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Friday, October 26, 2012

ATOD Weekly Recap - Week Ending October 26, 2012



Affordable Care Act Could Benefit Treatment of Co-Occurring Disorders
As this country moves into a new era of how we approach the treatment, prevention and administration of illness, we must keep the rubric of co-occurring disorders at the forefront. One would be hard pressed to find a higher rate of co-occurring disorders than in the field of behavioral health, where more than 70 percent of those treated for substance abuse also have a mental health disorder. Please click here to read the rest of the commentary by Andrew D. Kessler,  IC&RC’s Federal Policy Liaison and Founder of Slingshot Solutions, LLC.


'Good Samaritan' Laws Could Help Overdose Victims—If Only People Knew They Existed
In New York and other states, drug users are supposed to be granted immunity when they call 911 to save their friends' lives. But the police and the public have yet to get the message.
Read this great story in The Atlantic by clicking here.

Substance abuse diagnoses increasing in U.S.
(Reuters Health) - Possibly driven by a surge in painkiller abuse, the number of drug and alcohol problems diagnosed by U.S. doctors increased by 70 percent between 2001 and 2009, according to new research.

"We know that increases in prescription drug use are a big part of what's going on nationally. I also think - in our study - the availability of effective treatment is a big part of it as well and likely drawing people into care," said the study's lead author Dr. Joseph W. Frank, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Those treatments include medications such as methadone, as well as talk therapy. The new study, which used information from two national surveys of doctors' visits, estimated that the number of those visits involving drug or alcohol abuse or addiction increased from 10.6 million between 2001 and 2003 to 18 million between 2007 and 2009. Over the same span, the number of visits including a diagnosis of opioid painkiller abuse, in particular, increased from 772,000 to 4.4 million - almost a six-fold increase.

To read the rest of the story, click here.

Men vs. Women: Does Gender Matter in Addiction Recovery?

Not so long ago, addiction was seen as a “man’s problem.” In recent years, addiction research has broadened its focus to include the differential impact addiction has in the lives of both men and women. We know more than ever about the biological and psychosocial factors that affect how men and women experience addiction.

So in the battle of the sexes, who “wins” in addiction recovery? At first glance, men may appear to have the upper hand as women tend to progress more quickly into chemical dependency and face serious consequences faster than men. However, women are less likely to struggle with addiction than men and fare just as well in treatment. In the end, it’s a draw. Neither sex is better or worse off; they simply experience addiction and recovery in different ways.
Read the full article here.


Could Legalizing and Taxing Drugs Lower the Deficit?



More Than Two-Thirds of U.S. Residents Who First Started Using Drugs in the Past Year Began with Marijuana; 22% Started with Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs

An estimated 3.1 million persons ages 12 or older—an average of approximately 8,400 per day—used a drug other than alcohol for the first time in the past year, according to data from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. More than two-thirds (68%) of these new users reported that marijuana was the first drug they tried. Slightly more than one-fifth (22%) reported that prescription drugs used non-medically were the first drug they tried, including 14% with pain relievers, 4% with tranquilizers, 3% with stimulants, and 1% with sedatives. Less than 10% reported that their first use of drugs involved inhalants and hallucinogens, and very few initiates started using with cocaine or heroin. These findings suggest that drug use prevention efforts might focus on marijuana and the nonmedical use of prescription drugs, as these are the drugs that are most often used first


SOURCE:  Adapted by CESAR from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables, 2012. Available online at http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2011SummNatFindDetTables/Index.aspx.

FDA Investigates Possible Link Between Monster Energy Drinks and Five Deaths

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating reports that five people have died since 2009 after they consumed Monster energy drinks, according to the Los Angeles Times. The investigation was announced after parents of 14-year-old Anais Fournier sued the company in connection with their daughter’s death. The FDA said it has not established a connection between the drinks and the deaths, the article notes. The FDA can regulate caffeine levels in soft drinks, according to the newspaper. The limit in a 12-ounce soda is about 71 milligrams. The caffeine levels in most energy drinks exceed that level, because they are labeled dietary supplements.

In a statement, the company said, “Monster does not believe that its products are in any way responsible for the death of Ms. Fournier and intends to vigorously defend the lawsuit.” According to the company, the drinks “generally contain approximately 10 milligrams of caffeine from all sources per ounce. By comparison, the leading brands of coffee house brewed coffee contain on average more than 20 milligrams of caffeine per ounce. An entire 24-ounce can of Monster Energy contains about 240 milligrams of caffeine from all sources, which is around 30 percent less than the average caffeine contained in a medium-sized, 16-ounce cup of coffee house brewed coffee.” Last year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration issued a report that found a sharp rise in the number of emergency department visits linked with the use of non-alcohol energy drinks, from 1,128 visits in 2005, to 13,114 in 2009. The report noted that energy drinks are marketed to appeal to youth, and are consumed by up to half of children, teenagers and young adults. In April, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois called for an investigation into energy drinks, after learning of Fournier’s death from cardiac arrest after drinking two 24-ounce Monster energy drinks in a 24-hour period.


Doctors’ Concerns Over Patient Ratings May Play Role in Opioid Prescriptions
Doctors’ concerns about receiving negative reviews on consumer ratings websites may influence their decision to write opioid prescriptions for patients who request them, according to an opinion piece in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine. Physicians are relying more on patients’ self-reports of pain than in the past, and the “treatment of pain is held up as the holy grail of compassionate medical care,” Anna Lembke, M.D., of Stanford University, wrote.

Lembke points out that the American attitude that “all suffering is avoidable” has increased demand for treatment, MedPageToday notes. She adds that treating pain can be profitable, while treating addiction is not. Counseling, a critical part of addiction treatment, is time-consuming, and is not adequately reimbursed. Lembke suggests that all doctors should be required to attend a continuing medical education course on addiction. She notes that all doctors have been mandated since 2001 to complete a course in pain treatment. She also recommends that doctors be required to check their state’s prescription drug monitoring programs before writing prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances. Some states have already made this a requirement. Doctors must be made aware of new billing codes that allow them to be reimbursed for addiction counseling, Lembke states.
She warned the “problem of doctors prescribing addictive analgesics to patients with known or suspected addiction will be solved only when the threat of public and legal censure for not treating addiction is equal to that for not treating pain, and when treating addiction is financially compensated on a par with care for other illnesses.”

The Truth Behind “Just Say No!”


When I was in the fifth grade, I joined a student group organized by our school guidance counselor.  We called ourselves the Peacemakers.  No, we weren’t rallying for peace in the Middle East or an end to apartheid in South Africa. The aim of our activities was to promote a three-word slogan coined by former First Lady Nancy Reagan: “Just Say No!” Little did I know that my school’s efforts to keep us drug-free were part of a national campaign, one that began long before I was born.  This was the War on Drugs, a battle that has cost our country $1 trillion and led to 45 million arrests over the past 40 years.  Its consequences are the subject of Eugene Jarecki’s searing documentary The House I Live In.  Interweaving the stories of prison guards, narcotics officers, judges, investigative reporters, drug offenders, and their families, Jarecki shows how the War on Drugs has led to a policy of mass incarceration. The rest of the story is available here.

From Rutgers’ Targum: Counselor charts rising use of opiates among students

Young adults who otherwise may never consider using heroin are being introduced to the drug through opiate painkillers, said Frank Greenagel Jr., recovery counselor at Counseling, ADAP & Psychiatric Services. While he saw some cases 10 years ago, the trend has been getting worse since 2005, said Greenagel, who oversees recovery housing at the University. Prescription drugs are combinations of chemicals manufactured by multinational corporations in laboratories, which makes them more socially acceptable, Greenagel said. The social acceptance of prescription drugs takes away its stigma, so people find it more acceptable to take painkillers than use heroin, he said. “They just don’t have the same stigma as traditional illegal drugs,” he said. The Recovery Housing program, a branch of the Alcohol & Other Drug Assistance Program, is a housing model that fosters active participation in recovery programs to build a community for recovering addicts, said Eric Arauz, vice chairman for the Governor’s Task Force on Opiate and Heroin Abuse alongside Greenagel. Please click here to read the full story.

Top 5 Energy Drinks: Convenient Pick-Me-Ups or Health Hazards?
Energy drinks, like Red Bull and Monster, have become as ubiquitous on the beverage aisles as Coke and Pepsi. Could our increasingly hectic lifestyles have led to this need for eye-popping amounts of caffeine and sugar? And do they really help us, as they claim? Find our here!

Scottish Brewery Launches World's Most Alcoholic Beer

On the heels of the news of the highly caffeinated Death Watch Coffee, a Scottish brewery has just produced Armageddon, the world's most potent beer. Brewmeister's ale contains 65 percent ABV, which is 10 percentage points higher than your average bottle of vodka. If you're wondering how it compares to your average beer, Brand Channel reports Budweiser has just 5.3 percent and Coors a mere 4.2 — Armageddon has 16 times more alcohol.
How does a beer reach that alcohol content? Owner John Mackenzie told Drinks Business it's all in the fermentation. The beer is actually frozen during the fermentation process — the water freezes, but the alcohol does not. The alcohol is then separated from the ice and what's left is a very powerful beer.
A higher alcohol content comes at a higher price. The Brand Channel reports that a 330 ml bottle retails in the UK for $189. Rather than downing that expensive bottle, Brewmeister recommends treating the slightly sweet, hoppy, malty beer like a brandy by drinking it in 35 ml measures. Owner Lewis Shand explained, "Lots of people drink half pints with a spirit, but now they can have our beer with their normal pint instead." However, he warns that the beer "delivers a supersonic charged explosion and conveys the taster to drunkville."
Brewmeister isn't the first brewery to add an extra punch to its ale. In 2010, a Dutch company produced "Start the Future" beer, which had an alcohol content of 60 percent. American company Brew Dog launched their Tactical Nuclear Penguin with 32 percent ABV three years ago.
Would you try Armageddon? Do you think beer should have that much alcohol?

Medical marijuana center in Montclair to open before new year

After an extended battle with New Jersey officials, the state’s first medical marijuana center has received its final permit to open and serve patients. The Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair can now sell medical marijuana legally, and is expected to open before the end of the year.
Six groups were chosen by the New Jersey Department of Health in 2011 to grow and sell marijuana, but have had problems finding acceptance in towns, according to an Associated Press report in the Huffington Post. The Greenleaf group agreed to meet patients in Montclair and grow its plants in an undisclosed city.

Marijuana has been said to ease symptoms from a range of conditions and diseases including multiple sclerosis, migraines, cancer, and AIDS.

Only New Jersey residents are eligible for the program, and patients are not allowed to grow their own. According to The Latest Word, marijuana will be sold in three potencies, low, medium and high strength. In New Jersey, the maximum legal level of its primary active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, is 10 percent.

The effort to open medical marijuana dispensaries in New Jersey was slow due to the strict regulations outlined in the law, passed in January 2010 by then Governor Jon Corzine. But patients and caregivers will soon be receiving identification cards. About 320 patients have already begun registration, and more than 175 physicians have been signed. 17 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing medical marijuana. Just five other medical marijuana dispensaries, to be known as "alternative treatment centers," are permitted to open in New Jersey. Centers are being planned in Egg Harbor Township and Woodbridge. The three other locations have not yet been announced.

Study Finds Some Energy Drink Labels List Incorrect Caffeine Amount
Many energy drinks incorrectly list the amount of caffeine in their product, or do not list the amount at all, according to Consumer Reports. The magazine tested 27 popular energy drinks and shots, and calculated the amount of caffeine in one serving, based on the manufacturer’s serving size, according to CBS News. Of those products, 16 listed specific caffeine amounts. Five products—Arizona Energy, Clif Shot Turbo Energy Gel, Nestle Jamba, Sambazon Organic Amazon Energy and Venom Energy—had 20 percent more caffeine per serving than stated on the label. Archer Farms Energy Drink had 70 percent less caffeine than indicated on the label. The caffeine levels of the remaining products fell within 20 percent of the amount stated on the label.

Monster Beverage Corp. told CBS News its company does not list caffeine amounts because “there is no legal or commercial business requirement to do so, and also because our products are completely safe, and the actual numbers are not meaningful to most consumers.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating reports that five people have died since 2009 after they consumed Monster energy drinks. The investigation was announced after parents of 14-year-old Anais Fournier sued the company in connection with their daughter’s death. The FDA said it has not established a connection between the drinks and the deaths.

Last year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration issued a report that found a sharp rise in the number of emergency department visits linked with the use of non-alcohol energy drinks, from 1,128 visits in 2005, to 13,114 in 2009. The report noted that energy drinks are marketed to appeal to youth, and are consumed by up to half of children, teenagers and young adults.

Physician Addiction Treatment Programs Have Too Little Oversight
Programs designed to treat physicians’ substance use disorders have too little oversight and no clear standards, according to two experts from Harvard Medical School. They say the programs help a large majority of doctors to become abstinent and return to work, but they also have the potential for abuse.

“The physicians who are referred to these programs are often so compromised professionally by the time they get to them that, even if they feel that their treatment is not ethically sound, they’re often not in a position to voice them,” Dr. J. Wesley Boyd told The Boston Globe. He and Dr. John R. Knight published a review of the programs this month in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

The programs may be prone to conflicts of interest, the Harvard doctors note. Physician treatment programs often refer patients for evaluation to specialty centers that pay for conferences for the field. The specialty centers, which rely on state referrals for funding, may tend to recommend treatment, which often lasts 90 days, much longer than inpatient programs for the general population. Boyd and Knight call for addiction medicine groups to start talking about establishing standards for such programs. They also recommend the creation of a national licensing program.

United States' Habits Prompt Study On Daily Versus Binge Drinking
The pattern of knocking back a few drinks every few days, followed by days of no drinking, can cause more brain damage in rats than drinking moderately every day, say scientists from The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. And the damage caused to the prefrontal cortex sets up a cycle of craving more and more alcohol during the dry periods, so over-drinking occurs when finally given the opportunity to drink. This is, in part, the result of damage that disrupts the processes that normally inhibit reckless behavior. Click here to read the rest of the blog.

Addictions counselor: Co-dependents also need ongoing recovery support
Co-dependency is a condition often experienced by the family members of those who are addicted to alcohol or drugs.  It is characterized by an unhealthy, nearly unrelenting obsession with the addict in their lives. It often involves a pattern of behavior known as enabling, in which the family member interferes with the natural and painful consequences of addiction. This includes some of the following behaviors:
          Calling in sick for the addict when they are hung over
          Paying their bills for them because they have blown their money on alcohol or drugs
          Hiring lawyers or ineffective therapists when they get in trouble with the law or at school
          Blaming others for their addict's problems
The problem with enabling, of course, is that it doesn't work. However well-intended it may be, enabling always makes the problem worse because it delays the "day of reckoning" that most addicts need to get themselves into treatment and recovery.
To read the rest of this posting, please click here.

ATOD Weekly Recap - Week Ending October 19, 2012



Morphine vs. cocaine: A different mechanism of addiction

Morphine and cocaine both lead to addiction in part because of how they affect key reward areas in the brain. But a new study shows that they do this in very different ways -- knowledge that may eventually make treatments for addicts more specific and successful, but that also may complicate matters for people who take multiple drugs at once. Cocaine and morphine both have profound effects on the flow of dopamine -- a neurotransmitter scientists have consistently implicated in our sensations of reward in the brain. Signaling takes place when one neuron releases dopamine and a neighboring cell takes it up. The excess dopamine left over between the cells is then brought back into the cell that released it, a process called reuptake.

But cocaine blocks reuptake, leading to more dopamine hanging out between cells. That results in a more powerful sense of reward. This process has been particularly well-studied in two brain areas called the ventral tegmental area, or VTA, and the nucleus accumbens. Neurons that originate in the VTA release dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, which is right next door, and cocaine appears to impact these neurons more than others. Another chemical called BDNF has been shown to play a key role in cocaine reward by amplifying the addictive nature of cocaine. It does this by supporting changes to the dopamine-sensitive cells in the nucleus accumbens. These changes keep the cells sensitive to cocaine over time.
But in the new study, published last Thursday in the journal Science, researchers demonstrate that BDNF actually has the opposite effect when paired with morphine: It decreases morphine's rewarding effect. When the scientists used genetic techniques to eliminate BDNF or its receptor molecule from the VTA of mice, morphine suddenly became more rewarding.

It turns out that BDNF's diluting effect on morphine reward works like turning down a light's dimmer switch -- it dials down the number of electrical impulses transmitting information between the VTA and the nucleus accumbens. The researchers determined this by directly exciting neurons in the nucleus accumbens -- the ones that receive information from the VTA. This completely eliminated BDNF's ability to make morphine less rewarding.

The scientists note that, while the mechanism of addiction is different for the two drugs, the pathway is basically the same: Both drugs mess up the signaling between the two brain regions, but through different means. That means researchers should start looking at how chemicals like BDNF influence not just morphine or cocaine abusers -- and their mouse equivalents -- but users of multiple drugs as well.
You can read a summary of the study here.

Injecting Painkiller Opana Can Lead to Serious Blood Disorder, FDA Warns

Injecting the painkiller Opana ER can lead to a serious blood disorder that can result in kidney failure or death, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced Thursday. Opana is an opioid that contains the ingredient oxymorphone, Reuters reports. The drug is made by Endo Pharmaceuticals. Injecting Opana can cause thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, which causes clots to form in small blood vessels throughout the body. These clots limit or block blood flow to the organs, the article explains.

Opana ER is a pill meant to be taken orally. It causes the blood clotting disorder only when it is abused by being crushed and injected intravenously, according to the FDA. The pill has an extended-release design, but crushing it releases the drug all at once. Law enforcement officials are alarmed by the rise of Opana abuse, which they said started after OxyContin was changed in late 2010 to make that drug more difficult to snort or inject for a heroin-like high. OxyContin is a brand of oxycodone. Opana abuse can be deadly because it is more potent, per milligram, than OxyContin and users who are not familiar with how strong it is may be vulnerable to overdosing.

Endo Pharmaceuticals has announced it is reformulating the drug. The pill will be more difficult to crush, and will turn gooey if liquid is added to it. Opana is prescribed for chronic back pain, as well as pain related to cancer and osteoarthritis.

While Illicit Drug Use Decreases in Cities, Prescription Drug Abuse Climbs

While illicit drug use has decreased in most large American cities, prescription drug abuse has climbed, according to a new study. The study evaluated emergency room visits related to drug abuse in 11 major metropolitan areas, and some smaller urban areas, from 2007 to 2009. The researchers found illicit drug use accounted for more emergency department visits than prescription drug abuse in 2007 (26 percent vs. 20 percent), for all metropolitan areas except Phoenix.

From 2007 to 2009, emergency departments reported an 8 percent drop in visits for illicit drug abuse, while visits for prescription drug abuse rose 2 percent, HealthDay reports. In 2009, illicit drug use accounted for 28 percent of ER visits, while prescription drug abuse accounted for 22 percent. The findings were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

“The harsh reality is prescription drug abuse has become a growing problem in our society,” study author Dr. Asokumar Buvanendran of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said in a news release. “We hope the results of this study will aid physicians in effectively treating patients who struggle with prescription drug abuse, as well as encourage widespread patient education about the safe use, storage and disposal of medications.”

Differing opinions
Internet Changing Addiction Treatment, Expert Says
Web-based programs are proving to be an innovative and powerful adjunct to addiction treatment, according to an expert on internet treatment strategies. However, they are not meant to replace face-to-face addiction treatment, notes Paul Radkowski, CEO/Clinical Director at Life Recovery Program in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Internet addiction programs range from web-based education interventions, to self-guided web-based therapeutic programs, to human-supported web-based therapies, Radkowski explained at the recent annual meeting of the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC). Click here to read the rest of the story.
And then there is….

In-Person Counseling Better Than Computer-Based Alcohol Interventions, Study Finds

Face-to-face interventions are more effective than computer-delivered programs to curb college drinking, a new study finds. While both strategies can produce results in the short term, only in-person counseling produces results beyond a few months, according to News-Medical.net. Computer-delivered interventions (CDIs) have become a popular way for colleges to reach a large number of students, according to lead author Kate Carey of Brown University. She reviewed 48 studies on college programs to combat drinking. Click here to read the story.

The Power to Solve the Drug Overdose Crisis Is in Our Hands
You've probably read the headlines. Heroin and pain pill use is on the rise in the suburbs. It's hard to open a newspaper these days without being hit with grim reports of another death due to opioid medications and heroin. You may also be unaware that drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in Illinois, causing more fatalities than car accidents. But there is hope in sight. Illinois legislators have been responsive to the crisis. In 2010, legislators passed the Drug Overdose Prevention Act, expanding access to naloxone, the opiate antidote. In 2012, legislators passed the Emergency Medical Services Access Act, which grants limited immunity to people for possession of very small amounts of drugs in the event of an overdose. Click here to read the full blog.

Computerized Counseling May Be Failing College Students

Computer-delivered counseling has grown rapidly in college campuses as the format provides a method to address a large group of students with a relatively small counseling staff. However, a new review of several studies discovers that computer-delivered interventions have less effect than individual counseling. Specifically, the impact of these computer-delivered interventions on students was weaker and more short-lived than the effect of face-to-face counseling. Go here to read the rest of the story.

Young people driving epidemic of prescription drug abuse

A new study by the University of Colorado Denver reveals that today’s adolescents are abusing prescription pain medications like vicodin, valium and oxycontin at a rate 40 percent higher than previous generations. That makes it the second most common form of illegal drug use in the U.S. after marijuana, according to Richard Miech, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor of sociology at CU Denver. Read more at http://scienceblog.com/57173/young-people-driving-epidemic-of-prescription-drug-abuse/#DXcgHFYzvOBsiqXQ.99

Drop in Illicit Drug Use in Cities, Uptick in Prescription Drug Abuse

ER visits from street drugs declined 8 percent in 3-year period, study found

Illicit drug use has declined in most large U.S. cities in recent years, but prescription drug abuse has increased, a new study shows. Researchers analyzed data on drug-abuse related visits to emergency departments in 11 major metropolitan areas and some smaller urban areas over three years, 2007-2009. The data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network was separated into two types of drug abuse: prescription drugs such as the pain medication OxyContin and illegal street drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Rest of the story is available here.

Alcohol Dependence Has Deadlier Consequences Than Smoking Among Women: Study

Alcohol dependence is more likely than smoking to increase death rates among women, a new study finds. German researchers found deaths rates were 4.6 times higher among women who were alcohol dependent, and 1.9 times higher among alcohol-dependent men, compared with the general population.

Lead researcher Ulrich John said the smoking-related deaths are more due to cancers, which seem to occur later in life than many alcohol-related deaths. He added that drinking can contribute to other risky behaviors, such as smoking and obesity, HealthDay reports. The study included data on more than 4,000 adults, who were followed for 14 years. The average age of death for those who were alcohol dependent was 60 for females and 58 for males, both of which are about 20 years lower than the average age of death among the general population. The researchers found having participated in inpatient alcohol dependency treatment did not improve survival.

“We already know females tend to respond much stronger to toxins such as alcohol than males,” John said in a news release. “Women also seem to develop alcohol-attributable disease faster than men do.” The study appears in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Understanding the Zombie Teen's Body Clock
Many parents know the scene: The groggy, sleep-deprived teenager stumbles through breakfast and falls asleep over afternoon homework, only to spring to life, wide-eyed and alert, at 10 p.m.—just as Mom and Dad are nodding off.  Fortunately for parents, science has gotten more sophisticated at explaining why, starting at puberty, a teen's internal sleep-wake clock seems to go off the rails. Researchers are also connecting the dots between the resulting sleep loss and behavior long chalked up to just "being a teenager." This includes more risk-taking, less self-control, a drop in school performance and a rise in the incidence of depression.  The rest of the story is available here.

Teens, Young Adults Driving Prescription Drug Abuse Increase, Study Finds
Teenagers and young adults are abusing prescription painkillers at a rate 40 percent higher than what would be expected for their age group, a new study finds. The findings reinforce concerns by law enforcement and medical experts that the wide availability of painkillers is dangerous for adolescents, according to The Denver Post. Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver evaluated data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and found Americans ages 15 to 27 are driving the prescription drug abuse epidemic, the article notes.

“Prescription drug use is the next big epidemic,” lead researcher Richard Miech, Ph.D., said in a news release. “Everyone in this field has recognized that there is a big increase in the abuse of nonmedical analgesics but our study shows that it is accelerating among today’s generation of adolescents.”

The study notes that the total number of hydrocodone and oxycodone products prescribed legally in the U.S. increased more than fourfold, from about 40 million in 1991, to nearly 180 million in 2007. This increase in painkiller availability makes it easier for teens to start using the drugs than in the past, because more homes have prescription painkillers in their medicine cabinets, the researchers said. “While most people recognize the dangers of leaving a loaded gun lying around the house, what few people realize is that far more people die as a result of unsecured prescription medications,” Miech said. The study appears in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Alcohol’s Effects on Brain Can Begin to Subside Soon After Person Stops Drinking

Alcohol’s damaging effect on the brain can begin to subside two weeks after a person stops drinking, a new study suggests. Recovery may vary among different areas of the brain, the researchers say. The findings could offer promising news for recovering alcoholics, according to HealthDay. The study included 49 alcoholics in an inpatient treatment program, who were compared with 55 people who did not abuse alcohol. Participants underwent a brain scan within 24 hours of detoxification, and again two weeks later. The researchers found two weeks after detoxification, drinkers had a rapid recovery of the brain from alcohol-induced volume loss—a shrinkage of brain matter and an accompanying increase of cerebrospinal fluid, which acts as a cushion for the brain.

“This volume loss has previously been associated with neuropsychological deficits such as memory loss, concentration deficits and increased impulsivity,” lead researcher Gabriele Ende of the Central Institute of Mental Health in Germany said in a news release.

The study found some parts of the brain were able to recover from chronic alcohol abuse faster than others. The cerebellum, which controls motor coordination and motor skills, recovered quickly. Areas that control higher cognitive functions such as divided attention took a longer time to recover. The study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, has implications for treatment, according to the researchers. “Many alcohol treatment programs only deal with the withdrawal stage of abstinence from alcohol, that is, the first three days,” co-researcher Natalie May Zahr of Stanford University School of Medicine noted. “Based on the current study and others, clinicians should consider recovery programs that provide support for the recovering addict for a minimum of two weeks.”

ADHD drugs become popular, dangerous study solution for students
For Stephan Perez, attending the prestigious Columbia University was more than just a dream; it was a goal he set his sights on when he was only 13 years old and a goal he willed himself to achieve.

“I enrolled into all A.P. and honors classes.  And that was my vision.  I had only one goal.  I woke up in the morning, it was Columbia.  I went to sleep at night and it was Columbia,” said Perez in an interview set to air Thursday at 10pm/9c on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams.
The Georgia-bred teenager worked tirelessly over the next few years and even stopped playing sports in order to focus all of his attention on his academics.  His hard work finally paid off when he learned not only had he been accepted to his dream school, he received a Gates Millennium Scholarship that would pay for his tuition expenses.

But his inspirational rise to the top would end in a disastrous fall.  It’s a cautionary tale for driven students and their parents. Click here to read the full story.