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By Oliver Whang Cats, so often, are a mystery, even to those that know them best. Why do they sleep so much? Why do they want your full attention one minute, none the next? How can they find their way back home after being stranded miles away for years? The writer Haruki Murakami, who is known for putting cats in his novels and essays, once confessed to not knowing why he does so; a cat “sort of naturally slips in,” he said. Another mystery: Why do cats love catnip? When exposed to the plant, which belongs to the mint family, the majority of domestic cats will lick it, rub against it, chew it and roll around in it. They brim with euphoria, getting high off the stuff. They also go wild for other plants, particularly silver vine, which is not closely related to catnip but elicits the same response from felines, including big cats like jaguars and tigers. For years, this behavior was just another cat-related enigma. But a new study, published Tuesday in the journal iScience, suggests that the reaction to catnip and silver vine might be explained by the bug repellent effect of iridoids, the chemicals in the plants that induce the high. Researchers, led by Masao Miyazaki, an animal behavior scientist at Iwate University in Japan, found that the amount of these iridoids released by the plant increased by more than 2,000 percent when the plant was damaged by cats. So perhaps kitty’s high confers an evolutionary advantage: keeping bloodsucking insects at bay. Kristyn Vitale, a cat behavior expert at Unity College who was not associated with the research, noted that the study built on strong previous work. Last year, the same lab published a study that found that cats would try their best to coat themselves in DEET-like iridoids, whether by rolling on the chemicals or by rising up to nuzzle them with their cheeks. “This indicates there may be a benefit to the cat physically placing the compounds on their body,” Dr. Vitale said. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28373 - Posted: 06.15.2022

By Benjamin Mueller Taking a scan of an injured brain often produces a map of irretrievable losses, revealing spots where damage causes memory difficulties or tremors. But in rare cases, those scans can expose just the opposite: plots of brain regions where an injury miraculously relieves someone’s symptoms, offering clues about how doctors might accomplish the same. A team of researchers has now taken a fresh look at a set of such brain images, drawn from cigarette smokers addicted to nicotine in whom strokes or other injuries spontaneously helped them quit. The results, the scientists said, showed a network of interconnected brain regions that they believe underpins addiction-related disorders affecting potentially tens of millions of Americans. The study, published in the scientific journal Nature Medicine on Monday, supports an idea that has recently gained traction: that addiction lives not in one brain region or another, but rather in a circuit of regions linked by threadlike nerve fibers. The results may provide a clearer set of targets for addiction treatments that deliver electrical pulses to the brain, new techniques that have shown promise in helping people quit smoking. “One of the biggest problems in addiction is that we don’t really know where in the brain the main problem lies that we should target with treatment,” said Dr. Juho Joutsa, one of the study’s lead authors and a neurologist at the University of Turku in Finland. “We are hoping that after this, we have a very good idea of those regions and networks.” Research over the last two decades has solidified the idea that addiction is a disease of the brain. But many people still believe that addiction is voluntary. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain; Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 28371 - Posted: 06.14.2022

Perspective by Elizabeth Grey I’m told I don’t look like a heroin addict. I am a married, middle-aged woman, a taxpaying homeowner. As privilege goes, I have it. Because I’m White, I get treated better in medical settings such as hospitals and rehabs. I have health insurance. I have access to credit. My spouse could not be more supportive. But every day for a couple of years I left my house with a river view and drove downtown in South Yonkers to meet my dealer. I know a letter carrier who once worked that neighborhood. He told me there was a time when you could buy an Uzi on his route. I knew the first time I bought heroin at age 48 that doing so probably meant the end of my life. But compared to withdrawal, that was fine by me. Looks and bias may deceive, but numbers don’t lie. The United States hit a record of overdose deaths last year. And the great, gaping hole of the response to the opioid epidemic is that withdrawal is the most important aspect, and it’s barely given lip service. I often wonder how many suicides are a result of people unable to bear it. There is no net. The window of time between putting down the drug and even a whiff of hope is too long. The only place to land is hell. The medical community and lawmakers have never appreciated what withdrawal — or getting dopesick — does to a human being. Current policies and protocols can only manufacture heroin addicts. And I was a degenerate one. One day I noticed the inspection sticker on my car had expired. But it cost $37 to get an inspection, and that was almost four bags of heroin. I could not afford it. Every dollar went toward my growing habit. © 1996-2022 The Washington Post

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28340 - Posted: 05.28.2022

By Jan Hoffman Shortly after Kade Webb, 20, collapsed and died in a bathroom at a Safeway Market in Roseville, Calif., in December, the police opened his phone and went straight to his social media apps. There, they found exactly what they feared. Mr. Webb, a laid-back snowboarder and skateboarder who, with the imminent birth of his first child, had become despondent over his pandemic-dimmed finances, bought Percocet, a prescription opioid, through a dealer on Snapchat. It turned out to be spiked with a lethal amount of fentanyl. Mr. Webb’s death was one of nearly 108,000 drug fatalities in the United States last year, a record, according to preliminary numbers released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Law enforcement authorities say an alarming portion of them unfolded the same way as his: from counterfeit pills tainted with fentanyl that teenagers and young adults bought over social media. “Social media is almost exclusively the way they get the pills,” said Morgan Gire, district attorney for Placer County, Calif., where 40 people died from fentanyl poisoning last year. He has filed murder charges against a 20-year-old man accused of being Mr. Webb’s dealer, who pleaded not guilty. “About 90 percent of the pills that you’re buying from a dealer on social media now are fentanyl,” Mr. Gire said. The phenomenon has led to disturbing new statistics: Overdoses are now the leading cause of preventable death among people ages 18 to 45, ahead of suicide, traffic accidents and gun violence, according to federal data. Although experimental drug use by teenagers in the United States has been dropping since 2010, their deaths from fentanyl have skyrocketed, to 884 in 2021, from 253 in 2019, according to a recent study in the journal JAMA. Much as drug dealers in the 1980s and ’90s seized on pagers and burner phones to conduct business covertly, today’s suppliers have embraced modern iterations — social media and messaging apps with privacy features such as encrypted or disappearing messages. Dealers and young buyers usually spot each other on social media and then often proceed by directly messaging each other. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28334 - Posted: 05.21.2022

Kavita Babu Buying drugs on the street is a game of Russian roulette. From Xanax to cocaine, drugs or counterfeit pills purchased in nonmedical settings may contain life-threatening amounts of fentanyl. Physicians like me have seen a rise in unintentional fentanyl use from people buying prescription opioids and other drugs laced, or adulterated, with fentanyl. Heroin users in my community in Massachusetts came to realize that fentanyl had entered the drug supply when overdose numbers exploded. In 2016, my colleagues and I found that patients who came to the emergency department reporting a heroin overdose often only had fentanyl present in their drug test results. As the Chief of Medical Toxicology at UMass Chan Medical School, I have studied fentanyl and its analogs for years. As fentanyl has become ubiquitous across the U.S., it has transformed the illicit drug market and raised the risk of overdose. Fentanyl and its analogs Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that was originally developed as an analgesic – or painkiller – for surgery. It has a specific chemical structure with multiple areas that can be modified, often illicitly, to form related compounds with marked differences in potency. For example, carfentanil, a fentanyl analog formed by substituting one chemical group for another, is 100 times more potent than its parent structure. Another analog, acetylfentanyl, is approximately three times less potent than fentanyl, but has still led to clusters of overdoses in several states. © 2010–2022, The Conversation US, Inc.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28323 - Posted: 05.11.2022

By Lola Butcher While Covid-19’s death toll grabbed the spotlight these past two years, another epidemic continued marching grimly onward in America: deaths from opioid overdose. A record 68,630 individuals died from opioid overdoses in 2020, partly as a result of the isolation and social distancing forced by the pandemic; early data suggest that death rates in many states were even worse in the first half of 2021. But the coronavirus pandemic may also have had a paradoxical benefit for those addicted to opioids: Because Covid-19 made in-person health care unsafe, US telehealth regulations were relaxed so that more services — including addiction treatment — could be provided online. As a result, people with opioid use disorder are accessing medication and support across the country in greater numbers than ever before. While it’s too soon to know for sure whether this helps more people kick their addiction, early signs are promising. The federal government estimates that 2.7 million Americans — nearly 1 percent of the population — have opioid use disorder, also known as opioid addiction. It is a chronic brain disease that develops over time because of repeated use of prescription opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine or illicit fentanyl and heroin. A person with opioid use disorder has a 20 times greater risk of death from overdose, infectious diseases, trauma and suicide than one who does not. Fortunately, two medications — methadone and buprenorphine, both approved by the US Food & Drug Administration — help individuals manage withdrawal symptoms and control or eliminate their compulsive opioid use. Patients who receive these medications fare better than those who do not on a long list of outcomes, says Eric Weintraub, who heads the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. They have fewer overdoses; less injection drug use; reduced risk for disease transmission; decreased criminal activity; lower rates of illegal drug use; and better treatment-retention rates. Indeed, people with opioid use disorder receiving long-term treatment with methadone or buprenorphine are up to 50 percent less likely to die from an overdose. © 2022 Annual Reviews

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28313 - Posted: 05.04.2022

Natalia Mesa Cravings for sugary treats and other “wants” in humans are driven by the activity of dopamine-producing cells in our mesolimbic system. Experimental research now suggests that a similar system might also exist in honeybees (Apis mellifera), spurring them to “want” to search for sources of nectar. In a study published today (April 28) in Science, researchers found that bees’ dopamine levels were elevated during the search for food and dropped once the food was consumed. Dopamine may also help trigger a hedonic, or pleasant, “memory” of the sugary treat, the researchers say, as dopamine levels rose again when foragers danced to tell other foragers about the foods’ locations. “The whole story is new. To show that there is a wanting system in insects is generally new,” says study coauthor Martin Giurfa, a neuroscientist at Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, France. “Bees are truly amazing.” In both humans and invertebrates, dopamine is known to be involved in learning and reward. Giurfa and his team have been studying the neurotransmitter in bees, and several years ago, they characterized many of the neural pathways that involved dopamine. “We found so many so diverse pathways that we said, ‘There might be more than just representing reinforcement, representing punishment, representing reward.’” He began to look for other roles dopamine might play in honeybee behavior. bee next to pink flower © 1986–2022 The Scientist.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28305 - Posted: 04.30.2022

Rhitu Chatterjee For the first time in a decade, overdose deaths among teens in the United States rose dramatically in 2020 and kept rising through 2021 as well. That's according to the results of a new study published Tuesday in JAMA. "This is very alarming because what we've seen in other parts of the population is that when overdose death rates start to rise, they tend to continue to do so for quite some time," says Joe Friedman, a public health researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the lead author of the new study. "We're still really in the early days in terms of teen overdose. And that makes this an especially important time to intervene," he adds. Friedman and his colleagues found that fatal overdoses among adolescents nearly doubled from 492 in 2019 to 954 in 2020, an increase of 94%. There was an additional 20% rise in 2021 compared to the previous year. The highest rates were among Native American and Alaskan Native teens, followed by Latino teens. "For decades, we've seen overdose rates rising among adults, and teens have been insulated from that," says Friedman. "And now, for the first time, the overdose crisis is reaching teens as well." It appears that the rise in deaths was fueled not by greater numbers of teens using drugs – substance use in this age group actually went down during the pandemic – but by use of dangerous and highly potent forms of fentanyl. The study found that fentanyl-related deaths increased from 253 in 2019 to 680 the following year. And in 2021, 77% of all teen overdose deaths involved fentanyl. © 2022 npr

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28281 - Posted: 04.13.2022

By Gina Kolata Last week, two patients asked Dr. Stanley L. Hazen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, how much daily alcohol consumption would be good for their cardiac health. He gave them both well-accepted medical advice — an average of about one drink a day helps the heart. “I didn’t give it a second thought,” he said. Then he saw a paper published in JAMA Network Open whose findings upended his thinking about what to tell patients. The paper, he said, “totally changes my life.” Its conclusion: There is no level of drinking that does not confer heart disease risk. The risk is small if people have an average of seven drinks a week when compared with none. But it increases quickly as the level of alcohol consumption rises. “Dose matters a lot,” said Dr. Krishna G. Aragam, a preventive cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an author of the study. “Just realize that, as you go up beyond modest ranges, the risk goes up quite a bit.” The study, which may help resolve medical disputes over the effects of alcohol on the heart, involved sophisticated analyses of the genes and medical data of nearly 400,000 people who participate in the U.K. Biobank, a British repository that investigators use to study genes and their relation to health. The average age of subjects selected for the alcohol study was 57, and they reported consuming an average of 9.2 drinks a week. Some researchers have reported that drinking modestly protects the heart because moderate drinkers as a group have less heart disease than those who drink heavily or those who abstain. Dr. Aragam and his colleagues also saw that effect. But the reason, they report, is not that alcohol protects the heart. It is that light to moderate drinkers — those who consume up to 14 drinks a week — tend to have other characteristics that decrease their risk, like smoking less, exercising more and weighing less than those who drink more heavily and those who do not drink. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28260 - Posted: 03.30.2022

By Roni Caryn Rabin Almost a million people in the United States have died of Covid-19 in the past two years, but the full impact of the pandemic’s collateral damage is still being tallied. Now a new study reports that the number of Americans who died of alcohol-related causes increased precipitously during the first year of the pandemic, as routines were disrupted, support networks frayed and treatment was delayed. The startling report comes amid a growing realization that Covid’s toll extends beyond the number of lives claimed directly by the disease to the excess deaths caused by illnesses left untreated and a surge in drug overdoses, as well as to social costs like educational setbacks and the loss of parents and caregivers. Numerous reports have suggested that Americans drank more to cope with the stress of the pandemic. Binge drinking increased, as did emergency room visits for alcohol withdrawal. But the new report found that the number of alcohol-related deaths, including from liver disease and accidents, soared, rising to 99,017 in 2020, up from 78,927 the previous year — an increase of 25 percent in the number of deaths in one year. That compares with an average annual increase of 3.6 percent in alcohol-related deaths between 1999 and 2019. Deaths started inching up in recent years, but increased only 5 percent between 2018 and 2019. The study, done by researchers with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a division of the National Institutes of Health, was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association on Friday. Using information from death certificates, the researchers included all deaths in which alcohol was listed as an underlying or contributing cause. (Only a very small number also involved Covid-19.) “The assumption is that there were lots of people who were in recovery and had reduced access to support that spring and relapsed,” said Aaron White, the report’s first author and a senior scientific adviser at the alcohol abuse institute. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 28253 - Posted: 03.26.2022

Brian Mann Nine state attorneys general have agreed to drop their objection to a deal granting immunity from opioid lawsuits to members of the Sackler family who own Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. In exchange, the family has agreed to increase the amount it pays from personal holdings from roughly $4.5 billion under a previous settlement to $6 billion. Washington state Attorney General Robert Ferguson described the terms of the new settlement as a victory. "Rather than join the majority of states in settlement, Washington chose to lead the fight against the Sacklers and Purdue," Ferguson said in a statement. "As a result, we won more than $100 million for Washington state to address the opioid epidemic, and more than $1 billion for states, cities and tribes across the country." The prior deal was overturned by a federal judge in Manhattan last December after some states and the Justice Department filed an appeal. States demanding more money from the Sacklers — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont and Washington — have among the highest overdose death rates in the country. In a statement, members of various branches of the Sackler family again denied any wrongdoing and described the settlement as one that will "allow very substantial additional resources to reach people and communities in need." "While the families have acted lawfully in all respects, they sincerely regret that OxyContin, a prescription medicine that continues to help people suffering from chronic pain, unexpectedly became part of an opioid crisis that has brought grief and loss to far too many families and communities." Critics, including many of the state attorneys general who approved this deal, have long accused members of the Sackler family of aggressively marketing opioids in ways that contributed to soaring rates of addiction and overdoses. © 2022 npr

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28230 - Posted: 03.05.2022

By Jan Hoffman For years, Dr. Xiulu Ruan was one of the nation’s top prescribers of quick-release fentanyl drugs. The medicines were approved only for severe breakthrough pain in cancer patients, but Dr. Ruan dispensed them almost exclusively for more common ailments: neck aches, back and joint pain. According to the Department of Justice, he and his partner wrote almost 300,000 prescriptions for controlled substances from 2011 to 2015, filled through the doctors’ own pharmacy in Mobile, Ala. Dr. Ruan often signed prescriptions without seeing patients, prosecutors said. Dr. Ruan has been serving a 21-year sentence in federal prison, convicted in 2017 for illegally prescribing opioids and related financial crimes. To collect millions of dollars in fines, the government seized houses, beach condos and bank accounts belonging to him and his business partner, as well as 23 luxury cars, such as Bentleys, Lamborghinis and Ferraris. On Tuesday, lawyers both for Dr. Ruan and for Dr. Shakeel Kahn, who is serving 25 years on charges related to pill mill clinics in Arizona and Wyoming will argue before the Supreme Court of the United States that the criminal standard the physicians faced is applied inconsistently among the federal circuits. In asking that the doctors’ convictions be overturned, they want the court to establish a uniform standard that permits doctors to raise a “good faith” defense. Juries could then consider whether doctors subjectively believed they were using their best medical judgment. The likelihood of these two doctors being set free is small, legal experts believe, but the court’s decision on the broader legal questions could have significant implications for the latitude doctors can take in prescribing potentially addictive painkillers and other restricted medications. The cases confront an uneasy relationship between law and medicine. In an era when overdose deaths are soaring, how should the law balance letting physicians exercise their best judgment with stopping egregious outliers? © 2022 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 8: General Principles of Sensory Processing, Touch, and Pain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain; Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System
Link ID: 28226 - Posted: 03.02.2022

Brian Mann Over the next two weeks, some of the biggest U.S. corporations accused of "turbocharging" the opioid epidemic could finalize payouts to victims and governments worth roughly $32 billion. "We've lost more than a million Americans to this epidemic, and sadly, it's at an all-time high as overdose deaths continue to rise," said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton last week, in a statement announcing his state is now in line to receive roughly $1.1 billion. Paxton said pharmaceutical companies that made, distributed and sold opioids were "at the root of the problem." Their payments will help fund "treatment for those currently still struggling with opioid addiction," he added. This comes as communities across the U.S. are scrambling for resources to combat an opioid crisis that keeps getting worse. Drug overdoses killed more than 104,000 Americans in the most recent 12-month period for which data is available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's a tragic new record for the U.S. There are two major negotiations nearing completion. The largest involves major drug distributors and wholesalers AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, along with health products giant Johnson & Johnson. Article continues after sponsor message The four firms, which maintain they did nothing wrong, have tentatively agreed to payouts totaling $26 billion. The Texas money would come from that deal, as would roughly $590 million that would go to Native American tribes. © 2022 npr

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28216 - Posted: 02.23.2022

By Jan Hoffman The federal government on Thursday proposed new guidelines for prescribing opioid painkillers that remove its previous recommended ceilings on doses for chronic pain patients and instead encourage doctors to use their best judgment. But the overall thrust of the recommendations was that doctors should first turn to “nonopioid therapies” for both chronic and acute pain, including prescription medications like gabapentin and over-the-counter ones like ibuprofen, as well as physical therapy, massage and acupuncture. Though still in draft form, the 12 recommendations, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are the first comprehensive revisions of the agency’s opioid prescribing guidelines since 2016. They walk a fine line between embracing the need for doctors to prescribe opioids to alleviate some cases of severe pain while guarding against exposing patients to the well-documented perils of opioids. Dr. Samer Narouze, president of the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, an association of clinicians, praised the tone, level of detail and focus of the project. “It’s a total change in the culture from the 2016 guidelines,” he said, characterizing the earlier edition as ordering doctors to “just cut down on opioids — period.” By contrast, the new proposal “has a much more caring voice than a policing one, and it’s left room to preserve the physician-patient relationship,” added Dr. Narouze, chairman of the Center for Pain Medicine at Western Reserve Hospital in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. The 229-page document warns of addiction, depressed breathing, altered mental status and other dangers associated with opioids, but it also notes that the drugs serve an important medical purpose, especially for easing the immediate agony from traumatic injuries such as burns and crushed bones. In those instances when opioids seem the way to go, the recommendations said, doctors should start with the lowest effective dose and prescribe immediate-release pills rather than long-acting ones. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 8: General Principles of Sensory Processing, Touch, and Pain; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System; Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28207 - Posted: 02.16.2022

By Lenny Bernstein The federal government on Thursday proposed new guidelines for prescribing opioids that would eliminate numerical dosage recommendations for treatment of chronic pain in favor of a more flexible approach by caregivers. FAQ: What to know about the omicron variant of the coronavirus The recommendations call for doctors and other prescribers to weigh the risks and benefits of starting, increasing and halting treatment with opioids. They leave out previous advice on the amount and duration of painkiller treatments that patients and doctors have contended was sometimes misinterpreted, causing serious harm to people suffering unrelenting pain. For some with chronic pain, the problem is not in their backs or knees but their brains Some states and caregivers adopted tight rules based on the recommendations, first issued in 2016, resulting in patients having difficulty obtaining pain drugs or having them cut off abruptly. “There’s not a one size fits all,” said Christopher Jones, acting director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We’ve heard that quite clearly. When you have hard thresholds like 90 [morphine milligram equivalents] or a specific duration, it makes it too easy for policymakers or others to take that out of context and apply that as a rigid cap.” Bobby Mukkamala, chairman of the American Medical Association Board of Trustees, issued a statement saying that “for nearly six years, the AMA has urged the CDC to reconsider its problematic guideline on opioid prescriptions that proved devastating for patients with pain. The CDC’s new draft guideline — if followed by policymakers, health insurance companies and pharmacy chains — provides a path to remove arbitrary prescribing thresholds, restore balance and support comprehensive, compassionate care.” Andrew Kolodny, one of the fiercest critics of opioid manufacturers, said he believes some of the opposition was orchestrated by drug companies that saw the attempt to curb opioid prescribing — especially of high-dose pills — as a threat to their profit margins. © 1996-2022 The Washington Post

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28195 - Posted: 02.12.2022

By Christina Caron After 10 years of marriage, Ree, 42, and her husband were ready to call it quits. Even their therapist had given up, she said, in part because her husband “was so closed off, just unable to open up.” “We loved each other a lot and we were very compatible, however, we didn’t know how to deal with conflict,” Ree said. She was often anxious about their relationship and could be “a little neurotic at times,” but the more she pushed her husband to connect, the more withdrawn he became. Their sex life suffered. Then a friend suggested that they try the illegal drug MDMA, popularly known as Ecstasy or Molly. For Ree — who, along with her husband, requested anonymity to speak about drug use, and is referred to by a nickname — the answer was an “immediate no.” MDMA, long associated with rave culture, is currently categorized as a Schedule I drug — meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use in the United States. “We are about as strait-laced as you can come,” she said. “We’re not people who break laws or do drugs.” Six months later, after reading “How to Change Your Mind,” the best-selling book by Michael Pollan that details his transformative experience with psychedelics, Ree reconsidered. And that’s how they found themselves in a secluded area of Utah at a large, rented house with a beautiful view of the mountains to trip on MDMA with five other couples. In recent years, clinical trials have shown that MDMA, when combined with talk therapy, can bring relief to those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a finding that has elevated MDMA’s reputation from party drug to potential therapeutic. Some couples, drawn to the drug’s ability to produce feelings of empathy, trust and compassion, have started using unregulated MDMA on their own in an effort to help them reconnect, improve communication and have better sex. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders; Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28192 - Posted: 02.09.2022

By Charles F. Zorumski One minute you’re enjoying a nice buzz, the next your brain stops recording events that are taking place. The result can mean having vague or no memory of a time period ranging anywhere from a few minutes up to several hours. Scary—isn’t it? Unfortunately, alcohol-induced blackouts aren’t a rarity, either. A 2015 survey of English teenagers who drank showed 30 percent of 15-year-olds and 75 percent of 19-year-olds suffered alcohol-induced blackouts. In medical terms this memory loss is a form of temporary anterograde amnesia, a condition where the ability to form new memories is, for a limited time, impaired. That means you can’t remember a stretch of time because your brain was unable to record and store memories in the first place. Neuroscientists do not fully understand how blackouts occur. Researchers long assumed alcohol impairs memory because it kills brain cells. Indeed, long-standing alcohol abuse can damage nerve cells and permanently impact memory and learning. It is unlikely, however, that brain damage is behind acute blackouts. It is clear that processes in the hippocampus—the area of brain involved in the formation, storage and retrieval of new memories—are disturbed. Specifically, it appears alcohol impairs the so-called long-term potentiation of synapses at the pyramidal cells in the hippocampus. Alcohol alters the activity of certain glutamate receptors, thereby boosting the production of specific steroid hormones. This in turn slows the long-term potentiation of hippocampal synapses. Normally this mechanism, responsible for strengthening the synaptic transfer of information between neurons, is the basis of memory formation. © 2022 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain; Chapter 14: Attention and Higher Cognition
Link ID: 28142 - Posted: 01.08.2022

By Gretchen Reynolds People who work out regularly and are aerobically fit tend to guzzle a surprising amount of alcohol, according to a new study, well timed for the holidays, of the interplay between fitness, exercise and imbibing. The study, which involved more than 40,000 American adults, finds that active, physically fit men and women are more than twice as likely to be moderate or heavy drinkers as people who are out of shape. The results add to mounting evidence from previous studies — and many of our bar tabs — that exercise and alcohol frequently go hand in hand, with implications for the health effects of each. Many people, and some researchers, might be surprised to learn how much physically active people tend to drink. In general, people who take up one healthy habit, such as working out, tend to practice other salubrious habits, a phenomenon known as habit clustering. Fit, active people seldom smoke, for instance, and tend to eat healthful diets. So, it might seem logical that people who often exercise would drink alcohol sparingly. But multiple studies in recent years have found close ties between working out and tippling. In one of the earliest, from 2001, researchers used survey answers from American men and women to conclude that moderate drinkers, defined in that study as people who finished off about a drink a day, were twice as likely as those who didn’t drink at all to exercise regularly. Later studies found similar patterns among college athletes, who drank substantially more than other collegians, a population not famous for its temperance. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 11: Motor Control and Plasticity
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain; Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System
Link ID: 28121 - Posted: 12.22.2021

By Kim Tingley When they first appeared in the United States in the mid-2000s, “electronic nicotine delivery systems” — e-cigarettes, vapes, e-liquids and other wares that contain the stimulant found in tobacco — were subject to little federal oversight. Their makers could incorporate countless other ingredients and flavorings. Like cigarettes before them, the devices proved extremely attractive to young people; in 2018, the surgeon general declared youth vaping an “epidemic” and noted that one in five high schoolers and one in 20 middle schoolers used e-cigarettes. Nicotine can harm the developing brain, and e-cigarettes contain potentially harmful toxins like heavy metals; the long-term effects of vaping — the heating of nicotine to create an inhaled aerosol — are uncertain. Despite these concerns, public-​health officials in the U.S. hope that, given a choice in the open market, people already addicted to nicotine will choose e-cigarettes over cigarettes — a deadly consumer product so successful at attracting and retaining users that it has killed as many as 24 million Americans over the past six decades. Because e-cigarettes generally contain fewer toxic chemicals than tobacco smoke, they are believed to be less damaging than cigarettes. If a sizable number of the one in seven adults in the U.S. who smoke switched to e-cigarettes, the theory goes, significantly fewer people might suffer from cancer and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. In 2016, in an effort to mitigate the potential harms of e-cigarettes, the Food and Drug Administration began regulating them as “new tobacco products.” It became illegal to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under 18 (a cutoff that rose nationally to 21 in late 2019), and the agency was empowered to require warning labels. The F.D.A. also gained the authority to keep products out of the marketplace, unless it could be demonstrated that their public-health benefit outweighed their risks. (As a result of legislation passed in 2009, this condition applies to new tobacco products in general; cigarettes themselves, and other tobacco products on the market before Feb. 15, 2007, don’t have to meet the same standard.) As of last month, the agency had denied nearly a million applications. But a vaporizer and two liquids, in regular tobacco and menthol flavors, were authorized, after the F.D.A. declared that data submitted by their manufacturer showed that they were indeed less toxic than cigarettes and could, in the words of the agency’s news release, “benefit addicted adult smokers who switch to these products.” This would “outweigh the risk to youth” and lead to an overall “protection of the public health.” © 2021 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28090 - Posted: 11.24.2021

By Andrew Jacobs APPLE VALLEY, Calif. — Jose Martinez, a former Army gunner whose right arm and both legs were blown off by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, has a new calling: He’s become one of the most effective lobbyists in a campaign to legalize the therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs across the country. On a Zoom call this spring with Connie Leyva, a Democratic legislator in California who has long opposed relaxing drug laws, Mr. Martinez told her how psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in “magic” mushrooms, had helped to finally quell the physical pain and suicidal thoughts that had tormented him. Ms. Leyva says she changed her mind even before the call ended, and she later voted yes on the bill, which is expected to become law early next year. “We ask these men and women to go fight for our freedoms,” she said in an interview. “So if this is something that is helping them live a more normal life, I feel like I shouldn’t stand in the way.” In the two years since Oregon, Washington, D.C., and a half-dozen municipalities decriminalized psilocybin, vets have become leading advocates in the drive to legalize psychedelic medicine, which they credit with helping ease the post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression that are often tied to their experiences in the military. The campaign has been propelled by the epidemic of suicides among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, but also by the national reckoning over the mass incarceration of people on drug charges that has softened public attitudes on prohibition. More than 30,000 service members have taken their own lives in the years since Sept. 11 — four times the number of those who died on the battlefield — and the Department of Veterans Affairs has struggled to address the crisis with the traditional repertoire of pharmacological interventions. © 2021 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 28072 - Posted: 11.13.2021