Tag Archives: addiction research

Research Indicates Link Between High Sugar Diet and Opioid Addiction

New research from the laboratory of behavioral neuroscience at the University of Guelph has suggested a possible link between diet and risk of opioid addiction. Specifically, children and adults may be more vulnerable to opioid addiction when high amounts of refined sugars are consumed.

There has been a lot of press recently about the current opioid crisis — and for good reason. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that provisional counts for the number of deaths has increased by 21 percent in the period 2015-2016. Drug overdoses are now claiming lives at double the rate of motor vehicle accidents and firearms combined.

Sugar Activates Reward Centers in Brain

Research studies have revealed that refined sugar activates the reward centers in the brain in the same manner as addictive drugs. Opioid abuse has also been linked to poor diet, including a preference for foods that are high in sugar. Based on this link, researchers had questions about whether there was a connection between a diet with an excessive amount of refined sugar and an increased susceptibility to opioid addiction.

How Research Was Conducted

The research team looked at whether an unlimited level of access to high fructose corn syrup changed laboratory rats’ behavior and responses to oxycodone, a semi-synthetic opioid. High fructose corn syrup, a commonly used food additive in North American processed foods and soft drinks, was selected for this study.

In one study conducted by doctoral student Meenu Minhas, the rats were given unrestricted access to drinking water sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. The sweetened water was removed after about a month. After a few days where the rats didn’t have access to any sweetened water, researchers evaluated the rats’ response to oxycodone.

The researchers found that when the rats consumed high levels of corn syrup, they may experience less rewards from the oxycodone. As a result, the rats may be looking to take higher amounts of the drug.

High Sugar Diet May Contribute to Opioid Addiction

The results indicate that a diet high in sugar may dampen the pleasure that someone may get from taking drugs such as Percocet, Percodan, and OxyContin at lower doses. Since these sedative drugs normally make a user feel more relaxed shortly after being ingested, someone who isn’t getting these results is likely to take a larger dose to get the desired results.

Higher doses of sedatives and painkillers can be dangerous. At high levels, they can interfere with central nervous functioning and slow down breathing, leading to coma or respiratory arrest. When combined with alcohol, their effects multiply since alcohol is also a depressant drug.

This research is another good reason to eat a balanced diet, including lean meats, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. There is a place for sweets, but in moderation.

Study Identifies Three Ways to Reduce Risk of Opioid Overdose in Addition to Treatment

reduce risk of opioid overdoseThere are three new helpful recommendations for doctors to follow in order to reduce deaths associated with prescription painkiller overdoses. While some of it is common sense, other parts are simple measures that can save lives. Researchers at the RAND Corporation have found that not prescribing opioids or anti-anxiety medication to patients with opioid dependence problems, ensuring that patients received psychosocial counseling and keeping up with quarterly doctor visits greatly reduced the chances of opioid-related deaths.

Researchers were able to come to these conclusions after observing the care that over 30,000 Veterans received through the VA health system. This at-risk population often sees a large amount of opioid abuse, and researchers were anxious to see what was effective within this vulnerable group. This is also the first study that has looked at developing quality measures to assure against potential opioid overdose deaths. This was important because another group of researchers have recently released data that shows the number of people dying from opioid overdoses is likely not going to reduce for several years unless some drastic changes are enacted.

These changes would be different from, or in addition to changing other prescribing habits, physician education programs about opioid abuse and prescription drug monitoring programs. It also presents another set of guidelines that can be easily checked.

“This is a very large drop in mortality and we need to conduct more research to see if these findings hold up in other patient care settings. But our initial findings suggest that these quality measures could go a long way toward improving patient outcomes among those who suffer from opioid addiction,” commented Dr. Katherine Watkins, lead author of the study.

These three recommendations have been published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, but researchers are hopeful that the information is more broadly dispensed because of the potential life-saving information to physicians everywhere.

Hormone Research May Provide New Avenues of Treatment for Alcoholics

hormone treatment for alcoholicsThe brain has increasingly been a point of interest for researchers when it comes to studying addiction. In the last several years it has been discovered that areas of the brain responsible for self-control and rewards are most affected by addiction. Scientists have also found evidence of the long-lasting effects of drugs and alcohol on the biology of the brain. And now, a team of researchers from multiple universities and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) have released information about a potential cause for alcoholism.

One of the major functions of the brain is to release and regulate hormones. Hormones are an essential component of life, dictating to the body when it is time to grow, eat, sleep, and even think. One major hormone is called aldosterone. Aldosterone is an essential hormone because it regulates kidney function and ensures that the body maintains a water and salt balance. There are two parts to a hormone pathway, the hormone itself and the receptor it binds to.

The researchers of this study found that there could be a link between the aldosterone receptors and alcohol use after it was observed that the receptors for the hormone are located on areas of the brain traditionally linked to alcohol use disorders. The amygdala and the prefrontal cortex are areas of the brain that have proven to be associated to alcohol use disorder and therefore the researchers are indicating that aldosterone and its receptors could be beneficial for future medicinal trials to prevent or treat alcoholism. The findings can be seen in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

“We believe that this target might be particularly promising for those individuals who drink excessive amounts of alcohol to cut their stress and anxiety – this is technically what we refer to as the ‘withdrawal/negative affect state,’ [and] it is a domain for which we do not have approved targeted medications,” commented Lorenzo Leggio, MD, PhD and one of the authors of the study.

Other research indicates that increased drinking produces a higher level of aldosterone levels in the body. Upon closer examination, patients with higher aldosterone levels and history of alcoholism report stronger cravings, according to the study.

The research has not yet produced any new medication geared to aldosterone receptors as a way of handling alcoholism, but scientists are hopeful that this next step will be taken soon.

Study Cites Benzo Use as Cause for Brain Changes

benzo useA new research study has shown that benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin, actually change the structure of the brain. This discovery could lead to further research regarding benzodiazepine addiction that can be explained by altered brain chemistry.

The study, which will be published in the August edition of Psychiatry Neuroimaging, shows that long term use of benzodiazepines can change the caudate in the brain. The caudate is responsible for the reward system, a function of the brain that is often linked to addiction.

The study, which was conducted in Finland, gathered data from MRI scans of 38 people diagnosed with schizophrenia. The MRIs were taken when the subjects were 34-years-old and then again when they were 43-years-old. Comparing the MRIs showed distinct changes in the brains of those that were using benzodiazepines. In order for a study to be valid, researchers have to take into account age, illness, and medication dose, yet even with these adjustments, benzodiazepines still seem to have a major effect on the brain.

Because this is the first study that has analyzed the potential of benzodiazepines to change the structure of the brain, researchers are anxious to further their understanding of this new development.

“There is a need for understanding the mechanisms behind antipsychotic – and benzodiazepine – related structural and functional changes in the brain. Further studies should also focus on how medication-related structural alterations correspond to cognition and functioning,” explained the authors of the study. They also understand that there will need to be a more large-scale population to gather enough data to back up their initial findings more thoroughly.

However, the study is interesting because it may answer questions about the potential for benzodiazepine addiction. Medications like Xanax or Valium are highly addictive and oftentimes abused by people who do not have their own prescription for the drug. Traditionally prescribed to those that suffer from anxiety disorders, these drugs are oftentimes sold on the street to people looking for the high that benzodiazepines can provide.

It can also garner further insight into how to treat benzo addictions in terms of helping to rehabilitate the brain and repair lost function from the drugs.

Anti-Seizure Medications Linked to Opioid Overdose Deaths

Anti-Seizure Medications Opioid OverdoseNew research indicates that one of the factors in the increase in the opiate-related deaths includes another class of prescription drugs. It was found that a recent rise in the number of prescriptions for the nerve medications pregabalin (Lyrica) and gabapentin (Neurontin) has directly correlated to the rise in opiate overdose deaths in some areas. Further investigation has shown that, in addition to opiates, users are also abusing the anti-seizure medication, causing an increase in accidental overdoses.

Drug users have discovered the calming effects of anti-seizure medication and are incorporating these drugs into their daily use. This particular study focused on parts of England, where the numbers show that there were about a million prescription for the two drugs in 2004, but that number soared in 2015, with a total of 10.5 million prescriptions written for pregabalin and gabapentin.

This discovery, which appears in the latest issue of the journal Addiction, illustrates two things. One is that addicts will continue to seek out drugs that they feel enhance the euphoria brought about by their drugs of choice, and that the medical community needs to evolve with the trends. This means that drugs that previously weren’t considered as having a high potential for abuse now need to be policed more thoroughly, and prescriptions for these types of drugs need to remain checked in order to prevent abuse or misuse.

“Poly-drug use is very common amongst drug users. We need more multi-disciplinary studies like ours which seek to combine evidence from laboratory experiments on how drug act, with accounts of what users experience and information on the pattern of drug use and drug harms – in order to make health care workers and drug users aware of the dangers of combining specific drugs,” asserted Graeme Henderson, Professor of Pharmacology and Neuroscience of the University of Bristol.

One possible solution to avoiding the combining of opiates and anti-seizure medication is that medical professionals increase their screening for abuse and prescribe non-addictive alternatives to patients that are in need of anti-seizure medication. This could help prevent future abuse and help save the life of someone who might be showing signs of mixing the two drugs.

How Volunteering Could Help Prevent Substance Abuse

Prevent Substance AbuseCollege student athletes are under tremendous pressure. They usually follow strict guidelines, workout times and game schedules while still having to maintain a passing GPA. Additionally, due to the nature of their physical activity, they are also more likely to sustain injuries that require medical intervention. Because of these stressors, this group can often become more susceptible to use and misuse drugs. In an effort to combat this phenomenon, researchers from the University of Missouri looked into what could help prevent student athletes avoid substance abuse and addiction problems.

The specific group these researchers decided to focus their study on was female student athletes. So, in a five-year study, female Division 3 student athletes were asked to self-report on their substance use, social, work and sports life, as well as any other stressors they were experiencing. At the end of the five years, researchers were able to conclude that the participants who spent part of their time volunteering or helping others in some other way were less likely to use drugs.

“Female student-athletes experience increased demands while in college from coaches and professors to family and friends. Because student-athletes occupy multiple roles simultaneously, they could be at an increased risk for substance abuse to cope with stress. Our findings suggest that community service might be a tool to reduce substance abuse among female student-athletes,” explained Alexandra Davis, one of the leaders of the research team.

The researchers went on to point out that these conclusions have an impact on colleges throughout the country. As part of the ongoing effort to reduce substance use on campus, colleges may want to look into volunteer programs for their students, providing them with an opportunity to help others and reduce their own odds of misusing drugs and alcohol.

Although this study was specifically focused on females, the results are likely similar if applied to other specialized populations as well. Scientists, religious leaders and scholars have continually demonstrated the power of giving, and this is yet another application of how it helps to enhance lives.

Good News for People Who Stop Using Cocaine

In addition to psychosis, intense cravings, risky decision making, paranoia and depression, cocaine has been shown to greatly increase the risk of coronary artery disease. But, a new study from researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine shows that reducing or abstaining from cocaine use can likely reverse the disease. Although some people feel that much of the damage caused by drug use is irreversible, this seems to validate that our bodies have an innate ability to heal many maladies over time.

Oftentimes when it comes to addiction, the gravity of health, money and family problems looming in the future make it difficult for addicts to remain sober. But, research like this shows that life can get better when cocaine is not in the picture.

“In the past, there hhas been excellent work to uncover the consequences of drug use However, few studies have revealed what happens after drug use stops. Studies of this kind give people hope for a healthier life after stopping drug use,” reported Dr. Shenghan Lai of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Coronary artery disease, or coronary artherosclerosis, occurs when the arteries harden. This prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart. This condition occurs over many years, and is prevalent among long-term cocaine users. Researchers found that in subjects who significantly reduced or stopped cocaine use altogether, levels of the protein ET-1 began to subside. ET-1 is a causes inflammation and subsequently artherosclerosis. In this long-term study, researchers witnessed the reduction of this protein in all heavy cocaine addicts who stopped consuming the drug.

Research like this is positive news for someone who has struggled with a cocaine addiction and is facing continued health problems because of the drug. Improving the outcome of someone’s dire health prognosis can be an effective way of helping them maintain sobriety. You can read about this and other studies in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

If you have a loved one who is in need of treatment for cocaine addiction or any other kind of substance abuse, contact Desert Cove today to find out more about our services.

Cocaine Addiction Vaccine Enters Phase I Clinical Trial

cocaine vaccineA new vaccine targeting cocaine addiction has just moved on to its next phase of research and has been granted permission to perform a study using human patients. A previous study was performed using rats that yielded enough information to proceed to the next level.

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian are now setting up trials to study the vaccine on people. The Phase I clinical study will include 30 subjects at first. These tests are particularly exciting for the medical research community because a successful vaccine could help save thousands of lives from this form of substance abuse.

“Cocaine addiction is a huge problem that affects more than 2 million people in the United States, and results in more than 500,000 annual visits to emergency rooms. While there are drugs like methadone designed to treat heroin, there aren’t any therapeutics available to treat cocaine addiction. We hope that our vaccine will change that,” stated Dr. Ronald Crystal, one of the leaders of the study.

In order to participate in the study, volunteers will have to pass an examination and interview process. One of the more difficult qualifications will be that each participant will have to be clean from cocaine for thirty days. They will have to pass urine tests throughout those thirty days to ensure sobriety. Once the participants pass the qualification round of the study they will be split into groups of ten. Seven out of the ten will receive the vaccine, while the other three will receive a placebo. This will be repeated for the other two groups.

In addition to administering the vaccine, researchers will also be interviewing the study subjects to find out about their cravings and mental status. Patients will also undergo medical testing throughout the study to determine their levels of anti-cocaine antibodies.

If the vaccine proves to be successful for the test subjects’ cocaine addicts everywhere may have a better chance of eliminating the drug from their lives. Oftentimes cocaine addicts complain that the cravings and urges to use are so great that it is impossible to maintain sobriety, this vaccine may provide the help many of these addicts are looking for.

Cigna, Brandeis University and ASAM Join Forces in Treatment Research

asamLast week an announcement was issued by Cigna stating their joint research venture with the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and Dr. Cindy Parks Thomas of the Schneider Institutes of Health Policy at Brandeis University’s Heller Graduate School for Social Policy and Management. The health insurance company has agreed to provide two years’ worth of claims associated with substance abuse treatment for researchers to examine the results.

With personal information removed for confidentiality, Dr. Parks Thomas and her team will work with ASAM to gauge performance measures associated with medication prescribing for opioid use and alcohol use disorders, as well as their effectiveness in treatment after withdrawal management.

“ASAM is excited to collaborate with Cigna in our work toward assuring that ASAM’s performance measures are broadly accepted and adopted in the treatment of patients with addiction,” said Dr. Corey Waller, chair of ASAM’s Performance Measures Expert Panel and Legislative Advocacy Committee. “This will encourage physicians to make significant improvements in the quality of patient care for the addiction field as well as in the health care system as a whole.”

The insurance industry has had to face the reality that legislation has mandated better coverage for substance use disorders, and rather than continuing to push back at the risk of patients’ lives, moves like this one indicate they can work smarter within the system to advocate better care and save on their bottom line.

“When it comes to substance abuse, there are not clear guidelines,” Dr. William Lopez, Cigna senior medical director for behavioral health told Forbes in an interview. “Our position is that we want to individualize the treatments and by having some guidelines that are more holistic, we will attain that goal. We want to move from volume to value.”

Individualized, holistic treatments are two of the things that Desert Cove Recovery is most proud of in our program. If you are searching for a rehab program that can work with your insurance and provide excellent treatment, contact us today.

Research Discovers Ways To Decrease Drug Use Among Pregnant Teen Populations

jhbsphDrug use among women who are pregnant is a problem that most health experts would agree needs to be solved immediately. To help end this crisis, researchers looked into effective ways to prevent teenage mothers from abusing drugs while they were pregnant. They found that mothers-to-be that were visited in their home and given health education were less likely to abuse drugs while they were pregnant.

Perhaps just as important, the researchers also noted that mothers who received this sort of education had babies who reached their developmental milestones at an appropriate time, where mothers who were not getting this education had babies that missed or had a delay in the development markers. The research took place at Johns Hopkins University and focused on Native American populations. However, the researchers made sure to note that the information could be useful in low income settings across the country.

“Now the burden is in multi-generational behavioral health problem, the substance abuse, depression and domestic violence that are transferred from parents to children. This intervention can help us break that cycle of despair,” explained Allison Barlow, the lead author on the study. Researchers like Barlow hope that this information will ensure that more at-risk mothers receive the education they need in the setting that is most appropriate, which according to the study is at their own home.

In order to perform the study, researchers split 322 pregnant teenagers into two groups. One group was to receive standard care. This means that they were bussed to pre-natal visits, given pamphlets that discussed proper care of a baby and the importance of a healthy pregnancy and given referrals to other doctors as needed. The other group was given the same standard care plus over sixty home visits to educate the mothers on the correct way to care for their child as well as their own health. Prior to the study more than 84% of the mothers were engaging in drug use. The study showed that the group that was given in-home visits was far less likely to abuse drugs again.

The study also revealed that children who were not born to mothers who were abusing drugs were happier, easier to soothe and healthier. This increase in care can help prevent the same previous cycles from happening again, creating a cultural shift that continues to reduce substance abuse for future generations.