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Thursday, December 19, 2013

ATOD & Advocacy Update - Week Ending December 20, 2013

On behalf of your friends at NCADD Middlesex, warmest greetings of the season and best wishes for happiness in the New Year and Holiday Blessings!

Heavy Marijuana Use in Teen Years Linked to Damaged Brain Structures: Study
Heavy marijuana use in the teenage years could damage brain structures vital to memory and reasoning, a new study suggests. The study found changes in the sub-cortical regions of the brain, which are part of the memory and reasoning circuits, NBC News reports. Young people who had changes in this region of the brain performed more poorly on memory tests than their peers who did not use marijuana. The heavy marijuana users in the study had not used the drug on average for more than two years before the memory testing occurred. The results appear in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin. The study included 10 people with a history of cannabis use disorder, 15 people with a history of cannabis use disorder and schizophrenia, and 28 with schizophrenia but no past regular marijuana use. The study also included 44 healthy people without a history of marijuana use. The participants who had used marijuana had been heavy users in their teen years. Their average age at the time of the study was mid-20s. The participants’ brains were scanned using MRI. They were then given tests of working memory, such as remembering number sequences. People who had a history of heavy marijuana use, whether or not they had schizophrenia, performed more poorly on the tests. They also showed abnormalities in regions of the brain related to reward and motivation, cognition input and movement and memory.

Rise in ADHD Diagnoses Linked to Drug Company Promotion of Treatments
The dramatic rise in the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) coincided with a two-decade campaign by drug companies, aimed at doctors, educators and parents, to promote pills to treat the disorder, according to The New York Times. Almost one in five boys of high school age, and 11 percent of school-age children overall, have received a medical diagnosis of ADHD in the United States. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found an estimated 6.4 million children ages 4 to 17 had received an ADHD diagnosis at some point. This represents a 16 percent increase since 2007, and a 53 percent increase in the past 10 years. Dr. Keith Conners, a leader in the fight to legitimize ADHD, is very concerned about the increase in diagnoses. He notes the number of children on medication for the disorder has risen to 3.5 million, from 600,000 in 1990. He called the increase “a national disaster of dangerous proportions.” The drug industry is now focusing its efforts on adult ADHD, which could become even more profitable than the children’s market, the article notes. While ADHD is acknowledged to be a legitimate disability that can interfere with success at school, work and personal life, many critics say the effort to treat every child with signs of ADHD has led to too many receiving the diagnosis and medication. According to the article, drug company marketing portrays ADHD as including relatively normal behavior, such as carelessness and impatience, and has often exaggerated the medications’ benefits. The Food and Drug Administration has cited every major ADHD drug, including Adderall, Concerta, Focalin, Vyvanse, Intuniv and Strattera, for false and misleading advertising since 2000.

Moderate consumption of alcohol can improve immune response to vaccination
It's the time of year when many of us celebrate the holidays with festive foods and drinks, including alcohol. No better time then to ask if it is true, as is widely held, that moderate consumption of alcohol is beneficial to health. A research team led by an immunologist at the University of California, Riverside now has data that could put the question to rest. The researchers found that moderate alcohol consumption could bolster our immune system, and potentially our ability to fight infections. Continue reading here.

Study aims to cut binge drinking by text
A study aimed at cutting binge drinking by Scottish men will use text messaging in an attempt to change behavior. Researchers hope to target those who have settled into a pattern of binge drinking, consuming more than eight units of alcohol per drinking session. Please click here to continue.

Watchdog Group Slams Alcohol “Social Responsibility” Campaigns
Alcohol companies’ “social responsibility” campaigns increase brand loyalty and positive perceptions of the products, without reducing alcohol-related harms, according to a critic of the industry. Recent social responsibility campaigns have included advertising and products associated with causes such as HIV/AIDS, LGBT equality, breast cancer, and natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, a number of alcohol companies run campaigns to associate their products with the issue, including Mike’s Hard Pink Lemonade in support of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Chambord “Pink Your Drink” campaign. Belvedere Vodka promotes its special edition red bottle to raise proceeds for the Global Fund, which finances programs to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. The Absolut Pride campaign for LGBT equality featured a limited-edition rainbow-striped bottle of vodka. Last year, following Hurricane Sandy, Anheuser-Busch packaged more than a million cans of emergency drinking water for residents impacted by that and other natural disasters. The cans were labeled “donated by Anheuser-Busch,” and included the company logo. In addition to social responsibility campaigns, alcohol companies also benefit from “drink responsibly” campaigns, she observes. Last year, Alcohol Justice released a report about those campaigns, which concluded the evidence is that “drink responsibly” messages are not shown to be effective policies to reduce alcohol-related harm. Alcohol Justice reviewed “drink responsibly” messages in print ads in the September/October 2011 issues of 41 magazines with a high proportion of youth readership. They analyzed frequency, location, size, and content of beer, spirits and alcopops brand ads found in those publications, and compared the size of “drink responsibly” messages, if present, in the ads. They found 94 percent of the ads contained “drink responsibly” messages, but many blended into backgrounds so they were difficult to see, or were tiny in relation to the size of the entire ad. “‘Drink responsibly’ and ‘social responsibility’ campaigns are a conflict of interest in a variety of ways,” said Mart, who wrote the report. “With the so-called social responsibility campaigns, the alcohol company produces a product that contributes to harm – breast cancer or HIV, for example – and then capitalizes on that harm to increase positive feelings about the product. It’s a never-ending cycle. While it works very well for the company, it does not work well for public health.”

Attorneys General Urge FDA to Require Abuse-Deterrent Versions of Painkillers
Attorneys General from 42 U.S. states and territories are urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require drug companies to ensure generic prescription opioids have abuse-deterrent features. Some brand-name painkillers, such as OxyContin, already have abuse-deterrent features, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. The attorneys general said they are concerned that as generic versions of opioids become available, the drugs’ manufacturers will not incorporate abuse-deterrent features. Some drug companies have resisted adding the features because of the cost, the article notes. In a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, the attorneys general wrote that they “respectfully request that the FDA provide clear and fair regulatory standards for the incorporation of abuse-deterrent technologies into generic opioids.” Last week, the attorneys general from 28 states asked the FDA to reassess its decision to approve Zohydro ER (extended release), a pure form of the painkiller hydrocodone. In a letter to Commissioner Hamburg, the attorneys general said they believe the approval of Zohydro ER “has the potential to exacerbate our nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic because this drug will be the first hydrocodone-only opioid narcotic that is reportedly five to ten times more potent than traditional hydrocodone products, and it has no abuse-deterrent properties.”

Study Finds Five Parenting Programs Can Help Reduce Teen Behavior Problems
A study that evaluated a wide variety of parenting programs found five that help parents and children avoid teen behavior problems. The study appears in the Journal of Children’s Services. The programs that were found to be effective focus on promoting opportunities, skills and rewards for positive social behaviors, as well as bonding and clear expectations for behavior, reports. The programs aim to change risk factors such as poor parental supervision and high family conflict. They demonstrate what “normal” family behavior looks like, the article notes. One of the programs, called Nurse-Family Partnership, sends registered nurses to visit young, single, first-time mothers at least once every two weeks, starting while they are pregnant, and lasting until their child is 2 years old. When the women are pregnant, the nurses help them reduce smoking, drinking and drug use. After the baby is born, the nurses help the mothers create safe environments, and develop ways to deal with difficult behaviors. Another program, the Incredible Years, is designed to teach children ages 3-6, their parents and teachers ways to handle difficult situations. Therapist-led group sessions teach children to develop skills such as problem solving, making friends, and cooperating with others. A third program, Staying Connected with Your Teen, is aimed at helping teens avoid risky sexual activity, drug use and violent behavior. Parents are taught to set strong rules against antisocial behavior by increasing parental monitoring, reducing harsh parenting and rewarding teens to promote family bonding.

Fewer Teens See Great Risk from Being Regular Marijuana Users: Survey
The percentage of teens who think there is a great risk from being a regular marijuana user has dropped, according to a new survey. The Monitoring the Future survey found 39.5 percent of 12th graders think regular marijuana use is harmful, down from 44.1 percent last year. Monitoring the Future is an annual survey that measures drug use and attitudes among students in grades 8, 10 and 12. The survey found 6.5 percent of high school seniors smoke marijuana daily, compared with 6 percent in 2003, and 2.4 percent in 1993, CNN reports. Almost 23 percent of seniors say they smoked marijuana in the month prior to the survey, and just over 36 percent say they smoked it during the past year. The survey found use of synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, decreased 3.4 percent among high school seniors. Less than 1 percent of all students surveyed said they used bath salts. “Synthetic drugs are particularly dangerous because their ingredients are unknown, they have not been tested for safety and their ever-changing ingredients can be unusually powerful,” said lead researcher Lloyd Johnston. “Users really don’t know what they are getting.” The abuse of the painkiller Vicodin has decreased in the last 10 years, from 10.5 percent of high school seniors in 2003, to 5.3 percent this year. The survey also found 7.4 percent of seniors said they took the ADHD drug Adderall for non-medical purposes in the past year, while 2.3 percent reported abusing Ritalin.

Medical Group Warns of Danger of Performance-Enhancing Drugs
The Endocrine Society is warning about the health consequences of taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). The vast majority of people who use these drugs are non-athlete weightlifters, reports. In a new scientific statement, the Endocrine Society notes media attention about PEDs has focused on their use by elite athletes in order to gain a competitive advantage in sports. “There is a widespread misperception that PED use is safe or that adverse effects are manageable,” the statement notes. PED use has been linked to an increased risk of death and a wide variety of health problems. In the long term, PEDs can cause impotence, worsening acne, balding and “steroid rage.” PEDs can also stunt growth in adolescents. More serious effects include heart and liver damage, and an increased risk of blood clots. “There is a widespread misperception that PED use is safe or that adverse effects are manageable,” said Shalender Bhasin, MD of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who chaired the task force that developed the statement. “The truth is, PED use has been linked to increased risk of death and a wide variety of cardiovascular, psychiatric, metabolic, renal and musculoskeletal disorders.” PED users at greatest risk for health consequences are those who become dependent on the drugs, and use them over many years. Nearly one-third of people who use anabolic steroids will develop dependence on the drugs, and about one million men have experienced dependence on the steroids at some time, the article notes. Both athletes and non-athlete weightlifters who use PEDs often engage in other high-risk health behaviors, including using alcohol or opioids along with steroids, according to the group.

Fighting Holiday Overdrinking: Why Many Women May Be Better Off with Apps Over AA
The holidays are one of the most challenging times for Melissa, a 49-year-old real estate agent and heavy drinker, whose ex-husband’s family had a troubling relationship with alcohol.  “His family were all big drinkers,” she says recalling boozy Christmases, “With them, I’d be the first one to call it a night.” Melissa (a pseudonym) is now a user of, an evidence-based web application for people who are concerned about their alcohol use but do not want to quit.  Many come to the site via Google searches; others have tried the free, an evidence-based screening and intervention method for alcohol problems that was created by the same research group and is similar to tests used by doctors. Continue reading here.

43.7 Million Americans experienced mental illness in 2012
$31 Million Announced to Improve Mental Health Services for Young People
Nearly one in five American adults, or 43.7 million people, experienced a diagnosable mental illness in 2012 according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). These results are consistent with 2011 findings. SAMHSA also reported that, consistent with 2011, less than half (41 percent) of these adults received any mental health services in the past year. Among those who had serious mental illness, 62.9 percent received treatment. Among adults with mental illness who reported an unmet need for treatment, the top three reasons given for not receiving help were that they could not afford the cost, thought they could handle the problem without treatment, or did not know where to go for services. Continue to read this release here.

People are drinking less but doing so more harmfully. Policymakers want higher prices—causing a headache for the booze industry
BY DAY tourists flock to Plaza de EspaƱa in central Madrid to snap photos beside the sculpture of Miguel de Cervantes, author of “Don Quixote”. By night a newer facet of Spanish culture is on display: loitering groups of young people downing plastic bottles of whisky and vodka mixed with Fanta Lemon. The ground is littered with empties. Nearby, three young men help a friend vomiting on the pavement. Rest of this story is here.

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