Category Archives: Substance Abuse

Substance Abuse

Experimental Diabetes Drug May Also Treat Cocaine Addiction

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Addiction comes in many forms, and there’s a specific treatment for each kind. However, a recent study discovered that an experimental drug designed to suppress appetite in diabetic patients may also work wonders for people addicted to cocaine.

Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania described via a news release how the drug Byetta may be the key to inhibiting a person’s cocaine addiction. The drug is extracted from glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-), a natural human hormone associated with feeding preference and reward.

The original design of the diabetes drug was to help the patient prefer a healthier but less tasty food. The researchers inferred that the effect of GLP-1 on appetite for food might also reflect in terms of a person’s likelihood to prefer cocaine use.

The revelation was confirmed through a series of lab tests on mice whose GLP-1 brain receptors were activated. The change in the rat’s brains led them to prefer cocaine less. “We’re looking at what activation of GLP-1 receptors in the VTA does to the animal’s self-administration of cocaine… We were able to show a nice decrease in cocaine self-administration,” said study lead author Heath Schmidt.

The drug has already received FDA approval, but there’s no go signal for any human trials yet. However, the team — composed of representatives from the university’s School of Nursing and Perelman School of Medicine — is confident that their findings could prove useful in investigating the key to discovering how the brain forms any kind of addiction. “Our interest is really to understand how chronic exposure to drugs of abuse changes the brain to produce addiction-like behaviors,” Schmidt added.

The study was published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.


Substance Abuse

Synthetic Drug Distribution Targetted By Latest House Bill

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MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Spice is originally sold as an incense, but has now swept the military community with controversy as a ‘legal’ designer drug. However, Marine Corps Order 5355.1, issued Jan. 27, directly prohibits the use, distribution, sale and possession of it and others like it.  (Courtesy photo)

As more people in the U.S. gain awareness of the dangers of synthetic drugs, a new bill proposed by the House aims to enforce stricter penalties against those engaged in synthetic drug trafficking.

This was revealed via a news release, after House majority floor leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook) pushed for the approval of the bill, which seeks to diminish the spread and distribution of synthetic drugs. This bill proves timely in the state of Kentucky, as Lewis County Sheriff Johnny Bivens attested the growth of the synthetic drug epidemic in his area.

“Around the first of December 2014, my office began responding to calls encountering individuals that were displaying extreme, bizarre behavior… The calls seemed to be universal. Most believed someone was chasing them or trying to kill them. These individuals displayed extreme paranoia, off-the-wall hallucinations, delusions of superhuman strength,” said Bivens. After conducting arrests and interviews over a period of roughly one year, the sheriff’s office reported about 30 people found to be using and trafficking synthetic drugs. In addition, about 5 pounds of synthetic drugs were collected through arrests over the same period.

The bill proposed by Adkins seeks to increase penalties as follows:

  • Synthetic drug trafficking: from Class A misdemeanor to Class D felony (and Class C for repeat offenders)
  • Synthetic drug possession: from Class B to Class A misdemeanor

The House Judiciary Committee was unanimous in approving the bill, which will be discussed in the House level within the month.

[Image source]


Substance Abuse

Marijuana Use Linked To Memory Problems at Middle Age

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Starting marijuana use at a young age and continuing to do so may affect the way you remember things as you reach middle age. This was revealed by a group of researchers, after investigating about 3,400 people between age 18 and 30 who participated in a U.S. research in 1985-1986. Roughly 85 percent of the participants admitted to have smoked marijuana at least once in their lifetime. Meanwhile, 12 percent of the test population said that they use pot on a continuous basis up to middle age.

The study involved following the participants for 25 years until 2011 and asking about their marijuana use. After the study period, the respondents were tested for brain functioning, particularly in the fields of verbal and working memory, hand-eye coordination, attention span, planning, and problem solving.

Results showed that those who smoked pot going to middle age had more difficulty in verbal memory and brain processing, according to a news report. The degree of verbal memory malfunction was also found to worsen with a more prolonged pot use. On the average, every five years of pot use leads middle-aged individuals to forget one of 15 words in a list revealed to them.

The research team, led by Dr. Reto Auer of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, said that they were surprised by the results of the study. However, they emphasized that the study did not delve into a cause-and-effect relationship between marijuana use and memory.

The study was published online in the JAMA Internal Medicine.


Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Study: E-Cigarettes Are Harmful To Lungs and Immune System

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Despite the claim of e-cigarette manufacturers that their products are safer and healthier alternatives to traditional tobacco cigarettes, a recent study confirmed the harmful effects of electronic cigarettes as a support to the findings of earlier research.

Based on lab mice experiments of researchers from the University of California-San Diego (UCSD), it was discovered that exposure to e-cigarettes may affect immunity against common bacterial infections. According to a news release, this was revealed through tests on mice exposed to e-cigarette vapor over a four-week span, at a frequency of 5 days a week, one hour per day. Roughly a quarter of the lab mice population infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) were found dead, and the study proponents traced this to e-cigarette exposure.

In addition, signs of blood and airway abnormalities usually found in people who smoke cigarettes were found in the animal test subjects. This included a ten percent higher likelihood of developing inflammatory markers when using e-cigarettes.

“This study shows that e-cigarette vapor is not benign; at high doses, it can directly kill lung cells, which is frightening. We already knew that inhaling heated chemicals, including the e-liquid ingredients nicotine and propylene glycol, couldn’t possibly be good for you. This work confirms that inhalation of e-cigarette vapor daily leads to changes in the inflammatory milieu inside the airways,” said study co-author Dr. Laura E. Crotty Alexander.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Molecular Medicine.


Substance Abuse

Cocaine Use Triggers Auto-Destruct Mode in Brain Cells

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As more people are becoming aware of the dangers of using cocaine, a new study adds another thorn into the issue by describing a specific effect of the illicit drug on brain cells.

According to a research team from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, use of cocaine in high doses may lead brain cells to activate a process called autophagy. This natural phenomenon involves the degradation and recycling of cellular compounds, which may be useful for proper brain functioning. However, abnormal conditions may lead cells to destroy themselves.

The research revealed that cocaine increases the likelihood of brain cell autophagy. “Autophagy is the housekeeper that takes out the trash – it’s usually a good thing. But cocaine makes the housekeeper throw away really important things, like mitochondria, which produce energy for the cell,” said study co-author Prasun Guha via a news item.

To investigate the matter, the researchers used lab mice to assess the effects of cocaine in the animals’ brains. They also looked into the healing effect of the experimental drug experimental drug CGP3466B, which is being tested as a cure for diseases such as ALS and Parkinson’s disease. “We performed ‘autopsies’ to find out how cells die from high doses of cocaine. That information gave us immediate insight into how we might use a known compound to interfere with that process and prevent the damage,” said Johns Hopkins professor Solomon Snyder.

Based on their findings, the researchers are confident that the specificity of the impact of cocaine on brain cells could pave the way for better treatments to prevent this deadly effect.

This study echoes a similar research last year about the effect of cocaine on the natural communication channels in the brain.

The study is scheduled for publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Higher Risk of Lung Cancer Found in Smokers Diagnosed With Pneumonia

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A recent study revealed that people who smoke and are diagnosed with pneumonia have a higher likelihood of developing lung cancer.

The researchers, composed of teams from Israel’s Rabin Medical Center and the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, considered lung cancer to be a serious disease that needs a cost-effective cure. “Previous studies have shown that a low-dose radiation CT scan conducted once a year on heavy smokers has the potential to lower lung cancer mortality rates… But this requires huge resources, and we still don’t know how it will perform in real-world conditions, outside of strictly conducted clinical trials,” said study lead author Dr. Daniel Shepshelovich in a news article.

Hospital records of heavy smokers from 2007 to 2011 were used by the research team to match pneumonia findings with lung cancer development. Results showed that 9 percent of smokers with pneumonia were found with lung cancer.

Although the number doesn’t seem too big, the researchers emphasized the proportion of this group to the percentage of people diagnosed with pneumonia. “Considering that only 0.5 to 1 percent of smokers without pneumonia have a chance of being diagnosed with lung cancer every year, the fact that 9 percent of our study group developed lung cancer is alarming,” Shepshelovich added.

The study lead author believes that early intervention is the primary key to curing the disease. “Lung cancer is truly aggressive. The only chance of recuperation is if it’s caught before it begins to cause any symptoms at all. The idea is to find the tumor well in advance,” he expressed.


Substance Abuse

Long-Term Use of Prescription Opioids Increases Depression Risk

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drugs prescription pills abuse

Prescription drug abuse has been associated to so many health issues and risks. A new study adds another potential risk of long-term opioid use: depression.

The study, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, investigated a potential link between opioid medication and a person’s tendency to experience depression. Study co-author Jeffrey Scherrer said in a news release that this newfound link is associated more with longevity of use rather than the amount. “Opioid-related new onset of depression is associated with longer duration of use but not dose… Patients and practitioners should be aware that opioid analgesic use of longer than 30 days imposes risk of new-onset depression,” Scherrer said.

Scherrer and colleagues used data from three health groups — Baylor Scott & White Health (BSWH), Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and the Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) — between 2000 and 2012. The researchers went through roughly 107,000 cases of new opioid users between 18 and 80 years old who didn’t have a history of depression.

The research team revealed that 12 percent of VHA cases exhibited depression after taking opioid medication. The same could be said for 9 percent of the BSWH group and 11 percent of the HFHS population. “Findings were remarkably consistent across the three health care systems even though the systems have very different patient characteristics and demographics,” Scherrer expressed.

The study proponents believe that more research should be conducted in line with the effects of prescription painkillers on human health. The researchers also urged medical professionals to look into the potential development of depression in their patients who receive opioid prescription from them.


Substance Abuse

E-Cigarette Vapor Exposure May Damage DNA, Cause Cancer

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Earlier studies have discovered the adverse health effects of e-cigarettes and the vapor that the products emit. New research delved into this idea further, saying that the electronic smoking alternatives could pose a threat to human health on a cellular level.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and the VA San Diego Healthcare System discovered that people exposed heavily to vapor from electronic cigarettes may damage their cell DNA structures, which could be a precursor to cancer.

The study, published in the journal Oral Oncology, simulated e-cigarette vapor exposure by testing epithelial cells in the lab and exposing them to extracts of 1% e-cigarette vapor. The tests ran for eight weeks, and showed significant DNA damage on those exposed to the vapor, as reported in a news release.

While the researchers have not identified the true culprit of the DNA damage, they believe that their study is aligned to earlier findings on e-cigarette use. “The specific substances in e-cig liquids are still under investigation, as many formulations are proprietary information. However, our findings are consistent with previous assessments of e-cig effects on pulmonary tissue and cell lines, which implicated flavoring compounds as primary toxicants within e-cigs,” the study proponents said.


Pet Health Substance Abuse

Study: Cigarette Smoke Is Dangerous For Pets

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Several studies have identified cigarette smoking as one of the worst health risks in the world. Although these findings refer to human health, a recent study by researchers from the University of Glasgow in the U.K. extended this health hazard to pets.

Based on ongoing tests on cats and dogs, it was discovered that animals living in households exposed to cigarette smoke were more prone to unhealthy weight, cellular damage, and even cancer. The tests involved checking the pets’ fur for nicotine levels, and cross-checking the results with the health of the animals.

Smokers who own cats should start thinking twice about lighting up their next cigarette stick, because the research revealed that felines tend to absorb more of the cigarette smoke than dogs. The researchers inferred that this may be due to the natural behavior of cats to lick their own fur, leading them to absorb more of the airborne toxins from tobacco smoke.

The research team also investigated the effect of smoke exposure on dogs who underwent castration. It was found out that castrated dogs possessed a gene that could be a precursor for cell damage, which in turn may lead to certain cancers.

In addition, results of the study showed that pets are more exposed to thirdhand smoke than children inside the house. This is probably due to the animals’ easier access to smoke-attracting surfaces such as carpets.

Study lead author Clare Knottenbelt said in a news release that their study should reach the knowledge of smokers in order to preserve the health and life of their beloved pets. “Pet owners often do not think about the impact that smoking could have on their pets. Whilst you can reduce the amount of smoke your pet is exposed to by smoking outdoors and by reducing the number of tobacco products smoked by the members of the household, stopping smoking completely is the best option for your pet’s future health and well-being,” Knottenbelt said.


Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Does Marijuana Use Affect Alcohol Consumption?

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marijuana legalization

Marijuana use has always been a hot-button topic, and alcohol use isn’t that far behind. Both issues are global problems that need to be looked into, and that’s why several studies have been conducted to find answers to addressing these issues.

A recent study aimed to answer the question of whether marijuana influences or affects a person’s drinking habits. The study, which was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, investigated any potential link between cannabis use and alcohol intake. “We chose to focus on alcohol because even relatively small changes in alcohol consumption could have profound implications for public health, safety and related costs,” according to study lead author Katarína Guttmannová via a news report.

Guttmannová and fellow researchers from the University of Washington studied earlier research on alcohol and cannabis use, with the aim to discover a possible link between the two. Unfortunately, the answers weren’t so crystal clear:

  • Several factors (user demographic, frequency of drinking and marijuana use) affected the results.
  • Results were varied in different U.S. states and localities. Some studies said that states where marijuana is legal recorded fewer number of students drinking, while others said that students tend to drink more alcohol in marijuana-legal states.
  • Some studies said that medical marijuana legalization did not result to more incidents of underage alcohol use, but it was associated with more cases of excessive drinking.

In other words, the researchers weren’t able to pinpoint whether marijuana was a trigger or a deterrent to alcohol consumption. The researchers believe that more studies should be conducted to answer the question. “We were hoping to have more clear-cut answers at the end of our research. But you know what? This is the science of human behavior, and it’s messy, and that’s OK,” Guttmannová added.