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Thursday, April 11, 2013

ATOD and Advocacy Update - Week-Ending April 12, 2013

NIH study sheds light on how to reset the addicted brain
Could drug addiction treatment of the future be as simple as an on/off switch in the brain? A study in rats has found that stimulating a key part of the brain reduces compulsive cocaine-seeking and suggests the possibility of changing addictive behavior generally. The study, published in Nature, was conducted by scientists at the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the University of California, San Francisco. Read the rest here.

Personalized prescriptions reduce side effects, increase efficiency
Your doctor’s prescription pad is about to get a little spit and polish. Doctors are using saliva to offer personalized prescriptions for common antidepressants and antipsychotic medications, avoiding guesswork about how effective the drugs will be for each person, and what side effects patients will experience.  So far about 400 patients have been tested from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Thornhill Medical Centre. The tests are part of a seven-year study, anchored at CAMH, that will eventually include most GTA hospitals and family practice units. Click here to read the rest.

Schumer pushes tough new rules on prescription drugs
Citing an epidemic of prescription drug abuse, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday touted tough new federal legislation to keep painkillers out of the wrong hands.  Schumer's proposal, co-sponsored with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), seeks to reclassify hydrocodone drugs as Schedule II controlled substances and require a written or electronic prescriptions, among other regulations. In New York, hydrocodone is already considered a Schedule II drug, but Schumer's bill would replicate that law nationwide. Please click here to read the rest of this story.

Drug Policy Director Cites Significant Progress in Disrupting Illegal Drug Trafficking
The head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Gil Kerlikowske, said there has been significant progress in disrupting illegal drug trafficking. He spoke in Tucson, Arizona, during a visit to inspect border security operations. Kerlikowske said there has been an increase in communication with Mexican officials, according to Cronkite News Service. “We have, as we know, increased our drug seizures along the border significantly, the seizure of firearms going south and the seizure of money, which is critical for cutting off the head of the snake of the cartels,” he said. A statement by ONDCP noted between 2009 and 2012, the Department of Homeland Security seized 39 percent more drugs along the Southwest border compared with 2005 to 2008. ONDCP has funded 18 Drug-Free Communities within 100 miles of the border in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. These coalitions provide outreach services to young people to prevent drug use before it begins. Kerlikowske told the news service there has been a decline in use of cocaine and methamphetamine in the United States, but law enforcement continues to be challenged by synthetic drug use. “Synthetic drugs, which can be produced anywhere, are a serious concern, but I think that the more education and prevention we do, that works the best,” he said.

Party Drug Called “Benzo Fury” Presents Dangers, Rat Study Suggests
A party drug known as “Benzo Fury” can have dangerous consequences, a new study of rodents suggests. It has both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects, Reuters reports. The drug is a synthetic, laboratory-designed substance. Benzo Fury can be purchased online, and is popular in Britain and the United States, the article notes. Researchers at Britain’s University of Roehampton found the drug produced an effect on the brains of rats that was similar to hallucinogenic, addictive drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines. It may lead to high blood pressure by constricting blood vessels, the researchers said. “It’s in the combination of these stimulant and hallucinogenic properties that the greatest danger lies,” said lead researcher Jolanta Opacka-Juffry. She presented her findings at the British Neuroscience Association conference in London. She added, “It’s possible that the reason these drugs are so popular is because they are seen as safer than their illegal counterparts,” so it is “important to challenge such assumptions.”

Travels in the New Psychedelic Bazaar

A few years ago, on the West Coast, I made the acquaintance of a 32-year-old whom some people call “the Wizard.” He’s a nice guy, quiet, with a long beard that he wasn’t going to cut until Americans stopped killing civilians in our two wars, and a deep interest in organic chemistry. He was once a computer programmer and at another time a pot dealer. “It wasn’t uncommon for me to drive around with pounds of weed in my truck,” he says. “I’d just put on a hillbilly hat, load up the car, and throw tools in the back.” Now, though, he’d wandered through a different door and found himself in the midst of a bazaar of weird new drugs. In the Wizard’s offline world, which was made up of patchwork-­wearing hippies and Rainbow Family elders, there was acid, pot, and MDMA, usually called ecstasy, and that was about it. But on the online forums he began to obsessively frequent, the Wizard learned about a vast array of new white powders. It was as if MDMA (now being called “Molly”) and LSD had somehow melded together, producing dozens of new psychedelic substances. On the forums, there were also whole new classes of dissociatives, stimulants, sedatives, and cannabis-based products (“cannabinoids”), along with a group of drugs called “bath salts,” which, of course, have nothing to do with Epsom salts or the lavender-scented kind purchased at Aveda. Read the rest of this story here.

Middle School Drug Testing: Effective Deterrent or Overbearing Policy?
It takes more than a quick serve to make the girls' volleyball team at Pleasant Middle School in Marion, Ohio. Before becoming a Lady Spartan, each 12- to 13-year-old must first pass a test they all say is a little embarrassing -- a mandatory drug test.  "It's disgusting," said Alexis Klaiber, one of the volleyball players.  "They tell you to go to the restroom and you come out with a cup and it's just really awkward because other people are standing there," Cammy Creeger said. "You had to walk out and sometimes the guys were there."  Drug testing is mandatory at Pleasant Middle School for any student involved in extracurricular activities. Principal Lane Warner said the school tests for "common street drugs" and alcohol at random, and will pull students out of class for drug testing.  Many students said the process is nerve-wrecking. Click here to read the rest of this story.

Ever been in pain? You should care about heroin
A sharp pain shot from Jason Freibert’s swollen knee as he knelt to install tile in a shower in the summer of 2004. In that instant on the job, Freibert was caught up in two trends building across America: a spike in prescriptions for opioid painkillers - and a dramatic increase in the supply of heroin. Freibert’s experience over the next five years illustrates the heroin crisis that has gripped Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Heroin use has exploded in the past decade, fed by sophisticated supply networks focused on mostly white suburban and rural users who have tried prescription painkillers. It has increased even more dramatically since 2010 - when the painkiller OxyContin was reformulated to make it harder to abuse.

Parents of N.J. addicts advocate for amendments to patient confidentiality
Erin Fitzpatrick and Justin Wolfe were, for the most part, normal young adults. Erin had been an honor student and a softball player. She was a junior dog handler and regularly competed in dog shows. Justin was a sports fan, popular and charismatic. He attended Temple University, joining a fraternity and studying risk management. Erin and Justin never met. Justin died of a heroin overdose in December at the age of 21, and Erin, also 21, is undergoing treatment in a rehab facility, waiting for a court date to face burglary charges. Both were ostensibly successful young adults. And both were addicted to heroin. Drug-related deaths have risen steadily over the last 11 years, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control. In 2010, drug overdoses killed 38,329 people, making drugs a more common cause of death than car accidents, guns or alcohol. Nearly 60 percent of those deaths were from pharmaceutical drugs, the majority of which were opioids. Now, Erin’s mother, Maureen Fitzpatrick of Pitman, and Justin’s father, Gregg Wolfe of Voorhees, are advocating for changes to health care regulations that they say prevented them from getting the treatment their children needed. Continue reading here.

U.S. adults still skipping pills to save money, CDC study finds Medicare Part D keeps patients on their meds. That's the upside of a new study that shows U.S. adults are still skipping doses to save money. And patients who don't yet qualify for Medicare are twice as likely to skip as Medicare beneficiaries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, 13% of adults aged 18 to 64 save money by skipping doses, taking lower doses than prescribed or foregoing treatment altogether. Only 5.8% of patients 65 and older--in other words, Medicare beneficiaries--don't take their drugs as directed. Obviously, anytime a patient chooses not to take drugs as prescribed, pharma loses sales, and there's the potential for costly care down the road, particularly with chronic illnesses like diabetes. One study estimated that pharma loses $564 billion globally to lax pill-taking. So, the industry is experimenting with reminders, technological and otherwise, to increase adherence. But a nudge from a text or a talking pill bottle might not inspire patients who are pinching pennies. Some of that difference in pill-taking habits lies on the younger end of the spectrum, said Steve Morgan, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia. "Even among insured populations, there is this invincibility mindset among the very young," Morgan told Bloomberg. But predictably, health coverage--or lack of it--played a big role. Uninsured adults were more likely to stretch their supplies of prescription drugs than patients covered by Medicaid or private insurance.

Alcohol increases risk of breast cancer but helps survivors live longer
Drinking, most women know, can increase their risk of getting breast cancer. But now it turns out that moderate drinking before or after diagnosis also appears to increase longevity, researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and other centers reported Monday.  The best news for moderate drinking, either pre- or post-diagnosis, was that it did not affect a woman's risk of dying from breast cancer.  The research also found an apparent link between alcohol and better survival from cardiovascular disease, increasingly recognized as a significant risk for breast-cancer survivors, said Polly Newcomb, head of the Cancer Prevention Program at "The Hutch," who led the study, published in Monday's edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Read the rest here.

U.S. Alcohol Laws Fuel Booming Fake ID Industry
Each weekend, this scene is repeated across the United States. This is a country where binge drinking is widely regarded as synonymous with college life, yet the minimum age for purchasing alcohol is 21 - higher than virtually anywhere else in the developed world. In an attempt to crack down on the practice, New York state has unveiled new driving licenses engraved with a "ghost image" that floats in a transparent window and, officials proclaim, is virtually impossible to tamper with or forge. Similar cards have been issued in Virginia since 2009, and if they prove a success the other 48 states could follow suit. Given that it is virtually impossible to purchase alcohol in the US without being asked for ID, this would make it much harder to convince bar staff or grocery store staff that an under-age purchaser is over 21. But the sheer prevalence of bogus identity cards like that carried by Madison suggests that efforts to circumvent the authorities' latest tactics are inevitable.

How much do college students really drink?
College drinking is in the news again, as seen in my colleague Jenna Johnson’s story, here, about what happened at the University of Virginia this week when the student newspaper tweeted about reports that authorities were raiding dormitories to find forbidden alcohol. The tweets set off an alcohol dump by students who were afraid of being caught with their contraband — even though it turned out that there were no raids. Read the rest here.

Alcohol Use, Anxiety Predict Facebook Use by College Students, MU Study Finds
With nearly one billion users worldwide, Facebook has become a daily activity for hundreds of millions of people. Because so many people engage with the website daily, researchers are interested in how emotionally involved Facebook users become with the social networking site and the precursors that lead to Facebook connections with other people. Russell Clayton, now a doctoral student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, found that anxiety and alcohol use significantly predict emotional connectedness to Facebook. Click here for the rest of the story.

New national study examines marijuana use and prescription drug misuse
Individuals who use marijuana recreationally are more likely to misuse other drugs, including pain-controlling, but potentially addictive narcotics, sedatives and other prescription medications, than individuals who do not use marijuana, according to a new national study issued today by Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX), the world's leading provider of diagnostic information services. The study also found that while marijuana was the most frequently abused drug of patients tested, individuals who used prescribed marijuana (prescription cannabinoids) were not more likely to misuse other drugs than non-marijuana users. Click here for the rest of the story.

Majority of Americans Say Doctors Should Have Limits on Pain Medication Prescribing
A new poll finds 52 percent of Americans say doctors should have limits on the amount and dosage of pain medication they are allowed to prescribe. Almost half of those surveyed said prescription drug addiction is a major U.S. health problem. The poll was commissioned by the advocacy group Research!America, which is using the results to encourage better research on chronic pain, The Hill reports. “We need to better understand addiction,” Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley said in a statement. “We shouldn’t shy away from research on new pain treatments based on fears of abuse. The suffering is simply too great. More robust investment in research and the engagement and support of policy makers and health care providers are essential to developing effective strategies to reduce the prevalence of addiction.” The group found 18 percent of respondents believe chronic pain is a major health problem, but 63 percent know someone who has taken prescription medication for severe pain.

Smoking Scenes Doubled in Youth-Rated Movies Between 2010 and 2012
The number of smoking scenes in youth-rated movies doubled between 2010 and 2012, HealthDay reports. Smoking scenes have returned to the level of a decade ago, according to a study funded by the anti-smoking group Legacy. The study calculated the number of “tobacco impressions,” depictions of tobacco use, multiplied by the number of tickets sold per film. The researchers found half of youth-related movies in 2012 delivered an estimated 14.8 billion tobacco impressions. This represents a 169 percent increase from 2010. “Movies may be more powerful than traditional tobacco ads,” Legacy President and CEO Cheryl Healton said in a news release. “We know that the more smoking that youth see in movies, the more likely they are to smoke. This explosion in on-screen smoking puts hundreds of thousands of young Americans at risk of addiction, disease and premature death.” In 2010, three major film studios had eliminated almost all smoking in their films with youth ratings (those with ratings of G, PG or PG-13). By 2012, one of those studios, Warner Bros., had the most smoking scenes in their youth-rated movies, the article notes. Paramount, Disney and Universal had less smoking in their youth-rated movies in 2012, compared with the previous year. Films with high levels of smoking last year included The Hobbit, Lincoln, Taken 2, Skyfall and Men in Black 3. “Increases in smoking imagery in the movies are discouraging,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Every day in the United States approximately 3,800 youth under 18 smoke their first cigarette, and approximately 1,000 become daily cigarette smokers. Reducing smoking and tobacco use in youth-oriented movies will help save lives, money, and years of suffering from completely preventable smoking-related chronic diseases.” According to Legacy, research suggests seeing smoking in movies is a factor in 37 percent of new young smokers taking up the habit.

People Consume More Calories and Fat on Days They Drink Alcohol
People consume more calories and fat on the days they drink alcohol, according to a new study.

Researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism studied 1,864 adults who answered a diet questionnaire on two days within a 10-day period. On one day, they drank alcohol, and on the second day, they did not. When they drank, they had an average of two to three alcoholic beverages at a time.  On days they did not drink, men consumed an average of 2,400 calories, while women consumed about 1,700 calories. When they drank, men consumed about 400 more daily calories, and women took in about 300 more calories, Reuters reports. For the women, the extra calories could have come from the alcohol alone. For men, between 100 and 200 of the extra calories came from food, the researchers report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Both men and women consumed about 9 percent more fat on days they drank alcohol. They also drank less milk. Men ate more white potatoes and meat on days they drank. Lead researcher Rosalind Breslow noted social events that serve alcohol often include less healthy foods. It is also possible that when people drink, they are more impulsive and don’t stop themselves from eating more unhealthy foods, she added.

Online Toolkit Designed to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse Among College Students
An online toolkit called “Generation Rx University” aims to reduce prescription drug abuse among college students. Ohio State University’s (OSU) College of Pharmacy and the Cardinal Health Foundation have teamed up to introduce the program at seven colleges.

College students are using stimulants, sedatives and painkillers to reduce stress, boost their mood or help them stay up to study. Many teens believe prescription drugs are non-addictive and safer than street drugs.
“The average age when prescription drug abuse starts is around 21,” Ken Hale, an assistant dean for OSU’s College of Pharmacy, said in a news release. “It’s critical that our colleges and universities do more to help prevent this potentially deadly behavior, and this new toolkit is designed to help them do that.” The toolkit, created by college students, includes scripts and skits that can be used to begin conversations about the myths, realities and dangers of prescription drug abuse, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Seven colleges received grants of up to $2,500 to implement the program at their schools: Ohio University’s Lancaster campus; the Ohio University Foundation; the Shawnee State University Foundation in Portsmouth, Ohio; California University of Pennsylvania Foundation; the University of Cincinnati Foundation & UC James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy; University of Oklahoma; and the University of New Mexico Foundation & College of Pharmacy.

Pill nation: Are we too reliant on prescription meds?
While modern medicines do help us manage pain and live with chronic illnesses, Americans are taking more prescription medication than ever before, leading medical ethicists to ask whether we are taking too many pills for our own good. NBC’s Tom Costello reports. Click here to view the full report.

Using Study Drugs to Get Better Grades: Why You Should Think Twice
Between club meetings, sorority mixers, intramural volleyball games, and filling out applications to land that killer summer internship, who even has time to study in college anymore? With such chaotic lives, collegiettes today are typically professional procrastinators. But what's a collegiette to do when it's midnight and she hasn't even started studying for that 8 a.m. exam yet? Several college students across the country have found a risky solution: study drugs. The rest of the story is here.

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