidence that genetics can affect tobacco and alcohol consumption. “We’re at a stage where genetic discoveries are being translated into clinical [applications],” says study co-author Dajiang Liu, a statistical geneticist at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania. “If we can forecast someone's risk of developing nicotine or alcohol dependence using this information, we can intervene early and potentially prevent a lot of deaths.” Scientists use GWASs to find genetic ties to diseases or behaviours by comparing genetic sequences in large numbers of people. But so far, most of these studies have focused on European populations. Liu and his colleagues constructed a model that incorporated the genomic data of 3,383,199 people, 21% of whom had non-European ancestry. They identified 3,823 genetic variants that were associated with smoking or drinking behaviours. Thirty-nine of these were linked with the age at which individuals started smoking, 243 with the number of cigarettes smoked per day and 849 with the number of alcoholic drinks consumed per week.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 28587 - Posted: 12.10.2022

ByDennis Normile Smoking kills. Ayesha Verrall has seen it up close. As a young resident physician in New Zealand’s public hospitals in the 2000s, Verrall watched smokers come into the emergency ward every night, struggling to breathe with their damaged lungs. Later, as an infectious disease specialist, she saw how smoking exacerbated illness in individuals diagnosed with tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. She would tell them: “The best thing you can do to promote your health, other than take the pills, is to quit smoking.” Verrall is still urging citizens to give up cigarettes—no longer just one by one, but by the thousands. As New Zealand’s associate minister for health, she has led the development of the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan, which could make New Zealand the first country in the world to achieve smoke-free status—typically defined as an adult smoking rate of no more than 5%. (Aotearoa, loosely “Land of the Long White Cloud,” is a traditional Māori name for the country.) New Zealand’s Parliament is about to vote on the plan, which Chris Bostic, Washington, D.C.–based policy director at Action on Smoking & Health (ASH), calls “a huge deal. This will be the most comprehensive antitobacco policy in history.” Unveiled in December 2021, the plan features three radical interventions. One, called the smoke-free generation strategy, will make it illegal to ever sell combustible tobacco products to those born in 2009 or later. The goal is to create an ever-growing cohort that never picks up the smoking habit. A second provision calls for reducing the number of tobacco retailers by as much as 95%, to make cigarettes harder to get. The boldest proposal in the eyes of experts is reducing cigarettes’ nicotine content to below addictive levels. This “cuts right at the heart of why people smoke in the first place,” says Geoffrey Fong, head of the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Waterloo. It’s potentially a “true game changer in the battle against smoking.”

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28585 - Posted: 12.10.2022

By Roni Caryn Rabin Deaths due to substance abuse, particularly of alcohol and opioids, rose sharply among older Americans in 2020, the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, as lockdowns disrupted routines and isolation and fear spread, federal health researchers reported on Wednesday. Alcohol and opioid deaths remained far less common among older people than among those middled-aged and younger, and rates had been rising in all groups for years. But the pronounced uptick — another data point in the long list of pandemic miseries — surprised government researchers. Deaths from opioids increased among Americans aged 65 and older by 53 percent in 2020 over the previous year, the National Center for Health Statistics found. Alcohol-related deaths, which had already been rising for a decade in this age group, rose by 18 percent. “The rate of alcohol deaths in older people is much lower than for younger adults, but the change caught our eye,” said Ellen Kramarow, a health statistician at the center and the lead author of the report, which analyzed death certificate data. Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids account for fewer than 1 percent of deaths in people over 65, Dr. Kramarow noted. “But the shape of the curve jumped out at us,” she said. Physiological changes that occur with aging leave older adults more vulnerable to the ill effects of alcohol and drugs, as metabolism and excretion of substances slow down, increasing the risk of toxicity. Smaller amounts have bigger effects, researchers have found. Alcohol and opioids can interact poorly with prescription medications that many older adults take for common conditions like hypertension, diabetes and mood disorders. Misuse can lead to falls and injuries, exacerbate underlying medical conditions and worsen declines in cognition. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Stress
Link ID: 28581 - Posted: 12.06.2022

By Meredith Wadman It just got easier for U.S. scientists to get their hands on some pot—for research, that is. President Joe Biden today signed into law a bill that streamlines access to marijuana for medical research. The new law is expected to speed the issuance of government permits to scientists who want to study cannabis, whose medicinal promise has been widely touted but remains, with a few exceptions, unproven. It will also expedite applications from producers—including universities—that want to grow and distribute the drug for research. It also obliges the federal government to make sure an adequate, uninterrupted supply of marijuana is available to scientists. “We will now be able to treat marijuana like we treat any other substance or pharmaceutical for which we hope there is potential benefit. We will be able to subject it to rigorous scientific trial,” says Representative Andy Harris (R–MD), a physician and former National Institutes of Health (NIH)–funded researcher who helped usher the bipartisan legislation through Congress. “This is exciting,” says Ziva Cooper, the director of the Center for Cannabis and Cannabinoids at the University of California (UC), Los Angeles. “The bill is a significant step forward with respect to chipping away at the barriers” for research. Scientists are eager to study cannabis and its derivatives as potential treatments for cancer, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions. Other cannabis researchers welcomed the new law but said it doesn’t go far enough. In particular, they are disappointed it does not include a provision from an earlier draft of the legislation that would have allowed scientists to buy and study the marijuana available to consumers in the 37 states that have legalized its recreational or medical use.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28574 - Posted: 12.03.2022

By Gary Stix  Many people with bipolar disorder have a strong attraction to marijuana. A 2019 review of 53 studies found that almost a quarter of a combined sample of 51,756 individuals with the condition used cannabis or had a problematic pattern of consumption (cannabis use disorder), compared with 2 to 7 percent in the general population—and an earlier study placed usage estimates still higher. Cannabis and bipolar disorder do not go particularly well together. Consumption may increase manic and psychotic symptoms, and there may be a greater risk of suicide. But can the allure of cannabis be explained as a mere form of substance misuse? Why are people with bipolar disorder so attracted to marijuana? Could they be getting any possible benefit from it? Alannah Miranda of the University of California, San Diego, is a postdoctoral scholar working with U.C.S.D. psychiatry professors William Perry and Arpi Minassian to explore these questions. Miranda presented her and her colleagues’ unpublished work at this year’s giant Society for Neuroscience conference, which attracted more than 24,000 people earlier this month. She talked to Scientific American about what she discovered in this continuing study, which has been funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. [An edited transcript of the interview follows.] Tell me about what you’re studying. I’m researching the effects of cannabis on cognition in people with bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder report that it’s helping alleviate some of their symptoms in terms of issues related to memory, attention, focus and anxiety. © 2022 Scientific American,

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28569 - Posted: 11.30.2022

Linda Geddes Science correspondent Lead exposure during childhood may lead to reduced cognitive abilities in later life, meaning people experience symptoms of dementia sooner, data suggest. The study, one of the first to investigate the decades-long consequences of lead poisoning, suggests countries could face an explosion of people seeking support for dementia as individuals who were exposed to high lead levels during early life progress into old age. “In the US, and I would imagine the UK, the prime years when children were exposed to the most lead was in the 1960s and 70s. That’s when the most leaded gasoline was getting used, lead paint was still common, and municipal water systems hadn’t done much to clean up their lead,” said Prof John Robert Warren at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who was involved in the research. “Those children who are now in their 40s, 50s and early 60s, will soon be entering the time of life when cognitive impairment and dementia are really common. So there’s this coming wave, potentially, of problems for the people who were most exposed.” Although scientists have long known that children and adults who are exposed to lead have poorer cognitive and educational outcomes, few studies have investigated the longer-term consequences. Warren and his colleagues combined data from the US-based longitudinal Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which has followed the brain health of thousands of adults over several decades, with census records to pinpoint where 1,089 of these individuals lived as children. They also mapped the locations of towns and cities that used lead pipes and had acidic or alkaline water – a proxy for high lead exposure. The research, published in Science Advances, revealed that people who lived in cities with lead-contaminated water as children had worse baseline cognitive functioning – a measure of their ability to learn, process information, and reason – at age 72, compared with those who did not. The difference was equivalent to being roughly eight years older. © 2022 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Neurotoxins; Alzheimers
Link ID: 28550 - Posted: 11.13.2022

By Katherine Ellison News organizations were quick to trumpet the recent findings of a small study suggesting that “magic mushrooms” could be part of a breakthrough treatment for alcoholism. It’s no wonder. Every year, alcohol abuse kills more than 140,000 Americans and affects millions more, with a steep increase in deaths in recent years, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Nov. 4. But excitement about the psilocybin study also raises a question: Why aren’t there more medical treatments for such an obviously devastating problem? “There is a desperate need for new medications, and there are many good avenues that we’re pursuing,” said Dorit Ron, a neurology professor at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center, who has been studying potential treatments that include rapamycin, a drug designed to help transplant patients tolerate new organs. But getting promising new medications into the hands of doctors and their patients has proved difficult, said George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), adding “it doesn’t go for lack of trying.” Lack of awareness by doctors, funding decisions by the pharmaceutical industry and the stigma surrounding alcoholism have all held up progress, he said. Can pills help? Ron and other researchers say medication can play a vital role in combating alcohol use disorder, the medical condition commonly known as alcoholism. But fewer than 2 percent of people with an alcohol addiction take medication for the condition, national surveys show, compared with 13.4 percent of those dealing with opioid addiction.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28542 - Posted: 11.09.2022

By Leo Sands Psilocybin, the active hallucinogen found in psychedelic mushrooms — also known as “magic mushrooms” — can effectively alleviate a severe bout of depression when administered in a single dose and combined with talk therapy, a new clinical study found. Adults with depression who were administered a single 25-miligram dose of psilocybin were more likely to experience significant improvements in their mental health — both immediately and for up to three months — than others who were randomly assigned smaller doses of the same drug, said the peer-reviewed study, which was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. “There’s something about the psychedelic experience that leads to a rapid resolution of depression symptoms,” said James Rucker, a consultant psychiatrist at King’s College London who worked on the trial. “We don’t really know what that is at the moment, but it’s very different to standard antidepressants.” The trial’s findings could be an encouraging sign for the 16 million Americans estimated each year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have depression, many of whom struggle to find treatments that work for them. Its authors hope the study — which was relatively small, with just 79 participants receiving the 25 mg dose — will pave the way for eventual regulatory approval of psilocybin by the Food and Drug Administration for use as a drug against depression. The new study randomly assigned 233 adults with depression three doses of psilocybin — 25 mg, 10 mg and 1 mg — across 22 sites in 10 countries. The authors found that the group given the largest dose recorded the most significant improvements in their depression, both immediately and for several weeks after.

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28540 - Posted: 11.05.2022

By Aimee Cunningham The death rate from alcohol use rose sharply in the United States in the first year of the pandemic. From 2019 to 2020, the rate of alcohol-induced deaths climbed 26 percent, from 10.4 per 100,000 people to 13.1 per 100,000, researchers report in a National Center for Health Statistics data brief published November 4. The rate of alcohol-induced deaths has generally increased yearly for the last two decades, but the annual uptick tended to be 7 percent or less. Deaths from alcoholic liver disease, which includes hepatitis and cirrhosis, were the most common driver of the increased rate. Deaths from mental and behavioral disorders due to alcohol use — mortality from dependence syndrome or withdrawal, for example — were the second most frequent contributor. The death rate from alcohol use jumped 26 percent overall from 2019 to 2020, a marked increase from previous years. Other researchers have reported that adults were drinking more frequently, and more heavily, early in the pandemic compared with the year before. There is also evidence of an increase in cases of alcoholic liver disease. A study at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore reported that 2.3 times as many patients with severe alcoholic liver disease and with recent unhealthy drinking were referred to their liver transplant center from July to December of 2020 compared with those months in 2019. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2022.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Stress
Link ID: 28539 - Posted: 11.05.2022

Jon Hamilton Computer games designed to boost self-esteem appear to prolong the antidepressant benefits of the mind-bending anesthetic ketamine. A recent study of 154 people found that those who played games featuring smiling faces and positive messages remained free of depression up to three months after a ketamine infusion, a team reports in the American Journal of Psychiatry. People who got ketamine alone tended to relapse after a week or two. The results are important because "we need new approaches that help people get feeling better faster and help them stay feeling better," says Rebecca Price, an author of the study and an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. Established drugs like Prozac and Zoloft can take weeks to ease depression, and don't work for every patient. Ketamine can offer immediate relief, but the effects often fade after a few days or weeks. "And then returning for infusions over and over to keep that relief going can end up being really burdensome and costly," Price says, "and just isn't accessible to all patients." So Price and a team of researchers wanted to find a way to make ketamine's antidepressant effects last longer. They decided to focus on a common symptom of depression: low self-esteem and self-loathing. The team drew on research suggesting that ketamine temporarily causes certain brain areas to enter a state in which they form lots of new connections. During this period, the brain seems to be more receptive to learning and change. "So we tried to use that window of opportunity just after ketamine to strengthen associations specifically between the idea of me, myself, and positive information and attributes," Price says. © 2022 npr

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28535 - Posted: 11.02.2022

By Elisabeth Egan BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — When I pictured Matthew Perry, the actor frequently known as Chandler Bing, I saw him on the tangerine couch at Central Perk or seated on one of the twin recliners in the apartment he shared with Joey Tribbiani. In September, after arriving at his 6,300-square-foot rental house and being ushered through a driveway gate by his sober companion, I sat across from Perry, who perched on a white couch in a white living room, a world away from “Friends,” the NBC sitcom that aired for 10 seasons and catapulted all six of its stars into fame, fortune and infinite memes. Instead of the foosball table where Chandler, Joey, Monica, Phoebe, Rachel and Ross gathered, nudging each other through the first chapters of adulthood, Perry, 53, had a red felt pool table that looked untouched. There was plenty of light in the house, but not a lot of warmth. I have watched every episode of “Friends” three times — in prime time, on VHS and on Netflix — but I’m not sure I would have recognized Perry if I’d seen him on the street. If he was an ebullient terrier in those 1990s-era Must See TV days — as memorable for his full-body comedy as he was for the inflection that made “Can you BE any more [insert adjective]” the new “Gag me with a spoon” — he now seemed more like an apprehensive bulldog, with the forehead furrows to match. As his former co-star Lisa Kudrow confesses in the foreword to his memoir, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing,” the first question people ask about “Friends” is often “How’s Matthew Perry doing?” Perry answers that question in the book, which Flatiron will publish on Nov. 1, by starkly chronicling his decades-long cage match with drinking and drug use. His addiction led to a medical odyssey in 2018 that included pneumonia, an exploded colon, a brief stint on life support, two weeks in a coma, nine months with a colostomy bag, more than a dozen stomach surgeries, and the realization that, by the time he was 49, he had spent more than half of his life in treatment centers or sober living facilities. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28524 - Posted: 10.26.2022

by Carey Gillam and Aliya Uteuova For decades, Swiss chemical giant Syngenta has manufactured and marketed a widely used weed-killing chemical called paraquat, and for much of that time the company has been dealing with external concerns that long-term exposure to the chemical may be a cause of the incurable brain ailment known as Parkinson’s disease. Syngenta has repeatedly told customers and regulators that scientific research does not prove a connection between its weedkiller and the disease, insisting that the chemical does not readily cross the blood-brain barrier, and does not affect brain cells in ways that cause Parkinson’s. But a cache of internal corporate documents dating back to the 1950s reviewed by the Guardian suggests that the public narrative put forward by Syngenta and the corporate entities that preceded it has at times contradicted the company’s own research and knowledge. And though the documents reviewed do not show that Syngenta’s scientists and executives accepted and believed that paraquat can cause Parkinson’s, they do show a corporate focus on strategies to protect product sales, refute external scientific research and influence regulators. In one defensive tactic, the documents indicate that the company worked behind the scenes to try to keep a highly regarded scientist from sitting on an advisory panel for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency is the chief US regulator for paraquat and other pesticides. Company officials wanted to make sure the efforts could not be traced back to Syngenta, the documents show. And the documents show that insiders feared they could face legal liability for long-term, chronic effects of paraquat as long ago as 1975. One company scientist called the situation “a quite terrible problem” for which “some plan could be made … ”

Keyword: Parkinsons; Neurotoxins
Link ID: 28522 - Posted: 10.22.2022

By Fenit Nirappil A national shortage of Adderall has left patients who rely on the pills for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder scrambling to find alternative treatments and uncertain whether they will be able to refill their medication. The Food and Drug Administration announced the shortage last week, saying that one of the largest producers is experiencing “intermittent manufacturing delays” and that other makers cannot keep up with demand. Some patients say the announcement was a belated acknowledgment of a reality they have faced for months — pharmacies unable to fill their orders and anxiety about whether they will run out of a medication needed to manage their daily lives. Experts say it is often difficult for patients to access Adderall, a stimulant that is tightly regulated as a controlled substance because of high potential for abuse. Medication management generally requires monthly doctor visits. There have been other shortages in recent years. “This one is more sustained,” said Timothy Wilens, an ADHD expert and chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital who said access issues stretch back to spring. “It’s putting pressure on patients, and it’s putting pressure on institutions that support the patients.” Erik Gude, a 28-year-old chef who lives in Atlanta, experiences regular challenges filling his Adderall prescription, whether it’s pharmacies not carrying generic versions or disputes with insurers. He has been off the medication for a month after his local pharmacy ran out.

Keyword: ADHD; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28520 - Posted: 10.22.2022

By Jyoti Madhusoodanan Q: I recently started taking an S.S.R.I. antidepressant, but I have been confused about whether it’s safe to drink alcohol. Some internet sources say it’s fine, others say to avoid drinking completely. Help! For many health care providers who treat anxiety and depression, the concern about whether it’s safe — or even advised — to drink alcohol while taking an antidepressant is a common one. “Patients tell me all the time, ‘I’m going to be drinking with friends tonight, so I skipped a dose,’” said Dr. Sarah Ramsay Andrews, a psychiatrist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. But skipping a dose is never a good idea, said Dr. Jody Glance, an addiction medicine specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Western Behavioral Health — even if you’re going out for cocktails with friends. “When people stop taking their medicines for a day or two, they often don’t resume, and that can lead to a relapse of anxiety or depression.” Besides, she added, how safe it is to drink while on antidepressants depends on the kind of antidepressant you’re taking — and for most people taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (or S.S.R.I.s), an occasional drink likely won’t do much harm. There are, however, caveats to keep in mind. S.S.R.I. medications — which include citalopram (Celexa), sertraline (Zoloft) and escitalopram (Lexapro) — are the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants. They are typically used to help treat depression, and can also be effective for other conditions like anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, certain phobias and even premenstrual dysphoric disorder. They work by increasing the levels of the brain chemical serotonin — which is thought to influence your mood and emotions, among other things — by blocking its removal after it carries messages in the brain. But unlike many other medications used to treat mood disorders — like the anxiety medication alprazolam (Xanax) or the tricyclic antidepressant amitriptyline (Elavil) — S.S.R.I.s are less likely to interact with alcohol than other kinds of drugs, Dr. Glance said. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28517 - Posted: 10.19.2022

Daniel Merino & Josjan Zijlmans As research into psychedelics and their medical uses makes a comeback, scientists are having to deal with the legacy – both scientific and social – of a 40-year nearly total freeze on psychedelics research. In this episode of “The Conversation Weekly” podcast, we speak with three experts about the early rise and fall of psychedelics in Western science and culture, how the mystical and often vague language of the ‘60s and '70s still pervades research today and what it’s like to actually run clinical trials using psilocybin. According to a poll done in the summer of 2022, nearly 30% of U.S. residents have tried at least one psychedelic drug in their lifetime. Whether from personal experience, hearing about the experiences of friends or widespread depictions in the media, many people will have either tried to describe a psychedelic trip or heard someone else describe one. The language commonly used in these descriptions is, for lack of a better word, often quite trippy. “A key function of the ego is to identify differentiation,” says Robin Carhart-Harris, a neurologist and psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and one of the world’s leading psychedelics researchers. “And when that function breaks down, it’s replaced with a sense of de-differentiation, a sense of unity, like everything is interconnected in a web of relationships. That’s not nothingness, it’s sort of everythingness.” Many psychedelics researchers use an approach called “the mystical framework” to assess psychedelic experiences. Researchers who use this framework give participants in psychedelics studies a survey as a way to define and categorize the experience. The survey asks participants to rate how strongly they felt certain phenomena during their trip, including feelings like the “certainty of encounter with ultimate reality (in the sense of being able to 'know’ and ‘see’ what is really real at some point during your experience).” © 2010–2022, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28496 - Posted: 10.01.2022