Category Archives: Substance Abuse

Health & Wellness Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

Students More Likely to Try New Drugs in Specific Months

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Students tend to try different drugs at certain times of the year, a new analysis has found.

College students tend to try stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin for the first time in the months of November, December and April. The reason these months stand out could possibly have to do with college kids believing these drugs will help them with their examinations, even though there is no medical data to back up the belief.

The data comes from an analysis of 12 years of government survey data.

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Addiction Substance Abuse

Increase in Wages Helps Workers Quit Smoking

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According to a recent study published in the Annals of Epidemiology, increasing the pay of workers results to lower smoking rates in men. “Increasing the minimum wage could have a big impact on a significant health threat,” according to study senior author Paul Leigh, who also works at the University of California – Davis Health System Center for Healthcare Policy and Research.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from UC Davis who looked into data on full-time employees between the ages of 21 and 65, as acquired from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics from 1999 to 2009. Information such as status of smoking and amount of wages were correlated using instrumental variables analysis as a statistical framework, as reported in a news item.

The researchers discovered that increasing wages by 10 percent resulted to a decrease of 5 percent in smoking rates for male workers. The same scenario was observed for people whose educational attainment is high school or lower. Meanwhile, the 10 percent rise in pay also increases the chances of current smokers to quit smoking by up to 20 percent.

“Our findings are especially important as inflation-adjusted wages for low-income jobs have been dropping for decades and the percentage of workers in low-paying jobs has been growing nationwide,” Leigh expressed. He added that their research supports the long-standing belief that financial status affects a person’s health. “Our findings add to the existing body of epidemiological literature showing that lower income predicts poor health habits… They also show that higher minimum wages could reduce the prevalence of smoking,” the senior author added.


Substance Abuse

Education Program Helps Doctors Issue Correct Opioid Prescription

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Prescription drug abuse has become a worldwide health issue, prompting governments and medical organizations to pursue programs that prevent the problem from escalating. One of these programs comes from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), who has been successfully educating clinicians on how to properly prescribe opioid medication to patients.

The program is called Safe and Competent Opioid Prescribing Education (SCOPE of Pain), a three-hour educational program that participants may view either in person or online. The program is aligned with the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) requirement of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As of June 2014, more than 10,000 individuals have undergone SCOPE of Pain since it started in 2013. Roughly 27 percent of this population are clinicians, who are the primary targets of this program.

To monitor the effectiveness of the program, a group of researchers led by Dr. Daniel Alford of BUSM checked the prescription practices of the participants before and after completing SCOPE. According to a news release, about 87 percent of the participants committed to change something in their regular routine to support the objective of the program. After two months, the study discovered that roughly two-thirds of the SCOPE of Pain participants said that they have become more confident in prescribing opioids to follow the guidelines. “Our program improved knowledge, attitudes, confidence and clinical practice in safe opioid prescribing,” said Alford, who also works as course director of the program.


Substance Abuse

Chewing Tobacco Leads To More Than 200,000 Deaths Worldwide

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Many players in professional baseball, including Major League Baseball (MLB), have long been engaged in the practice of chewing tobacco during games. However, a recent research reveals the impact of this practice on the health of players.

The study — a collaboration of Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh, with financial support from the Medical Research Council and Leeds City Council — revealed that use of smokeless tobacco led to more than 200,000 fatalities in 2010 alone. Direct causes of the deaths range from mouth cancers to cardiovascular diseases. Data for the study came from several surveys, including the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study.

Despite the alarming death rate caused by smokeless tobacco use, study co-author Dr. Kamran Siddiqi said that their findings may just be scratching the surface. “It is possible that these figures are underestimated and future studies may reveal that the impact is even bigger. We need a global effort to try and address and control smokeless tobacco,” according to Siddiqi as reported in a news item.

The research team believes that the current laws and regulations that have succeeded in reducing cigarette smoking need to translate to regulating smokeless tobacco as well. “There is a need to build on the insights obtained from efforts to reduce cigarette smoking and to investigate strategies to reduce the use of smokeless tobacco,” Siddiqi added.

The state of California announced a proposed bill that prohibits chewing tobacco in MLB games. The bill authored by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) was passed in June 2015, according to a news report.


Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Top 5 Health Hazards Of Excessive Alcohol Consumption

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Alcohol remains to be one of the most abused substances, bringing health hazards to millions of people in the world. Consumption of alcohol comes in all shapes and sizes, but one hazardous way of ingesting the substance is through chronic heavy drinking.

Excessive alcohol consumption — whether in the form of binge drinking or chronic alcoholism — has long been proven to cause detrimental effects on the human body. Although the body can metabolize alcohol in moderate amounts, excess of this tolerable level goes to the bloodstream, where it is brought to the different parts and organs of the body. This distribution causes slight alterations in bodily functions and natural metabolic processes.

Medical News Today has recently released the most common diseases and health problems caused by chronic heavy drinking. The top five health hazards due to alcoholism are the following:

  1. Liver disease
  2. Pancreatitis
  3. Cancer
  4. Gastrointestinal issues (including ulcers)
  5. Dysfunction of immune system

The effects of excessive alcohol intake may differ from one person to other, depending on several factors such as age, gender, body mass index, genetics, and health status. On a general perspective, heavy drinking may be defined as consumption of more than 8 alcoholic beverages per week in women, and above 15 drinks for men.

Excessive alcohol consumption is considered to be one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.


Substance Abuse

Bacteria May Be Potential Cure To Help People Quit Smoking

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A lot of methods and experiments have been devised to help people quit smoking — exercise, meditation, or drugs like varenicline — and this new discovery appears to become an addition to the list.

Researchers from La Jolla’s The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) found a species of bacterium called Pseudomonas putida that contains a nicotine-degrading enzyme. The research team believes that by isolating the enzyme — called NicA2 — and administering it to a tobacco cigarette smoker, the nicotine in the bloodstream will be reduced faster. As a result of the lower nicotine level in the person’s body, the addictive properties of the substance will be drastically lowered, giving way to a better likelihood of quitting smoking.

The study involved mixing blood serum from mice with an amount of nicotine equal to smoking one cigarette. Upon adding the NicA2 enzyme, the half life of nicotine was significantly decreased from the usual 2 to 3 hours to only 9 to 15 minutes. The researchers are hoping to improve on the current enzyme so that nicotine will be completely degraded before it even reaches the brain. “Our research is in the early phase of drug development process, but the study tells us the enzyme has the right properties to eventually become a successful therapeutic,” said senior author Kim Janda via a news report.

The team is also looking to improve the stability of the enzyme to make it fare well with other smoking cessation drug aids. “Hopefully we can improve its serum stability with our future studies so that a single injection may last up to a month,” said study first author Song Xue.


Addiction Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

New Drug May be Able to Erase Memories Associated with Drug Addiction

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A new drug may be able to help drug addicts by erasing memories they have that are associated with their drug of choice, effectively getting rid of the triggers that cause relapses.

In a study, published in the journal Molecular Psychology, researchers outline how they used the drug blebbistatin to target nonmuscle myosin II (NMII), a component in the brain that is involved in the creation of new memories. By getting rid of memories that are associated with triggers — memories attached to certain objects, or events, will often make addicts feel the need to use their drug of choice — researchers at The Scripps Research Institute hope to make it easier for addicts to live a drug-free life.

“We now have a viable target and by blocking the target, we can disrupt, and potentially erase, drug memories, leaving other memories intact,” TSRI Associate Professor Courtney Miller said in a recent press release . “The hope is that, when combined with traditional rehabilitation and abstinence therapies, we can reduce or eliminate relapse for meth users after a single treatment by taking away the power of an individual’s triggers.”

They injected blebbistatin into animal models along with methamphetamine and found that with only one injection of this compound, long-term, drug-related memories were completely blocked in the animals. Plus, the animals did not relapse for at least a month after receiving the injection.

The team was enthusiastic about its results, finding that this new pathway helps to erase triggers that often lead to relapses. Even more promising is that the injection of blebbistatin can be administered to any part of the body, whereas previous compounds meant to erase these trigger memories had to be injected directly into the brain.

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Addiction Substance Abuse

Meditation May Help To Quit Smoking, Scientists Say

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A joint research by the University of Oregon and Texas Tech University discovered that relaxation is an effective tool to prevent people from smoking. The study was conducted on 60 students — with about half of the test population being smokers — who were sent to do relaxation exercises. There were two options for relaxation: muscle relaxation or mindful meditation.

Results of the study revealed a significant improvement in the smoking habits of those who engaged in mental relaxation. The researchers investigated several angles that may cause people to stop smoking. “We then measured intention to see if it correlated with smoking changes and found there was no correlation… But if you improve the self-control network in the brain and moderate stress-reactivity, then it’s possible to reduce smoking,” Lead study author Yi-Yuan Tang mentioned via a news item.

Tang said that the respondents did not realize the effect of the meditation immediately. “The students changed their smoking behavior but were not aware of it… When we showed the data to a participant who said they had smoked 20 cigarettes, this person checked their pocket immediately and was shocked to find 10 left,” Tang added.

Details of the study were published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.


Substance Abuse

People Who Succeed Later In Life Have Higher Risk of Harmful Alcohol Intake

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A recent study published in BMJ Open revealed that people at least 50 years old who are at the pink of health and height of success are more prone to drinking unhealthily.

“Our findings suggest that harmful drinking in later life is more prevalent among people who exhibit a lifestyle associated with affluence and with a ‘successful’ aging process,” said study author Prof. José Iparraguirre of Age UK’s research department.

The study was based on data of close to 10,000 individuals 50 years old and above, who took part in the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing (ELSA) for 2008-2009 and 2010-2011. Survey respondents were asked about their alcohol consumption per week, status in life, diet and physical activity, self-assessment of health, and level of social stature.

Results showed that harmful drinking — defined as downing 50 units of alcohol for men and 35 units for women on a weekly basis — was more likely in women who were rich. It was also found in both men and women who experience “good health, smoking and higher educational attainment,” as reported in a news release.

The study author believes that poor drinking habits are signs of deep-rooted issues in successful individuals. “Harmful drinking may then be a hidden health and social problem in otherwise successful older people. Consequently, and based on our results, we recommend the explicit incorporation of alcohol drinking levels and patterns into the successful aging paradigm,” Iparraguirre added.


Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Doctors Defend Tobacco Companies Sued By Cancer Patients

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It’s a general notion that doctors are after the physical well-being of the general public, but this recent revelation seems to point to the contrary.

Stanford University School of Medicine researcher Robert Jackler discovered through his study that a number of otolaryngologists — a physician specializing in conditions of the ear, nose and throat — are defending tobacco companies from cancer patients who filed lawsuits. The study, published in the Laryngoscope online journal, exposed six doctors who were paid by tobacco manufacturers to testify on their behalf that heavy smoking did not cause the cancers of the plaintiffs.

According to the findings of the study as reported in a news release, the doctors mentioned other factors that could have led to the development of cancers in the victims’ necks and heads: salted fish, mouthwash, and cleaning chemicals. “Evidence shows that this testimony, which was remarkably similar across cases, was part of a defense strategy shaped by tobacco’s law firms… By highlighting an exhaustive list of potential risk factors, such as alcohol, diesel fumes, machinery fluid, salted fish, reflux of stomach acid, mouthwash and even urban living, they created doubt in the minds of the jurors as to the role of smoking in the plaintiff’s cancer,” according to the research.

Cancer cells were found in the plaintiffs’ esophageal area, larynx, and mouth, all of which they claim to have acquired from prolonged heavy smoking. “”I was shocked by the degree to which these physicians were willing to testify, in my opinion in an unscientific way, to deny a dying plaintiff — suffering the aftermath of a lifetime of smoking — of a fair trial,” Jackler said.