Chapter 4. The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 24375 - Posted: 11.29.2017

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

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

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

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 24362 - Posted: 11.26.2017

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

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

Jon Hamilton A brain system involved in everything from addiction to autism appears to have evolved differently in people than in great apes, a team reports Thursday in the journal Science. The system controls the production of dopamine, a chemical messenger that plays a major role in pleasure and rewards. "Humans have evolved a dopamine system that is different than the one in chimpanzees," says Nenad Sestan, an author of the study and a professor of neuroscience at Yale. That could help explain why human behavior is so different from our nearest relatives even though our brains are remarkably similar, he says. It might also shed light on why people are vulnerable to mental disorders such as autism. The finding came from a massive, multicenter effort to compare the brains of several species. Researchers looked at 247 samples of brain tissue from five macaque monkeys, five chimpanzees and six people. They looked at which genes were turned on or off in 16 regions of the brain. And in most places, the differences among species were subtle. But there was a striking difference in the neocortex, an area of the brain that is much more developed in people than in chimpanzees. The team found that a gene called TH, which is involved in the production of dopamine, was expressed in the neocortex of people, but not chimpanzees. "That caught our attention," says Andre Miguel Sousa, another author of the study who works in Sestan's lab at Yale. Dopamine is best known for its role in the brain's reward system, which responds to everything from sex and food to addictive drugs. But dopamine also helps regulate emotional responses, memory and movement. And abnormal dopamine levels have been linked to disorders including Parkinson's, schizophrenia and autism. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Evolution
Link ID: 24353 - Posted: 11.24.2017

By Stephani Sutherland When we experience something painful, our brain produces natural painkillers that are chemically similar to potent drugs such as morphine. Now research suggests these endogenous opioids also play another role: helping regulate the body's energy balance. Lauri Nummenmaa, a brain-imaging scientist at the University of Turku in Finland, and his colleagues measured endogenous opioid release in the brains of 10 healthy men. The subjects were injected with a radioactive substance that binds to opioid receptors, making it possible to visualize the receptors' activity using positron-emission tomography. The study found evidence of natural painkillers in the men's brains after they ate a palatable meal of pizza. Surprisingly, their brains released even more of the endogenous opioids after they ate a far less enticing—but nutritionally similar—liquid meal of what Nummenmaa called “nutritional goo.” Although the subjects rated the pizza as tastier than the goo, opioid release did not appear to relate to their enjoyment of the meal, the researchers reported earlier this year in the Journal of Neuroscience. Advertisement “I would've expected the opposite result,” says Paul Burghardt, an investigator at Wayne State University, who was not involved in the work. After all, previous human and animal studies led researchers to believe that endogenous opioids helped to convey the pleasure of eating. Nummenmaa, too, was surprised. His group's earlier research showed that obese people's brains had fewer opioid receptors—but that receptor levels recover with weight loss. “Maybe when people overeat, endogenous opioids released in the brain constantly bombard the receptors, so they [decrease in number],” he says. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Obesity; Attention
Link ID: 24347 - Posted: 11.22.2017

By Meredith Wadman When people die from overdoses of opioids, whether prescription pain medications or street drugs, it is the suppression of breathing that almost always kills them. The drugs act on neuronal receptors to dull pain, but those in the brain stem also control breathing. When activated, they can signal respiration to slow, and then stop. The results are well-known: an epidemic of deaths—about 64,000 people in the United States alone last year. Countering this lethal side effect without losing opioids' potent pain relief is a challenge that has enticed drug developers for years. Now, for the first time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Silver Spring, Maryland, is considering whether to approve an opioid that is as effective as morphine at relieving pain and poses less risk of depressing breathing. Trevena, a firm based in Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania, announced on 2 November that it has submitted oliceridine, an intravenous opioid meant for use in hospitalized patients, to FDA for marketing approval. The drug, which would be marketed under the name Olinvo, is the most advanced of what scientists predict will be a growing crop of pain-relieving "biased agonists"—so called because, in binding a key opioid receptor in the central nervous system, they nudge it into a conformation that promotes a signaling cascade that kills pain over one that suppresses breathing. And in a paper out this week in Cell, a veteran opioid researcher and her colleagues unveil new biased opioid agonists that could surpass oliceridine, though they haven't been tested in people yet. "There are many groups creating [such] biased agonists. And one of them is going to get it right," says Bryan Roth, a molecular pharmacologist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. "To have a drug you can't die of an overdose with would be a huge lifesaver for tens of thousands of people every year." © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Pain & Touch
Link ID: 24337 - Posted: 11.17.2017

Rob Stein Federal health officials Tuesday issued a warning about kratom, a herbal product being promoted as a safe alternative to opioids for pain that is also marketed for treating addiction, anxiety and depression. The Food and Drug Administration says there's insufficient evidence the supplement works to treat addiction or other problems and cited growing evidence it can be dangerous. Kratom may cause seizures, liver damage and withdrawal symptoms. "It's very troubling to the FDA that patients believe they can use kratom to treat opioid withdrawal symptoms," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement, adding that not only is there no reliable evidence that kratom is an effective treatment for opioid use disorder, there are FDA-approved medications that work. Calls to U.S. poison control centers about kratom, which is made from a plant that grows in Asia, jumped tenfold from 2010 to 2015, according to the FDA. At least 36 deaths are associated with the use of products containing kratom, the agency says. "I understand that there's a lot of interest in the possibility for kratom to be used as a potential therapy for a range of disorders," Gottlieb added. "But the FDA has a science-based obligation that supersedes popular trends and relies on evidence." As a result, the agency has begun seizing supplies of kratom and taking steps to prevent future shipments from being imported into the United States, the FDA says. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24332 - Posted: 11.16.2017

By Lenny Bernstein A long-acting medication designed to help wean substance abusers off opioids is as effective as short-term therapies such as buprenorphine and methadone that patients must take every day, researchers reported Tuesday. The first major head-to-head comparison of medically assisted treatment approaches confirms that users now have two research-based options, according to the team of scientists led by Joshua D. Lee and John Rotrosen of New York University Medical School. But each method also showed a distinct disadvantage. The short-acting medicines must be taken every day for years and sometimes for a lifetime — a difficult regimen for many substance abusers to follow, especially in rural areas that may be far from dispensing clinics. Monthly injections of naltrexone, in contrast, cannot be started until users have fully detoxified from opioids, which more than 25 percent of the subjects in that part of the research study failed to do. “This provides an alternative medication for patients that may not have responded to buprenorphine . . . or patients who eventually want to be taken off their medication,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the government agency that funded the research. In addition, more than half the opioid users in the study relapsed at least once, regardless of which medication they were taking — evidence of how difficult it is to conquer addiction. © 1996-2017 The Washington Post

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24326 - Posted: 11.15.2017

By Jessica Hamzelou Heavy drinkers and abstainers don’t make the best couples. In humans, one partner that drinks more than the other is thought to be a recipe for a breakup. The same appears to be true for prairie voles, one of the only other mammals known to form long-term monogamous relationships. The finding suggests the link between alcohol consumption and relationship failure may have a biological basis, say the researchers. “There is an increase in divorce in couples in which there is discordant drinking,” says Andrey Ryabinin at Oregon Health and Science University. Money is thought to play a role, but nobody knows the precise causes because a randomised study in people would be unethical. “You can’t tell people to start drinking,” he says. To explore the question in animals, Ryabinin and his colleague Andre Walcott turned to prairie voles: the only rodents known to form lasting, monogamous relationships. “They maintain the same pair bond for their entire lives,” says Ryabinin. Unlike other rodents, both partners take care of offspring. And rather than leaving the nest as soon as they reach adolescence, the young stay and look after their younger siblings. Prairie voles are also the only rodents known to willingly drink alcohol. While mice and rats avoid the stuff, prairie voles prefer it to water, says Ryabinin. Voles on the sauce Ryabinin has previously shown that alcohol consumption affects prairie vole relationships. When given a choice between their partner and a new female, male voles that drank more alcohol were more likely to go and mate with the new female than those that abstained. Alcohol seemed to have the opposite effect in females – those that drank more alcohol more strongly preferred their original partner. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24325 - Posted: 11.15.2017

By Amanda B. Keener On a fall day in 2015 at Sunnybrook hospital in Toronto, a dozen people huddled in a small room peering at a computer screen. They were watching brain scans of a woman named Bonny Hall, who lay inside an MRI machine just a few feet away. Earlier that day, Hall, who had been battling a brain tumor for eight years, had received a dose of the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. She was then fitted with an oversized, bowl-shape helmet housing more than 1,000 transducers that delivered ultrasound pulses focused on nine precise points inside her brain. Just before each pulse, her doctors injected microscopic air bubbles into a vein in her hand. Their hope was that the microbubbles would travel to the capillaries of the brain and, when struck by the sound waves, oscillate. This would cause the blood vessels near Hall’s tumor to expand and contract, creating gaps that would allow the chemotherapy drug to escape from the bloodstream and seep into the neural tissue. Finally, she received an injection of a contrast medium, a rare-earth metal called gadolinium that lights up on MRI scans. Now, doctors, technicians, and reporters crowded around to glimpse a series of bright spots where the gadolinium had leaked into the targeted areas, confirming the first noninvasive opening of a human’s blood-brain barrier (BBB). “It was very exciting,” says radiology researcher Nathan McDannold, who directs the Therapeutic Ultrasound Lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and helped develop the technique that uses microbubbles and ultrasound to gently disturb blood vessels. Doctors typically depend on the circulatory system to carry a drug from the gut or an injection site to diseased areas of the body, but when it comes to the brain and central nervous system (CNS), the vasculature switches from delivery route to security system. The blood vessels of the CNS are unlike those throughout the rest of the body. © 1986-2017 The Scientist

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 24310 - Posted: 11.09.2017

By Elly Vintiadis The prevailing wisdom today is that addiction is a disease. This is the main line of the medical model of mental disorders with which the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is aligned: addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease in which drug use becomes involuntary despite its negative consequences. The idea here is, roughly, that addiction is a disease because drug use changes the brain and, as a result of these changes, drug use becomes compulsive, beyond the voluntary control of the user. In other words, the addict has no choice and his behavior is resistant to long term change. This way of viewing addiction has its benefits: if addiction is a disease then addicts are not to blame for their plight, and this ought to help alleviate stigma and to open the way for better treatment and more funding for research on addiction. This is the main rationale of a recent piece in the New York Times, which describes addiction as a disease that is plaguing the U.S. and stresses the importance of talking openly about addiction in order to shift people’s understanding of it. And it seems like a welcome change from the blame attributed by the moral model of addiction, according to which addiction is a choice and, thus, a moral failing—addicts are nothing more than weak people who make bad choices and stick with them. Yet, though there are positive aspects to seeing addiction in this light, it seems unduly pessimistic and, though no one will deny that every behavior has neural correlates and that addiction changes the brain, this is not the same as saying that, therefore, addiction is pathological and irreversible. And there are reasons to question whether this is, in fact, the case. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24307 - Posted: 11.09.2017

By LAURA HILGERS San Anselmo, Calif. — Fay Zenoff recently met a friend for dinner at a sushi restaurant in Sausalito, Calif. After they were seated, a waitress asked if they’d like wine with dinner. Her friend ordered sake. Ms. Zenoff declined. “Not for me,” she said. “I’m celebrating 10 years of sobriety this weekend.” Because of the stigma attached to addiction, Ms. Zenoff, who is 50, took a risk speaking so openly. But when she and her friend finished eating, the waitress reappeared. This time she carried ice cream with a candle in it and was accompanied by fellow members of the restaurant staff. They stood beside Ms. Zenoff’s table, singing “Happy Birthday.” The evening, Ms. Zenoff recalled, was “just amazing.” A victory, too. For 25 years, Ms. Zenoff, who began adult life with an M.B.A. from Northwestern, was an alcoholic who dabbled in heroin, Ecstasy and cocaine. “I felt so much shame about my past behavior,” she said, “that it was a huge hurdle to admit I was in recovery even to my family and friends.” It took three years for her to speak up among friends and another three for her to do so publicly. Now as executive director of the Center for Open Recovery, a Bay Area nonprofit, she’s promoting an idea considered radical in addiction circles: that people in recovery could be open and even celebrated for managing the disease that is plaguing our nation. She and other advocates believe that people in recovery could play a vital role in ending the addiction epidemic, much as the protest group Act Up did in the AIDS crisis. It’s an idea that fits with the report released by President Trump’s opioid commission last week. Among the report’s 56 recommendations was a suggestion that the government battle stigma and other factors by partnering with private and nonprofit groups on a national media and educational campaign similar to those “launched during the AIDS public health crisis.”

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24297 - Posted: 11.06.2017

By Alfonso Serrano James Casey recalls having a fondness for fireworks while growing up on the outskirts of small towns in rural Louisiana and North Carolina. That was before his 2011 deployment as a U.S. Army medic to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he was steadily exposed to the trauma of modern warfare. After he returned to the U.S. a year later at age 19, the sound of fireworks and similar blasts of noise produced ghastly images of the lifeless Kandahar patients who proved beyond his medical aid, mangled bodies that at times covered his entire field of view. Like nearly 30 percent of Afghanistan and Iraq War veterans, Casey was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, which he sought to quell with everything from medication to group therapy to hypnosis. Nothing worked. After 18 months Casey was ready to accept his PTSD as a life sentence, he says. Then he read about upcoming trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD patients in Boulder, Colorado, where he was headed to study molecular biology. “It gave me my life back,” he says, recalling the phase II trial organized in 2015 by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, in which Casey underwent three MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions over five weeks. “I did a year and a half of therapy before MDMA,” he says. “But with MDMA it was like a year and a half of the previous therapy in one day.” © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Stress
Link ID: 24289 - Posted: 11.04.2017

By SHEILA KAPLAN WASHINGTON — Everyday Advanced Hemp Oil, Bosom Lotion and CBD Edibles Gummie Men may have their fans, but the Food and Drug Administration is not among them. Four companies selling those and dozens of other marijuana-derived dietary supplements have been warned by the F.D.A. to stop pitching their products as cures for cancer, a common but unproven claim in the industry. “Substances that contain components of marijuana will be treated like any other products that make unproven claims to shrink cancer tumors,” said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the agency’s commissioner, in a news release on Wednesday. “We don’t let companies market products that deliberately prey on sick people with baseless claims that their substances can shrink or cure cancer.” The businesses — Stanley Brothers Social Enterprises, Green Roads of Florida, That’s Natural and Natural Alchemist — each sell products that falsely claim to cure cancer, Alzheimer’s disease or other illnesses, the agency said. The supplements allegedly contain cannabidiol (CBD), a component of the marijuana plant that is not approved by the F.D.A. for any use. Unlike medical marijuana, CBD contains only a fraction of the tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, needed to cause a high, according to the manufacturers. The companies sell CBD over the internet in a wide range of oil drops, capsules, syrups, teas and creams. The websites feature endorsements from people — generally identified only by first names and last initials — who claim that they or their loved ones have been miraculously cured of terminal diseases and other illnesses. “There are a growing number of effective therapies for many cancers,” said Dr. Gottlieb, a cancer survivor himself. “When people are allowed to illegally market agents that deliver no established benefit, they may steer patients away from products that have proven, anti-tumor effects that could save lives.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24278 - Posted: 11.02.2017

By Nicholas Kristof The colored parts of the image above, prepared by Columbia University scientists, indicate where a child’s brain is physically altered after exposure to this pesticide. This chemical, chlorpyrifos, is hard to pronounce, so let’s just call it Dow Chemical Company’s Nerve Gas Pesticide. Even if you haven’t heard of it, it may be inside you: One 2012 study found that it was in the umbilical cord blood of 87 percent of newborn babies tested. And now the Trump administration is embracing it, overturning a planned ban that had been in the works for many years. The Environmental Protection Agency actually banned Dow’s Nerve Gas Pesticide for most indoor residential use 17 years ago — so it’s no longer found in the Raid you spray at cockroaches (it’s very effective, which is why it’s so widely used; then again, don’t suggest this to Dow, but sarin nerve gas might be even more effective!). The E.P.A. was preparing to ban it for agricultural and outdoor use this spring, but then the Trump administration rejected the ban. That was a triumph for Dow, but the decision stirred outrage among public health experts. They noted that Dow had donated $1 million for President Trump’s inauguration. So Dow’s Nerve Gas Pesticide will still be used on golf courses, road medians and crops that end up on our plate. Kids are told to eat fruits and vegetables, but E.P.A. scientists found levels of this pesticide on such foods at up to 140 times the limits deemed safe. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Neurotoxins; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24264 - Posted: 10.30.2017