Category Archives: Substance Abuse

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Proof That E-Cigarettes Help People Quit Smoking Still Inconclusive, Study Says

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Electronic cigarette manufacturers claim that their products are effective alternatives to help smokers kick the habit, but a recent study reveals that there is little evidence to back that up.

Researchers from the University of Toronto led by Riyad al-Lehebi, MBBS released findings of their research during the 2015 American Thoracic Society International Conference, in relation to using e-cigarettes to promote smoking cessation. “While e-cigarettes have been shown to significantly improve abstinence at 1 month compared with placebo, no such evidence is available supporting their effectiveness for longer periods,” al-Lehebi said in a news release.

More than 2,000 patients were analyzed for their use of electronic cigarettes, changes in their smoking habits as a result of using e-cigarettes, and harmful effects on their health. Although smoking cessation was successful in the first month of using electronic variants, no significant change was observed in follow-ups after 3 and 6 months. “Although e-cigarettes are widely promoted and used as a smoking cessation tool, we found no data supporting their long-term efficacy and safety,” the study lead author explained.

In light of their findings on the lack of effectiveness of e-cigarettes to help smokers quit, the research team recommends that smokers use other more effective means to help them get rid of the addictive behavior. “Until such data are available, there are a number of other smoking cessation aids available that have a more robust evidence base supporting their efficacy and safety… Individuals seeking help with smoking cessation should consider other more well-established options until more research is performed,” al-Lehebi added.

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Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Angioplasty Patients Experience Less Chest Pain Upon Quitting Smoking

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It’s hardly a novel discovery for healthy individuals, but this recent study confirms the benefits of kicking the habit.

A new study conducted by a team of researchers at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute revealed that quitting smoking after angioplasty leads to a lower likelihood of patients experiencing chest pains. More than 2,700 adults who underwent angioplasty — a non-surgical treatment to address obstructed veins or arteries as a result of atherosclerosis — were asked about their smoking habits during and after the procedure.

Results showed a lower rate of chest pains in patients who stopped smoking after angioplasty compared to those who continued to use cigarettes. “It’s a no-brainer. Stopping smoking seems like a relatively easy way to increase your chances of getting the best outcomes from angioplasty,” study senior author Dr. John Spertus said in a news report.

Roughly 1 million U.S. adults undergo angioplasty, and so findings of the study could benefit thousands of patients from fewer chest pains. “It’s not just important that we do a good job treating the blockage… Cardiologists have to work with patients to help them stop smoking, whether it means nicotine replacement, a smoking cessation program or some other intervention,” Spertus added.

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Addiction Substance Abuse

Lower Risk of Relapse for Alcoholics Enrolled in Treatment Program

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Alcohol treatment programs may not guarantee a person’s total cure from alcohol addiction, but a new study discovered that it’s better than having no intervention at all.

A study funded by the European Social Fund showed that people who are enrolled in alcohol treatment programs after being mandated to do so have a lower likelihood of committing a similar offense. Results of the study, which was published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, revealed that offenders who failed to join any treatment program had twice more likelihood of being charged with reoffending. They were also 2.5 times more susceptible to getting convicted again.

The research team from Plymouth University said that enrolling male alcohol offenders to treatment programs generates many benefits. “Given the hundreds if not thousands of offenders who might be eligible to attend an alcohol treatment program each year, this could amount to substantial public savings. Beyond financial gains, committing fewer offences and staying out of prison have strong and continued benefits for the offenders, their families, and the community,” the researchers said in a news item.

The study was a joint effort of Plymouth University, University of Exeter and the Virginia Commonwealth University.

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Addiction Substance Abuse

Study Reveals Staggering Figures on Smoking and Alcohol Use

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If you think cigarette smoking and alcohol intake are already on a decline, you might need to see this new Australian study.

A comprehensive report published in the journal Addiction revealed that close to 5 percent of adults worldwide are engaged in some form of alcohol abuse, while more than 20 percent of the adult population are tobacco users. The report, entitled “Global Statistics on Addictive Behaviours: 2014 Status Report”, identified the Eastern European region as having the highest concentration of smokers at 30 percent of its adult population. Oceania and Western Europe follow suit at 29.5 and 28.5 percent, respectively.

In terms of alcohol intake volume, Eastern Europe leads the world with roughly 13.6 liters of alcohol ingested per person in a year. The figures for Western and Southern Asia pale in comparison at only 2.1 liters per person per year.

Study lead author Linda Gowing, who works as associate professor at South Australia’s University of Adelaide, highlighted the importance of their study in raising awareness. “Bringing all this data together has been very challenging but having this global snapshot in one accessible resource should prove invaluable for policymakers and researchers,” Gowing said in a news release.

The report also stated that alcohol consumption resulted to more harm than use of illicit drugs.

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

German Study Highlights Dangerous Effects of Recreational Marijuana

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The U.S. may be experiencing the dawn of marijuana use today, but a recent study from Germany reminds the general public about the harmful effects of using cannabis for recreational purposes.

Eva Hoch and fellow researchers revealed in a news article that recreational pot use causes short-term and even long-term side effects such as impairment of bodily coordination, panic attacks, nausea, and more. Side effects may vary depending on many factors, which include how old the user is, how much marijuana was taken, and how frequent the marijuana use is.

Addiction to marijuana requires early intervention and treatment, although most are performed in outpatient care. The study proponents suggest behavioral therapy to address cognitive impairment, combined with emotional support.

The complete details of the study were published in the German journal Deutsches Ärzteblatt International.

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Substance Abuse

Study: Brain Functioning Affected By Cocaine Use

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This may be old news for some people, but a new study confirms the effects of using cocaine in human brain functioning.

A joint project of Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston discovered disruption in normal brain communication in cocaine users compared to those who did not use the illicit drug. The study investigated the behavior and response of selected individuals — 13 people who used cocaine and 10 who didn’t — to predetermined stimuli.

Although both groups of test subjects accomplished the tasks required of them, the cocaine group found it difficult to go through tougher questions. Researchers attributed this to a slight difference in how the parts of the brain communicated in cocaine users. “These findings suggest that, while some cortical brain regions show altered activity in cocaine users, other regions may compensate for cocaine-associated deficits in function,” study lead Kathryn A. Cunningham said in a news release.

The study proponents believe that by studying this part of the brain further, proper treatment techniques to address cocaine addiction can be implemented effectively. “Targeting altered brain connections in cocaine use disorder for therapeutic development is a fresh idea, offering a whole new arena for research and the potential to promote abstinence and prevent relapse in these vulnerable individuals,” Cunningham added further.

Cocaine abuse continues to be a threat to the U.S. population, affecting roughly 800,000 people in the country.

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Substance Abuse

Synthetic Marijuana Use Triggers More Hospitalizations in New York

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The thought that New York hospitals take in hundreds of patients a day may sound normal, but not if it’s because of only one cause.

The New York City Health Department issued a statement via a news release, saying that synthetic marijuana has caused 160 people to be sent to emergency rooms in the state within a nine-day period. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that apart from the increase in ER visits, calls received by poison control center have risen as well. “Synthetic drugs are anything but harmless, and this rash of severe health emergencies across the state is direct proof,” Cuomo said.

The city’s health department reiterates that synthetic pot in its various forms — most notably Spice and K2 — is illegal. Dr. Mary Bassett, who works as the city’s Health Commissioner, said that the risk of using synthetic cannabis lies on the fact that the illicit product contains unidentified substances that may be harmful to human health. “There’s no way of knowing exactly what synthetic marijuana contains,” Bassett added.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has frequently warned the public against using synthetic marijuana, saying that some of its side effects include abnormally high heart rate, vomiting, anxiety and hallucinations.

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Workplace Drug Testing Rules Create Confusion in Marijuana-Friendly States

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With more U.S. states welcoming medical marijuana into the fold, it’s not surprising that employers are confused in terms of implementing workplace drug testing procedures.

A news report revealed how marijuana legalization has changed people’s mindsets about the drug, while employers are scratching their heads as to how the legislation fits into their company rules and regulations. According to Society for Human Resource Management spokesperson Kate Kennedy, workplace drug testing “becoming of increasing interest [to companies], mostly because of changing state legislation on medical and recreational marijuana use.”

Quest Diagnostics, a drug testing company with headquarters in Madison, NJ, recently released a report that shows an increase in positive results for marijuana in the workplace by 6.2 percent in 2013. States that have legalized recreational marijuana were found to have higher increases: Colorado at 20 percent, and Washington at 23 percent.

Although marijuana legislation specifically states that it does not include jurisdiction on existing employment laws, the situation has nevertheless created a dilemma for many employers, whether to enforce stricter workplace policies to ensure zero marijuana-using employees or to accommodate them to a certain degree in order to keep their employees. Some might favor more stringent measures based on a previous report by the U.S. Department of Labor about a loss of roughly $82 billion because of decreased productivity in businesses.

The impact of marijuana use in the business sector is still under assessment, and is still “a changing arena,” said Quest Diagnostics science and technology director Barry Sample.

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Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Teen E-Cigarette Use Increased Three Times In 2014

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The issue on electronic cigarette use by teenagers has escalated to troubling figures, according to a recent report by two of the government’s top health agencies.

A joint report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Center for Tobacco Products of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed that the use of e-cigarettes by high school students increased from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014. The triple increase is “worrisome,” according to CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden. “We’re concerned that there are multiple aspects of e-cigarette use that are concerning that includes addiction to nicotine, effects on the developing brain, and the significant likelihood that a proportion of those who are using e-cigarettes will go on to use combustible cigarettes,” Frieden said in a news item.

The study involved a survey of more than 22,000 students in middle and high school from 2011 to 2014. The participants were asked if they used e-cigarettes at least once for the past 30 days. The representative survey results indicated that the increase in percentage of e-cigarette use represents roughly 2 million high school students hooked on e-cigarettes in 2014, as compared to only 660,000 in the previous year. A similar trend was observed in middle school students, from only 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent last year.

Despite earlier reports of decreased use of tobacco products, Frieden said that this is a bitter pill of a victory. “The decrease in cigarette smoking, of course, it’s a good thing when fewer kids are smoking cigarettes. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to suggest there is a causal relationship between the increase in e-cigarette use and the decrease in child tobacco use,” the CDC director added.

To this day, the FDA has not released any regulations on electronic cigarettes, but discussions are already under way to categorize it in the same group as traditional tobacco cigarettes.

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Substance Abuse

Study: Emergency Department Important In Decreasing Prescription Drug Overdose Cases

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A study recently published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine revealed that emergency departments (EDs) play a vital role in curbing the long-standing issue on prescription drug abuse.

Researchers from Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) surveyed beneficiaries of Project ASSERT from 2011 to 2012 to check the effectiveness of the campaign to offer education and intervention in opioid overdose cases. The initiative provides nasal naloxone rescue kits to emergency departments as a counter-measure for drug overdose patients, as well as education programs focused on overdose prevention.

Results of the survey showed that 73 percent were able to receive nasal naloxone rescue kits from EDs or other sources to counter the overdose. Meanwhile, more than 50 percent of survey respondents were able to report an overdose case and contacted 911 for the necessary assistance, while roughly one third of them were able to use the naloxone kit onto the overdose patient during the rescue.

Study lead author Dr. Kristin Dwyer, who works at the emergency department of BMC, expressed the importance of their research. “This study confirms that the emergency department provides a promising opportunity for opioid overdose harm reduction measures through overdose education and naloxone rescue kit distribution… Our program reached a high-risk population that commonly witnessed overdoses, called for help and used naloxone to rescue people, when available,” Dwyer said in a news release.

Project ASSERT is a banner program of BMC. Beginning in 1993, the project has conducted intervention programs, treatment referrals, and screening for drug and alcohol intoxication.

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