Category Archives: Substance Abuse

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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cigarette smoking

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.


Substance Abuse

Public Hearing at Michigan Capitol Aims To Fight Prescription Drug Abuse

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Michigan State Capitol will host a public hearing on July 21 (Tuesday) to discuss prescription drug abuse and ask for recommendations in addressing this lingering issue.

The hearing serves as an action plan for the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force, which was created in June by Gov. Rick Snyder. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, chairperson of the task force, is asking the general public to help the state come up with tangible plans to prevent the issue on prescription drug abuse from escalating. “We are eager to hear the ideas and thoughts of our state’s concerned residents in order to develop a more effective strategy to address this critical issue,” said Calley in a news item.

Michigan is serious in combatting the drug abuse problem. In fact, the state will set aside $1.5 million for measures to prevent abuse of prescription drugs, painkillers and opioids. The budget will be available in October of this year.

Among the members of the task force include Michigan police chief Kriste Kibbey Etue, Attorney General Bill Schuette, and Human Services head Nick Lyon.

If you are interested to join the hearing, head to the Michigan State Capitol on Tuesday at 5:00 – 7:00 P.M.

[ Image source ]


Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

Patients with Severe Back Pain who Also Suffer from Mental Health Issues More Likely to Abuse Opioids: Study

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back pain - Tony Hall

Patients who experience severe back pain, and who also suffer from psychiatric problems like depression are more likely to abuse opioid pain medication, a new study has found.

In the study, published in Anesthesiology, the official medical journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), researchers examined 55 chronic lower back patients who experienced low-to-high levels of depression or anxiety symptoms. Patients were given morphine, oxycodone or a placebo to take orally for the pain as needed over a 6-month period and recorded their pain levels and the doses taken daily.

Scientists found that patients suffering from high levels of depression or anxiety experienced increased side effects, 50% less improvement for back pain and 75% more opioid abuse when compared with patients with low levels who reported low levels of depression or anxiety.

“This is particularly important for controlled substances such as opioids, where if not prescribed judiciously, patients are exposed to unnecessary risks and a real chance of harm, including addiction or serious side effects,” said Prof. Ajay Wasan, with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, PA.

testcountry banner[Photo courtesy of Tony Hall on Flickr]


Substance Abuse

Use of Illicit Drugs Makes Women’s Brain Smaller, Says Study

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If you don’t want your brain to shrink, don’t engage in abuse of stimulant drugs.

That’s the latest finding in a study by a team of researchers led by senior author University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine research head Jody Tanabe, M.D. However, what’s fascinating is that the brain size reduction is linked to women only. “We found that after an average of 13.5 months of abstinence, women who were previously dependent on stimulants had significantly less gray matter volume in several brain areas compared to healthy women,” Tanabe said. “While the women previously dependent on stimulants demonstrated widespread brain differences when compared to their healthy control counterparts, the men demonstrated no significant brain differences.”

The researchers believe that the difference in results for men and women may have something to do with their respective behaviors. “Compared to men, women tend to begin cocaine or amphetamine use at an earlier age, show accelerated escalation of drug use, report more difficulty quitting and, upon seeking treatment, report using larger quantities of these drugs,” Tanabe said.

A crop of 127 people were subjected to structural brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), with close to half of the respondents identified to have a history of usage of “cocaine, amphetamines, and/or methamphetamine,” according to a news report. After more than a year of abstaining from illicit drugs, women with drug use history were found to have smaller brain gray matter volume.

Researchers are hopeful that the results of their study can help improve the current treatments for drug addiction. “We hope that our findings will lead to further investigation into gender differences in substance dependence and, thus, more effective treatments,” Tanabe added.


Substance Abuse

Prescription Drug Abuse Linked To History of Illicit Drug Use

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A team of researchers from the University of Georgia investigated various factors that lead people to prescription drug abuse, and one thing is certain: Those who have a history of using illicit substances are prone to abuse painkillers as well.

Regardless of social status or racial profile, results of the nationwide survey point to the same finding. “Male or female, black or white, rich or poor, the singular thing we found was that if they were an illicit drug user, they also had many, many times higher odds of misusing prescription pain relievers,” study lead author Orion Mowbray said in a news item. People at least 50 years old were found to get their pain medication from multiple doctors, while younger adults obtained their prescription drugs from peers or even drug dealers.

Results of the study were based on analysis by the university’s School of Social Work on more than 13,000 respondents of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The research was also in agreement with a recent report of the Centers for Disease Control, regarding the higher likelihood of heroin users to abuse opioid medication as well.

The research team said that their study, recently published in the Addictive Behaviors journal, could pave the way for better ways to prevent drug abuse. “This study gives us the knowledge we need to substantially reduce the opportunities for misuse,” Mowbray added.


Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Marijuana-Smoking Church Sues Indiana For Religious Persecution

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Advocacy for marijuana is taken to a whole new level, as a religious community filed a lawsuit over marijuana legislation.

The First Church of Cannabis, a community of believers who consider marijuana as a way to know oneself, sued the city of Indianapolis for violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The lawsuit was filed in Marion Circuit Court, and lists the city’s top government and law enforcement officials, including Gov. Mike Pence. Church founder (and Grand Poobah) Bill Levin enforced their right to enjoy religious freedom. “Today we invite the state of Indiana and all its leaders to joyfully meet us in a court of law for clarifications on our core religious values. We look forward to engaging them on the high plane of dignity and discipline, with love and compassion in our hearts, to find a swift and sensible answer for our questions of religious equality,” Pence said in a news statement.

Marijuana is still considered an illegal substance in the state of Indiana, but the church stands firm in its belief that the RFRA is enough to allow them to use cannabis during services. In fact, the church considers that marijuana is “our fountain of health, our love, curing us from illness and depression.” The church’s first service on July 1 saw at least a hundred attendees — and dozens of police officers who were given authority to arrest anyone found smoking cannabis.

The church was founded on March 26, 2015, on the same day that the state’s religious objections measure took effect.


Substance Abuse

Decrease Smoking-Related Fatalities By Raising Tobacco Tax, Says WHO

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smoking cigarette

The World Health Organization recently released a statement saying that increasing tobacco tax by at least 75 percent of the retail price can significantly reduce the number of deaths related to cigarette smoking.

Results of the group’s analysis showed that high-income countries that implement a 10-percent increase in tobacco prices see an overall decrease in tobacco use by roughly 4 percent. Meanwhile, poorer countries can experience up to 5 percent reduction in cigarette usage when a 10-percent price surge is slapped onto tobacco products.

According to the report, use of tobacco in the 20th century resulted to about 100 million deaths, with roughly 6 million people dying every year. The WHO report reiterates that smoking is a “preventable risk factor for noncommunicable diseases” according to a news item.

The organization’s recommendation to raise taxes for tobacco products is based on the fact that the measure requires little to no expenditure and lets the government earn revenue.

However, cigarette manufacturers — most especially big tobacco — are looking for ways to prevent this measure from being implemented. “Tobacco companies are also aware of this and make every effort to stop governments implementing public health-driven policies regarding tobacco product taxation. Industry tactics include interfering with the development of taxation policies and lobbying representatives of finance, economy and other relevant ministries and authorities where health expertise and knowledge of the requirements of the WHO [Framework Convention
 on Tobacco Control] is often deficient,” the WHO report said.


Addiction Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

Heroin Deaths Nearly Quadruple Between 2002-13

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Heroin overdose deaths in the United States nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013, according to a study by the government.

Lower costs and an increase in the abuse of prescription opiate painkillers like Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet helped fuel the rise in fatal heroin overdoses. Abusing prescription painkillers increases individuals’ susceptibility to heroin addiction, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said.

“Everything we see points to more accessible, less-expensive heroin all over the country,” Frieden said of the report, a joint effort by the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The study analyzed national survey data on drug use from 2002 to 2013 and found:

  • nearly all people (96 percent) who use heroin also use multiple other substances
  • the strongest risk factor for heroin abuse is prescription opiate abuse
  • individuals who abuse prescription opiates have a 40 times greater risk of abusing heroin
  • the increased use has fueled sharp increases in overdose deaths
  • As many as 8,200 people died from heroin overdoses in 2013 alone




Substance Abuse

Researchers Discover Possible Cure For Alcohol and Drug Abuse

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drug addiction

The world of science and medicine has long searched for possible solutions to help people get out of drug and alcohol addiction. A newly discovered medicine could be the answer, according to a group of researchers from The University of Texas at Austin.

Isradipine, a calcium channel blocker drug designed to bring down blood pressure, was effective to make lab mice shy away from drugs that they were addicted to. The scientists inferred that drug and alcohol addiction stem from environmental factors such as sensory perceptions that people associate with their respective addictions. Study lead author Hitoshi Morikawa and his team revealed that the medication helped the rats forego their associations with environmental factors and lead them to veer away from their addiction. “The isradipine erased memories that led them to associate a certain room with cocaine or alcohol,” Morikawa shared via a news release.

The lab rats were designed to be addicted to a particular drug and associate it with either a black or white room. Upon ingestion of isradipine, the rodents showed no preference to the room that they associate with their drug addiction. This new angle in combatting substance abuse could prove beneficial to existing addiction treatments, according to the scientists. “Many addicts want to quit, but their brains are already conditioned. This drug might help the addicted brain become de-addicted,” Morikawa added.

The researchers pointed out that isradipine is already approved by the FDA for human use, so its approval as an anti-addiction drug could be carried out fast. However, the research team emphasizesd a potential need to pair isradipine with another drug that can regulate blood pressure, because taking too much of the drug may lower the blood pressure too much.