Chapter 4. The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology

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By Catherine Caruso, More than half of all opioid prescriptions in the United States are written for people with anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders, according to a new study that questions how pain is treated in this vulnerable population. People with mood disorders are at increased risk of abusing opioids, and yet they received many more prescriptions than the general population, according to an analysis of data from 2011 and 2013. “We’re handing this stuff out like candy,” said Dr. Brian Sites, of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the senior author of the study. Opioid prescribing in the U.S. quadrupled between 1999 and 2015, and during that time over 183,000 people died from overdoses related to prescription opioids, according to the CDC. Sites said more research is needed to understand whether opioids are being overprescribed to adults with mood disorders. “If you want to come up with social policy to address the need to decrease our out-of-control opioid prescribing, this would be the population you want to study, because they’re getting the bulk of the opioids, and then they are known to be at higher risk for the bad stuff,” he said. The study, published Monday in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, tapped a U.S. health survey that gathered data from providers and facilities on prescription medications, health status, and basic demographics for about 51,000 adults. It found that 19 percent of the 38.6 million Americans with mood disorders use prescription opioids, compared to 5 percent of the general population — a difference that remained even when the researchers controlled for factors such as physical health, level of pain, age, sex and race. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23779 - Posted: 06.27.2017

By Natalie Grover (Reuters) - A handful of drugmakers are taking their first steps toward developing marijuana-based painkillers, alternatives to opioids that have led to widespread abuse and caused the U.S. health regulator to ask for a withdrawal of a popular drug this month. The cannabis plant has been used for decades to manage pain and there are increasingly sophisticated marijuana products available across 29 U.S. states, as well as in the District of Columbia, where medical marijuana is legal. There are no U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved painkillers derived from marijuana, but companies such as Axim Biotechnologies Inc, Nemus Bioscience Inc and Intec Pharma Ltd have drugs in various stages of development. The companies are targeting the more than 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain, and are dependent on opioid painkillers such as Vicodin, or addicted to street opiates including heroin. Opioid overdose, which claimed celebrities including Prince and Heath Ledger as victims, contributed to more than 33,000 deaths in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Earlier this month, the FDA asked Endo International Plc to withdraw its Opana ER painkiller from the market, the first time the agency has called for the removal of an opioid painkiller for public health reasons. The FDA concluded that the drug's benefits no longer outweighed its risks. Multiple studies have shown that pro-medical marijuana states have reported fewer opiate deaths and there are no deaths related to marijuana overdose on record.(http://reut.rs/2r74Sbe) © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Pain & Touch; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23774 - Posted: 06.26.2017

By Chris Brown, Chris Corday, All it took was a single beer for Murray's Shaw life to unravel. The moment came on a bike holiday in January 2016 in San Diego while he was with some friends from the Vancouver area. After almost 20 years sober, the community college instructor from New Westminster, B.C., cracked open a cold one at the end of a long ride. Fourteen months later, he died alone in a hotel room in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Fentanyl overdose was the coroner's conclusion. "He wasn't making a choice with a rational mind. He was depressed and he was battling this impulse to use," said his wife, Sasha Wood, who offered to tell her husband's story to CBC News in the hopes it might help other families dealing with substance abuse issues. Fentanyl has become a scourge across the country, but B.C. has been hit the hardest: an average of four people have died of drug overdose every day in 2017. Wood said the events that led to Shaw's death illustrate much that's wrong with how the Canadian health care system treats those with an addiction. 'I just thought he could stop' Shaw had problems with alcohol in his 20s and got into trouble with the law. But Wood, 49, says he sought treatment and turned his life around. He stopped drinking completely, went to university and worked toward a PhD. ©2017 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23769 - Posted: 06.24.2017

By SAM QUINONES COVINGTON, KY. — Not long ago, I visited a Narcotics Anonymous meeting where men with tattoos and short-cropped hair sat in a circle and talked out their errors. One had lived under an overpass, pimping his girlfriend’s daughter for cash to buy heroin. As the thought brought him to tears, his neighbor patted his shoulder. Others owned to stealing from grandparents, to losing jobs and children. Soon, most in the room — men with years of street addiction behind them — were wiping their eyes. What made the meeting remarkable, however, was not the stories, but where it was taking place. Unit 104 is a 70-man pod in Kenton County Detention Center in northern Kentucky, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. The unit, and an equivalent one for women, is part of a new approach to jail made necessary by our nationwide epidemic of opiate addiction. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. As the country has awakened to that epidemic, a new mantra has emerged: “We can’t arrest our way out of this,” accompanied by calls for more drug-addiction treatment. Yet the opiate epidemic has swamped our treatment-center infrastructure. Only one in 10 addicts get the treatment they need, according to a 2016 surgeon general’s report. New centers are costly to build, politically difficult to find real estate for and beyond the means of most uninsured street addicts, anyway. So where can we quickly find cheap new capacity for drug treatment accessible to the street addict? Jail is one place few have thought to look. Jails typically house inmates awaiting trial or serving up to a year for a misdemeanor crime. Many inmates are drug addicts. They vegetate for months, trading crime stories in an atmosphere of boredom and brutality. Any attempt at treatment is usually limited to a weekly visit by a pastor or an Alcoholics Anonymous volunteer. When inmates are released, they’re in the clothes they came in with, regardless of the weather, and have no assistance to re-enter the real world. This kind of jail has always been accepted as an unavoidable fixed cost of government. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23754 - Posted: 06.20.2017

By ABBY GOODNOUGH WASHINGTON — Weeks before the presidential election, at a packed rally in New Hampshire, Donald J. Trump recounted the story of a young woman and her boyfriend who had fatally overdosed within a year of each other. He promised not just a border wall to keep drugs out, but also more access to treatment. “We’re going to take care of it,” he said of the opioid addiction epidemic, which has disproportionately hit states that were crucial to his election victory. “What’s taking so long?” Five months into his term, though, President Trump has enthusiastically supported a health care bill that would deeply cut the Medicaid program that has provided treatment to thousands of addicted Americans. He has yet to fill the nation’s top public health and drug policy jobs. And while he has appointed a bipartisan commission on the opioid crisis, which held its first official meeting on Friday, it remains to be seen how much attention the panel can command from Mr. Trump’s turbulent administration. Some addiction specialists say that waiting for a commission’s recommendations when hundreds of people are dying each week — and when countless groups around the country have studied the issue already — is wasting time. What is really needed, the specialists say, is the type of concerted, emergency action that public health officials have used to fight outbreaks of infectious diseases. “There really isn’t anything this commission is going to figure out that we don’t know already,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, who directs opioid policy research at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management. “What we need is an enormous federal investment in expanding access to addiction treatment, and for the different federal agencies that have a piece of this problem to be working in a coordinated fashion.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23750 - Posted: 06.17.2017

By Sam Wong Microdosing, the practice of regularly taking small amounts of psychedelic drugs to improve mood and performance, has been taking off over the past few years. But the fact that these drugs are illegal makes it difficult to research their effects and possible health consequences. There are no rigorous clinical trials to see whether microdosing works (see “Microdosers say tiny hits of LSD make your work and life better”). Instead, all we have are anecdotes from people like Janet Lai Chang, a digital marketer based in San Francisco. She will present her experience of microdosing at the Quantified Self conference in Amsterdam from 17 to 18 June. When did you start microdosing? I started in February 2016. I wanted to understand how my brain works and how it might work differently with the influence of psilocybin [the active ingredient in magic mushrooms]. What else did you hope to achieve? I had been struggling with a lot of social anxiety. It was really preventing me from advancing professionally. I was invited to give a talk at Harvard University and a TedX talk in California. I didn’t feel ready. I felt all this anxiety. I procrastinated until the last minute and then didn’t do it. It was one of my biggest regrets. What doses did you take? At first I was taking 0.2 grams of mushrooms every day, with a day or two off at the weekend. In August, I had a month off. From October to April, it was a few times a week. How did it affect you? I was less anxious, less depressed, more open, more extroverted. I was more present in the moment. It’s harder to get into the flow of the focused solo work that I’m normally really good at. But it’s good for the social aspect. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23743 - Posted: 06.15.2017

Rob Stein The Food and Drug Administration requested Thursday that the drugmaker Endo Pharmaceuticals stop selling Opana ER — its extended-release version of Opana. The FDA says the move marks the first time the agency has taken steps to remove an opioid from the market because of "public health consequences of abuse." An increasing number of people, the FDA says, are abusing the powerful prescription pills by crushing, dissolving and injecting them. The sharing of needles by these drug users has fueled an outbreak of associated infectious diseases — HIV, hepatitis C and another serious blood disorder. "We are facing an opioid epidemic — a public health crisis, and we must take all necessary steps to reduce the scope of opioid misuse and abuse," says Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the FDA's commissioner, in announcing the move. "We will continue to take regulatory steps when we see situations where an opioid product's risks outweigh its benefits, not only for its intended patient population but also in regard to its potential for misuse and abuse," Gottlieb says. Dangers Of Opana Opioid Painkiller Outweigh Benefits, FDA Panel Says In a written statement, Endo says the company is "reviewing the request and is evaluating the full range of potential options as we determine the appropriate path forward." The company defended its drug, a version of the medicine oxymorphone hydrochloride, citing the opioid's effectiveness in alleviating pain and Endo's efforts to prevent abuse. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Pain & Touch
Link ID: 23725 - Posted: 06.09.2017

Nicola Davis Drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol can damage the brain and impair cognitive function over time, researchers have claimed. While heavy drinking has previously been linked to memory problems and dementia, previous studies have suggested low levels of drinking could help protect the brain. But the new study pushes back against the notion of such benefits. “We knew that drinking heavily for long periods of time was bad for brain health, but we didn’t know at these levels,” said Anya Topiwala, a clinical lecturer in old age psychiatry at the University of Oxford and co-author of the research. Alcohol is a direct cause of seven ​​forms of cancer, finds study Read more Writing in the British Medical Journal, researchers from the University of Oxford and University College London, describe how they followed the alcohol intake and cognitive performance of 550 men and women over 30 years from 1985. At the end of the study the team took MRI scans of the participants’ brains. None of the participants were deemed to have an alcohol dependence, but levels of drinking varied. After excluding 23 participants due to gaps in data or other issues, the team looked at participants’ alcohol intake as well as their performance on various cognitive tasks, as measured at six points over the 30 year period.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23718 - Posted: 06.07.2017

By Jessica Hamzelou Drinking even small amounts of alcohol when pregnant seems to have subtle effects on how a baby’s face develops – including the shape of their eyes, nose and lips. This isn’t necessarily harmful, though. “We don’t know if the small changes in the children’s facial shape are connected in any way to differences in their development,” says Jane Halliday of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Victoria, Australia, who led the research. “We plan to look at this as the children grow.” Heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, which is characterised by distinctive facial features, such as small eye openings, a short up-turned nose, and a smooth philtrum over the upper lip. Children with this condition are likely to have attention and behavioural disorders, as well as a lower IQ, says Halliday. To find out whether low levels of alcohol consumption, which are more common in pregnancy, might also affect developing fetuses, Halliday’s team studied 1570 women throughout their pregnancies and births. Of these women, 27 per cent said they continued to drink at least some alcohol while pregnant. When the children were 1 year old, Halliday’s team took photos of 415 of the babies’ faces with multiple cameras from different angles. When the team stitched these images together using computer software, the resulting 3D photographs detailed almost 70,000 points on each baby’s face. Analysing these revealed subtle differences in the faces of babies whose mothers had drunk alcohol compared with those whose mothers hadn’t. These included a slightly shorter, more-upturned nose. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23714 - Posted: 06.06.2017

By JOSH KATZ AKRON, Ohio — Drug overdose deaths in 2016 most likely exceeded 59,000, the largest annual jump ever recorded in the United States, according to preliminary data compiled by The New York Times. The death count is the latest consequence of an escalating public health crisis: opioid addiction, now made more deadly by an influx of illicitly manufactured fentanyl and similar drugs. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. Although the data is preliminary, the Times’s best estimate is that deaths rose 19 percent over the 52,404 recorded in 2015. And all evidence suggests the problem has continued to worsen in 2017. Because drug deaths take a long time to certify, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will not be able to calculate final numbers until December. The Times compiled estimates for 2016 from hundreds of state health departments and county coroners and medical examiners. Together they represent data from states and counties that accounted for 76 percent of overdose deaths in 2015. They are a first look at the extent of the drug overdose epidemic last year, a detailed accounting of a modern plague. The initial data points to large increases in drug overdose deaths in states along the East Coast, particularly Maryland, Florida, Pennsylvania and Maine. In Ohio, which filed a lawsuit last week accusing five drug companies of abetting the opioid epidemic, we estimate overdose deaths increased by more than 25 percent in 2016. “Heroin is the devil’s drug, man. It is,” Cliff Parker said, sitting on a bench in Grace Park in Akron. Mr. Parker, 24, graduated from high school not too far from here, in nearby Copley, where he was a multisport athlete. In his senior year, he was a varsity wrestler and earned a scholarship to the University of Akron. Like his friends and teammates, he started using prescription painkillers at parties. It was fun, he said. By the time it stopped being fun, it was too late. Pills soon turned to heroin, and his life began slipping away from him. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23712 - Posted: 06.06.2017

Sarah Marsh When depression takes hold of Helen it feels like she is drowning in a pool of water, unable to swim up to the world above. The 36-year-old former nurse has had mental health problems most of her life. No drugs, hospital stays or therapies have been able to help. Then one day, during yet another spell in hospital, her consultant told her about a psychiatrist treating patients with ketamine. The psychiatrist in question visited her to discuss using the drug. He warned there were no guarantees, but it had helped some patients. Since then Helen’s life has transformed. Sitting on a bench in the grounds of the hospital where her treatment began a year and a half ago, she lists everything she can do now that she could not before: take her kids to school, give them hugs, go on coffee dates. “I am managing my thoughts and that is what ketamine helps to do. It slows down my thought process so instead of being completely overwhelmed by all these immense negative thoughts and feelings … I can think, stop and breathe,” she says, nervously pulling her sleeves over her hands as she talks. She adds: “It’s still really hard but now there is a tiny fraction of a second where my thoughts are slow enough to think: ‘I can deal with this. I cannot give up.’”

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23697 - Posted: 06.02.2017

Meghan Rosen The first thing you’ll notice is the noise. Monitors beep steadily, relentlessly, ready to sound a car-alarm blare if a baby is in trouble. The air has an astringent odor — not clean exactly, but reminiscent of an operating room (there’s one next door). Ceiling lights shine fluorescent white. Half are off, but glare from the monitors throws out extra light. It’s midday on a Friday, but it’ll be just as bright at midnight. Here on the fourth floor of Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, 10 tiny beds hold 10 tiny infants, each with Band-Aid–like patches stuck to their bodies to continuously monitor health. Between beds, nurses squeeze through narrow aisles crammed with folding chairs and plastic incubators. This space, one of five in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, has the people and equipment needed to keep sick babies alive — heart rate monitors, oxygen tanks, IV poles to deliver medications. Until recently, Yale’s NICU and hundreds like it across the country were considered the place to be for newborns withdrawing from opioid drugs. But now, as the number of drug-dependent babies surges, doctors here and elsewhere are searching for better options. “We’re really focused on trying to get these kids out of the NICU,” says Yale pediatrician Matthew Grossman. “We’re looking at moms and the dads as the first line of treatment.” The nationwide rate of babies withdrawing from opioids has soared — up nearly 400 percent from 2000 to 2012. The booming numbers are the bleak by-product of the United States’ ongoing battle with the drugs: Sales of prescription opioid pain relievers alone quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, and overdose deaths tripled from 2000 to 2014. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23689 - Posted: 06.01.2017

Laurel Hamers Last year, Joan Peay slipped on her garage steps and smashed her knee on the welcome mat. Peay, 77, is no stranger to pain. The Tennessee retiree has had 17 surgeries in the last 35 years — knee replacements, hip replacements, back surgery. She even survived a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that sickened her and hundreds of others, and killed 64. This knee injury, though, “hurt like the dickens.” When she asked her longtime doctor for something stronger than ibuprofen to manage the pain, he treated her like a criminal, Peay says. His response was frustrating: “He’s known me for nine years, and I’ve never asked him for pain medicine other than what’s needed after surgery,” she says. She received nothing stronger than over-the-counter remedies. A year after the fall, she still lives in constant pain. Just five years ago, Peay might have been handed a bottle of opioid painkillers for her knee. After all, opioids — including codeine, morphine and oxycodone — are some of the most powerful tools available to stop pain. Hitting opioid receptors in the peripheral nervous system keeps pain messages from reaching the brain. But opioids can cause problems by overstimulating the brain’s reward system and binding to receptors in the brain stem and gut. But an opioid addiction epidemic spreading across the United States has soured some doctors on the drugs. Many are justifiably concerned that patients will get hooked or share their pain pills with friends and family. And even short-term users risk dangerous side effects: The drugs slow breathing and can cause constipation, nausea and vomiting. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017

Keyword: Pain & Touch; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23686 - Posted: 05.31.2017

A cannabis compound has been proven for the first time to reduce the frequency of seizures in people with a rare, severe form of epilepsy, according to the results of a randomized trial. For years, parents have pointed to anecdotal benefits of cannabidiol (CBD), a compound in the marijuana plant that does not produce a high, saying it reduces seizures in treatment-resistant epilepsy. Now doctors have performed a randomized trial to show cause and effect, with the findings published in Wednesday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. To conduct the study, the researchers focused on Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that begins in infancy and is linked to a particular mutation that often resists combinations of up to 10 conventional seizure medications. They enrolled 120 patients who ranged in age from 2.5 to 18 years. Sixty-one patients were randomly assigned to cannabidiol, and the 59 others to placebo. Neither the researchers nor the families knew who received the medication to prevent bias. All continued to take their existing medications. "The message is that cannabidiol does work in reducing convulsing seizures in children with Dravet syndrome," said lead author Dr. Orrin Devinksy, who is director of NYU's Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. For those in the cannabinoid group, the median number of convulsive seizures per month dropped from 12.4 per month before treatment, to 5.9 seizures, the researchers reported. The placebo group, in comparison, only saw their convulsive seizures fall from 14.9 per month, to 14.1. ©2017 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Epilepsy; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23659 - Posted: 05.25.2017

By Catherine Caruso If you give a mouse a beer, he is going to want a cookie—and another, and another. If you give a person enough beer, she might find herself wolfing down a plate of greasy nachos or some other caloric snack. A study published in January in Nature Communications helps to explain why binge drinking, in both mice and humans, so often leads to binge eating even though alcohol is, itself, high in calories. In the first part of the study, neuroscientists Craig Blomeley and Sarah Cains, both at the Francis Crick Institute Mill Hill Laboratory in London, injected mice with the equivalent of roughly two bottles of wine once a day for three consecutive days, mimicking a weekend of heavy drinking. Sure enough, the inebriated mice ate far more than sober mice in a control group. To figure out why, the researchers then exposed thin-sliced postmortem mouse brains to alcohol and measured the resulting neural activity using fluorescent tags and electrodes. They found that ethanol exposure alters calcium exchange in the cells, causing specialized nerve cells called agouti-related protein (AgRP) neurons to fire more frequently and easily. These neurons normally fire when our body needs calories, and research has shown that activating them artificially will cause mice to chow down even when they are full. The study results suggest that alcohol activates AgRP neurons in the brain, giving drunk mice the munchies. The same is likely true for humans because this brain circuitry has been highly conserved across mammal species, Cains says: “I don't doubt that AgRP neurons are activated in humans, and that's why you see this effect.” © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Obesity
Link ID: 23645 - Posted: 05.22.2017

Laura Beil Even though a sprained ankle rarely needs an opioid, a new study of emergency room patients found that about 7 percent of patients got sent home with a prescription for the potentially addictive painkiller anyway. And the more pills prescribed, the greater the chance the prescription would be refilled, raising concerns about continued use. The research adds to evidence that it’s hard for some people to stop taking the pills even after a brief use. State officials in New Jersey recently enacted a law limiting first-time prescriptions to a five-day supply, and other states should consider similar restrictions, says Kit Delgado, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania. “The bottom line is that we need to do our best not to expose people to opioids,” Delgado says. “And if we do, start with the smallest quantity possible.” The research was presented May 17 at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine’s annual meeting in Orlando. Previous research has found that the more opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone are prescribed, the more likely patients are to keep taking them. But previous studies have been too broad to account for differences in diagnoses — for instance, whether people who received refills kept taking the drug simply because they still were in pain, Delgado says. He and colleagues limited their study to prescriptions written after ankle sprains to people who had not used an opioid in the previous six months. Usually, those injuries aren’t serious and don’t require opioids. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Pain & Touch
Link ID: 23638 - Posted: 05.20.2017

Lesley McClurg When her youngest daughter, Naomi, was in middle school, Ellen watched the teen disappear behind a screen. Her once bubbly daughter went from hanging out with a few close friends after school to isolating herself in her room for hours at a time. (NPR has agreed to use only the pair's middle names, to protect the teen's medical privacy.) "She started just lying there, not moving and just being on the phone," says Ellen. "I was at a loss about what to do." Ellen didn't realize it then, but her daughter was sinking into a pattern of behavior that some psychiatrists recognize from their patients who abuse drugs or alcohol. It's a problem, they say, that's akin to an eating disorder or gambling disorder – some consider it a kind of internet addiction. Estimates of how many people are affected vary widely, researchers say, and the problem isn't restricted to kids and teens, though some – especially those who have depression or anxiety disorder — may be particularly vulnerable. Naomi had always been kind of a nerd — a straight-A student who also sang in a competitive choir. But she desperately wanted to be popular, and the cool kids talked a lot about their latest YouTube favorites. "I started trying to watch as many videos as I could so, like, I knew as much as they did," says Naomi. "The second I got out of school, I was checking my phone." That's not unusual behavior for many teens and adults these days. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23631 - Posted: 05.18.2017

A healthy teenager in the US state of South Carolina died from drinking several highly-caffeinated drinks too quickly, a coroner has ruled. Davis Allen Cripe collapsed at a high school in April after drinking a McDonalds latte, a large Mountain Dew soft drink and an energy drink in just under two hours, Gary Watts said. The 16-year-old died from a "caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia". He had no pre-existing heart condition. The teenager weighed 90kg (200 lbs) but would not have been considered morbidly obese, Mr Watts said. "This is not a caffeine overdose," Mr Watts told Reuters news agency. "We're not saying that it was the total amount of caffeine in the system, it was just the way that it was ingested over that short period of time, and the chugging of the energy drink at the end was what the issue was with the cardiac arrhythmia." Caffeine would probably not have been seen as a factor in the teenager's death if witnesses had not been able to tell officials what he had been drinking before his death, the Richland County coroner said. The main witness could not say which brand of energy drink Davis drank but said it was from a container the size of a large soft drink. "We're not trying to speak out totally against caffeine," Mr Watts said. "We believe people need to pay attention to their caffeine intake and how they do it, just as they do with alcohol or cigarettes." The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) has warned against children and teenagers consuming energy drinks, saying their ingredients have not been tested on children and "no-one can ensure they are safe". It says they have side-effects including irregular heartbeats and blood pressure changes. © 2017 BBC.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23618 - Posted: 05.16.2017

By Michael Le Page In some cultures, it’s traditional for elders to smoke grass, a practice said to help them pass on tribal knowledge. It turns out that they might just be onto something. Teenagers who toke perform less well on memory and attention tasks while under the influence. But low doses of the active ingredient in cannabis, THC, might have the opposite effect on the elderly, reversing brain ageing and restoring learning and memory – at least according to studies of mice. “We repeated these experiments many times,” says team leader Andreas Zimmer at the University of Bonn, Germany. “It’s a very robust and profound effect.” Zimmer’s team has been studying the mammalian endocannabinoid system, which is involved in balancing out our bodies’ response to stress. THC affects us by mimicking similar molecules in this system, calming us down. The researchers discovered that mice with genetic mutations that stop this endocannabinoid system from working properly age faster than normal mice, and show more cognitive decline. This made Zimmer wonder if stimulating the endocannabinoid system in elderly mice might have the opposite effect. To find out, the team gave young (2-month-old), middle-aged (12-month-old) and elderly (18-month-old) mice a steady dose of THC. The amount they received was too small to give them psychoactive effects. After a month, the team tested the mice’s ability to perform cognitive tasks, such as finding their way around mazes, or recognising other individuals. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23593 - Posted: 05.09.2017

By CASEY SCHWARTZ OAKLAND, Calif. — In a packed, cavernous space one weekend late in April, a crowd of thousands was becoming increasingly amped up. Rainbow hair was commonplace, purple silk pants were sighted, and the smell of marijuana drifted in from a designated smoking area nearby. Audience members watched the stage with avid interest, leaping to occasionally shoeless feet to applaud and cheer. This wasn’t Coachella, taking place the same weekend some 500 miles south, or any other music festival, but a five-day convention of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), its first in four years. Rather than rock stars, scientists from schools like Johns Hopkins and N.Y.U. were the main attraction, bringing evidence to the medical case for psychedelics like psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) to assuage end-of-life anxiety, to help deepen meditation practices, to search for the shared underpinnings of spiritual life, and — in a new study — to explore a possible treatment for severe depression. Paul Austin, 26, of Grand Rapids, Mich., a so-called social entrepreneur who runs a website called The Third Wave devoted to getting out information on psychedelic substances, had come to meet other members of the pro-psychedelic community and share with them his vision for how the next generation must proceed. “A lot of the people who are leading the movement now are 60 or 70 years old, based in academia or research,” Mr. Austin said. “But to catalyze change, you have to speak to people, get to them on an emotional level.” The conference was taking place just over the Bay Bridge from the city that introduced psychedelics to the American imagination in the early 1960s, when LSD was relatively new, legal and regarded by those who used it as a portal to expanded consciousness, a deeper life and an enlightened, humane society. (Cary Grant and other Hollywood stars were among those who experimented with it as part of their psychotherapeutic process.) © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Depression
Link ID: 23589 - Posted: 05.08.2017