Tag Archives: addiction research

12 step rehab

How 12 Step Rehab Works

Will 12 Step Rehab Work for Me?

The 12 step method is considered by many addiction experts to be the best help for long-term addiction recovery. However, it is not without controversy.

Keep reading to get a better understanding of this groundbreaking approach and find out why millions of people in recovery still trust it.

How the 12 Steps Started

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in Ohio in 1935 by Bill Wilson, a recovering alcoholic, and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith. AA was based on this premise: When it comes to staying sober, there is strength in numbers. Alcoholics from all walks of life began meeting to share their struggles, celebrate their successes and lean on one another throughout the journey to recovery.

The 12 steps were established in 1946. Originally, the steps emphasized the importance of surrendering one’s addiction to a higher power for healing and restoration. AA also embraced the Serenity Prayer, which was penned by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Throughout AA’s history, nonreligious people have objected to its heavy emphasis on spirituality. As a result, the language in many 12 step models has been amended to accommodate people from a myriad of belief systems. References to the presence of God are open to a wide variety of interpretations. Even atheists can use the basic principles for guidance.

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12 Step Sponsors

Sponsorship is also an important feature. Newcomers navigate the 12 steps alongside someone who has already worked through them and is successfully staying sober. Sponsors are typically available for questions, intervention or encouragement almost 24/7.

Another benefit is the ability to learn from others who are farther along on the journey. New members can pick up coping skills and tips for avoiding relapse from seasoned group members. There is also a compassionate atmosphere of accountability without judgment.

12 Step for Addiction Treatment

Over the years, the success of AA has spawned hundreds of other organizations for people with all kinds of addictions. Groups exist for those who struggle with drug abuse, gambling, overeating, hoarding and even addiction to using credit cards. The 12 basic steps are applicable to almost any struggle.

Nationwide, membership in groups that use the model is estimated in the millions. Many fellowships cater to specific demographic groups such as veterans, men or women only, gay people, clergy or seniors. You name it, and there’s probably a 12 step group for it somewhere.

If you talk to recovering alcoholics about the 12 step program, you may start to see a funny pattern. Many express mixed or negative feelings about going to meetings week after week or year after year. However, they grudgingly admit that attendance keeps them sober. When the choice is continued participation or relapse, many people choose to stay involved.

What Are the 12 Steps?

According to the website 12step.org, this is the most current version of the original 12 traditions:

  1. Admit powerlessness over addiction.
  2. Find hope through a higher power or higher goal.
  3. Turn the power to manage life over to the higher power.
  4. Analyze the self and behaviors objectively, described as taking a moral inventory.
  5. Share the results of the analysis with another person or the higher power.
  6. Prepare to allow the higher power to remove the negative aspects discovered in the analysis.
  7. Ask the higher power for these negative aspects to be removed.
  8. Make a list of wrongs done to others.
  9. Make amends for those wrongs as long as it is not harmful to the recipient to do so.
  10. Make self-analysis, removal of faults and amends regular practices.
  11. Meditate or pray for the continued ability to recover.
  12. Help others in need to go through the same process.

Each of the 12 steps expresses an essential value for healing. Working through them one by one empowers addicts to manage their disease and regain control of their lives.

Again, there are many alternative 12 step organizations for people who oppose the idea of God or a higher power.

12 Step Rehab

Around 75 percent of treatment programs incorporate the 12 step philosophy in some form. Most experts recommend the 12 step approach as an established, methodical process for understanding and managing addiction.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse endorses the 12 step premise that addiction cannot be cured and that preventing recurrences is a lifelong process. A study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that the 12 step method perfectly complements therapies geared toward changing thought patterns and behavior.

Like many other treatments, 12 step is most effective as part of a comprehensive program that incorporates other proven methods. Here are just a few treatments that can be supported by the 12 step philosophy:

  • Detox
  • Cognitive behavior therapy
  • Motivational incentives
  • Holistic methods
  • Family counseling
  • Long-term aftercare

Most people who have an addiction also have at least one other mental disorder. This is called dual diagnosis. Treating both conditions at once is far more effective than treating them separately. A study of 12 step programs published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs found them beneficial in treating dual diagnosis.

If you need help deciding on the best treatment plan, call Desert Cove Recovery today to speak with an experienced counselor.

arizona safe injection sites

Safe Injection Sites in AZ

Safe Injection Sites in AZ

Safe injection sites, also known as supervised injection facilities or “fix rooms,” provide a medically-supervised facility where injectable drugs can be used safely and without legal repercussions.

These safe injection facilities are contentious. Critics and supporters alike have made arguments about their efficacy and usefulness. At present, are no safe injection sites in AZ or surrounding areas, but some states are considering implementing them as a harm-reduction strategy for battling the opioid crisis.

Locations of Safe Injection Sites

Worldwide, there are 66 cities with some form of medically supervised drug injection facility. The first North American location opened in Canada in 2004, and an experimental “underground” facility has been in operation at an undisclosed location in the U.S. since 2013. However, the legality of these facilities is still hotly debated, and only a few states have discussed implementing them.

At present, cities in New York and California are considering opening safe injection sites. Two facilities have been approved for opening in Seattle. If these facilities lead to positive outcomes, they may become more widespread. However, the controversy surrounding safe injection facilities continues to grow.

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safe injection sites in arizona

How Do Safe Injection Sites Work?

The idea behind a supervised injection facility is to reduce the risk of overdose and disease associated with injectable drugs. Opioid overdose kills tens of thousands of people each year and is a leading cause of death. Staff members at supervised injection facilities would have access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, reducing the risk of death.

Additionally, reusing and sharing needles can cause the spread of disease and infection. Providing drug users sterile, fresh needles and a way to safely dispose of them should reduce the spread of HIV, hepatitis and other similar diseases. In this way, these facilities are meant to protect public health as well as the health of individual users.

These facilities would also provide information and resources regarding drug rehabilitation and recovery programs. By providing a safe location for drug users to receive health and social services, a line of communication can be opened that may encourage more addicts to seek treatment.

Pros and Cons of Safe Injection Sites in AZ

It’s too early to tell whether supervised injection facilities might become the norm in the U.S. Despite some evidence that these facilities may reduce the overall numbers of drug-related deaths, many opponents simply are not comfortable with allowing illegal drug use to be condoned.

The current administration has tended to side with the “war on drugs,” and many people are in favor of stronger legal repercussions against the sale and use of drugs. Having a safe place to inject drugs without fear of legal punishment may encourage more people to begin using drugs. In other words, the fear of legal repercussions or safety concerns may be preventing some people from engaging in drug use. Removing these fears may actually make the opioid problem worse, not better.

Another concern about these facilities is that they currently illegal at the federal level. Although states can institute these policies themselves, federal law still rules against them. This means that government oversight over these facilities and the drug policy in general will weaken, and laws and regulations may vary between states and locations. This could cause confusion and potentially create safety concerns.

A Multi-Faceted Approach to a Complex Problem

The drug problem gripping the nation is complex, and no single solution will solve this epidemic. Addiction is complicated. It is affected by mental health, socioeconomic status, genetic predisposition and more. A variety of individual and systemic factors create and support drug abuse.

Only a holistic approach that considers the individual needs of drug users and the systems in place to offer support, recovery and intervention can truly provide long-term solutions. Harm reduction techniques may prove to be a temporary bandage for a bigger issue, but exploring the possibilities and analyzing their effectiveness can still help move us toward solving the drug crisis.

There is one thing that is certain: Drug users require resources and assistance to overcome their addictions. Whether or not safe injection sites and other harm-reduction strategies are implemented, drug rehabilitation facilities remain a cornerstone of helping individuals overcome their addictions and reclaiming their lives.

If you or a loved one currently suffers from addiction, contact us for more information about our addiction treatment programs and the work we do with the community in Arizona to aid recovery and prevent relapse.

 

Scientists May Have Found Cure for Cocaine Dependency

Researchers at New York’s Mt. Sinai Medical Center have pinpointed a specific protein produced by the body’s immune system which may be responsible for a person becoming addicted to cocaine. The scientists believe this discovery could be instrumental in helping to cure cocaine addiction, since they have successfully defeated cocaine dependency in laboratory mice.

The protein, granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF), affects the brain’s reward centers. In cocaine users, levels of G-CSF increase in the brain with repeated use.

Medical Therapies for Treating Cocaine

Lead researcher Dr. Drew Kiraly, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Psychiatry, explained that the results of the study are a very exciting development. Dr. Kiraly pointed out that cocaine addiction has traditionally been treated with psychotherapy and 12-step programs; to date, there are no medication-assisted therapy options available.

Researchers injected G-CSF into the nucleus acumbens (brain reward centers) of laboratory mice. They noted that the mice displayed a “significant increase” in seeking out and consuming cocaine. As the level of G-CSF doses was gradually increased, the mice worked harder to find even more cocaine.

When the research team tested a treatment to neutralize G-CSF, they discovered that the mice’s motivation to look for the drug disappeared. The changes in G-CSF levels were linked exclusively to urges to use cocaine. The mice were still as interested in other treats, such as sugar water, which also activate the reward centers in the brain.

The results of the study were published in Nature Communications. The scientists point out that addiction treatments are plagued with difficulties for several reasons, including issues with “side effects, routes of delivery, or abuse potential of agents tested.”

Future Non-Addictive Treatment Option Might Be Possible

The potential for substance abuse is a risk factor in other options currently in development. The risk is that patients are being weaned from one addictive substance in favor of another one.

The authors of the study feel that G-CSF has the advantage of being an option for reducing the urge to use cocaine while being non-addictive. Dr. Kiraly says there is work required to adapt the study’s findings to humans. However, there is a “high possibility” of it leading to future treatments for human clients.

Dr. Kiraly points out that medications that can change G-CSF are already available and are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Once researchers are able to clarify the best ways to target G-CSF inhibitors to reduce addiction-related behaviors, there is every reason to be optimistic that treatments will be developed for patients.

12 step program

Why the 12-Step Program Works

The 12-Step Program Works for Many. Find Out Why…

If you are battling a drug or substance addiction and want to make positive changes so that you can put your problem in the past, you are likely curious about the benefits of the 12-step program. When you realize you need help and decide to seek treatment, the program will help you make it past the most difficult parts of recovery to give you the best odds of reaching your goal.

A trained and caring expert will learn about you and your addiction to put together a treatment plan that’s right for you. Not only will you learn to accept the problem you are facing, but you will also realize how turning your life to God will give you the power to break free. 

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You Will Learn Acceptance

Denial is the worst enemy of addicts because it prevents them from taking the right steps to cure their problem. In simple terms, you need to know that an issue exists before you can have any hope of solving it. Addicts often read self-help books or watch videos online so that they can get rid of their addiction, but those methods rarely work.

The help of a professional, caring support staff and faith in God are the elements that lead to recovery from addiction, but you must accept that you are in trouble before you can find an answer. When you come to our addiction treatment program, we will utilize the 12-steps as a way to help you celebrate the fact that you are powerless to overcome your addiction alone.

You Will Take a Realistic Look at Your Choices

Many people stay trapped in addiction because they refuse to take a realistic look at their choices and how they have impacted others. Looking at the truth can be a painful experience at first but will get easier with time. Taking inventory of the decisions you have made as a result of your addiction can motivate you to make better choices in the future. Desert Cove Recovery’s addiction treatment program will inspire you to forgive yourself for everything that you have done, but we will also encourage you to make things right.

You Will Repair the Damage

When addicts try to fix their lives and repair their relationships, the guilt of their past often haunts them, which can cause further stress and depression. Some people will then return to drug use to combat the negative feelings, allowing the cycle to repeat. We believe that an effective addiction treatment must address all of the problems and emotions caused by the addiction.

Our team will invite you to make a list of each person you harmed because of your addiction and encourage you to reverse the damage. For some people, this means apologizing for past mistakes and promising not to repeat them. For others, making things right can involve repaying money they might have borrowed. Only you can decide what path is right, and you will know in your heart what you must do.

You will Learn That You Are Not Alone

Guilt, shame and feelings of worthlessness are common among addicts who feel as though their addiction is a sign of failure. One of the best ways to overcome negative emotions is to realize that you are not alone in your problem. Knowing that others have faced your battle and made it to the other side will give you the inspiration you need to keep pushing yourself forward.

You will get the chance to speak with people who are going through addiction and to understand that you are not the only person with these thoughts and feelings. The sense of unity that you will get from our program will give you the strength and courage to turn your life around.

You Will Monitor Your Progress

In addition to looking at your past choices and how they have affected others, you will also learn to monitor your progress. Each decision you make will either move you toward your goal or away from it, and keeping that fact at the front of your mind will enhance your odds of success. You will take inventory of your life every day and correct your path when needed, and you will know that you are doing the right thing.

Being Proactive

Each minute that an addiction remains untreated makes it a little harder for the addict to reverse the damage, so you won’t want to waste time. You can reach out to us right away to learn more about our program and what we can do to help. Addiction is a disease that impacts the mind and clouds judgment, but working with caring professionals and putting your life in God’s hands will enable you to escape from the struggle of addiction.

No matter your situation or the length of time for which you have been addicted, our proven system can give you the answer for which you have been searching. Your addiction does not need to define or control you anymore. We are excited to work with you and invite you to pick up the phone and give us a call, as soon as possible.

most addictive substances

The Most Addictive Substances

What Are the 5 Most Addictive Substances?

While use of any psychoactive substance with pleasurable effects may lead to psychological addiction, certain drugs come with a heightened potential for both physical and psychological addiction. Physical dependence compounds the psychological aspects of addiction as both body and mind crave the drug, resulting in difficult withdrawals. Drugs with these properties have earned notoriety as the most addictive substances in the world.

Using an addictive substance does not guarantee that a pattern of drug abuse will follow. Whether a person becomes addicted to a substance depends on complex factors such as genetics. Repeated use of a highly addictive drug will put the user at a higher risk of developing a habit that requires treatment, particularly if the user is turning to the substance as a coping mechanism.

A scale developed by drug researcher David Nutt and his colleagues is commonly referenced in lists that rank the most addictive substances. The published report assesses how dangerous each drug is based on its potential for dependence, physical harm and social harm on a scale of zero to three. The dependence score takes into account pleasure, physical dependence and psychological dependence.

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most addictive substances

So, what are the most addictive drugs? Here are five that are high on the list:

Opioids

Heroin, an opioid, earned the highest mean score on Nutt’s dependence ranking with a 3.00. It also ranked as the most dangerous drug overall once physical and social harm were taken into account. All drugs in the opioid class, which contains heroin and legal painkillers alike, act similarly on the brain, binding to opioid receptors and increasing dopamine levels. Opioids are depressants that provide pain relief and a feeling of relaxation and euphoria. Because opioids are highly addictive, it’s not uncommon for those who are prescribed painkillers to become dependent and start seeking out heroin on the street. Between 26.4 million and 36 million people are estimated to abuse opioids worldwide.

Cocaine

Cocaine has a significantly lower potential for physical dependence than opioids, but it comes second to heroin on Nutt’s dependence scale with a 2.39 because its ratings for psychological dependence and pleasure are high. Both crack and powder cocaine are included in the rating. This stimulant drug influences the behavior of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, resulting in euphoria and a perceived increase in confidence and energy. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), young adults have the highest rate of cocaine use. In the survey, 1.4 percent of adults ages 18 to 25 reported cocaine use within the past month.

Methamphetamine

Similar to cocaine, methamphetamine is a stimulant that floods the brain with the pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter dopamine. Known as crystal meth on the street, this drug may be snorted, smoked or injected. Meth use results in increased heart rate, appetite suppression, insomnia and paranoia. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that methamphetamine abuse is on the rise with a 30 percent increase in overdose deaths from 2014 to 2015.

Alcohol

Unlike many other drugs, alcohol is universally legal for recreational purposes and is widely accepted by the mainstream. It is frequently cited as the most commonly used addictive substance. Because alcohol is both highly ubiquitous and addictive, a vulnerable person can easily become exposed to it and then addicted. In the US, one in 12 adults is addicted to or dependent on alcohol, which gets an overall addictiveness score of 1.93 according to Nutt’s rating system. Alcohol is classified as a depressant, but its initial effects are more like those caused by a stimulant. Users typically become more talkative and outgoing prior to experiencing alcohol’s sedating effects.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are a class of prescription drugs that act on the neurotransmitter GABA and depress the central nervous system. Due to their sedating properties, they are frequently prescribed for anxiety and insomnia, but unfortunately, some patients end up abusing them. Benzodiazepines are also commonly sold on the street for recreational use and known as benzos. They have a mean dependence score of 1.83 on Nutt’s scale. They are notable for their significant potential for physical dependence and their risky withdrawals that can cause seizures. Benzodiazepines become more dangerous when combined with opioid drugs, and a study reported on by CNN found that 75 percent of benzodiazepine overdose deaths also involve opioid use.

Seek Addiction Treatment to Overcome Abuse of Highly Addictive Substances

Drug abuse is a serious problem all over the world as people from all walks of life turn to psychoactive substances to cope with their struggles, and the more addictive a substance is, the greater the risk.

If you or a loved one is battling addiction, know that you are not alone and that treatment is available. Placeholder is a drug rehabilitation center that provides treatment for addiction to the substances mentioned in this list. Contact an addiction counselor today to learn more about your addiction treatment options.

Sources:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673607604644

https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/americas-addiction-to-opioids-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-scope-cocaine-use-in-united-states

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db273.pdf

https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol/facts-about-alcohol

http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/18/health/benzodiazepine-sedative-overdose-death-increase/index.html

high sugar diet and opioid addiction

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.

vaccine for cocaine addiction

Research Continues on Cocaine Addiction Vaccine

Dr. Ron Crystal, a researcher at Cornell University’s Weill Cornell Medical College, is working on a vaccine to treat cocaine addiction. The inspiration for the project came to Dr. Crystal in an unusual way: As he was walking by a new stand, he happened to see a copy of the magazine, “Newsweek,” with the words, “addiction vaccine” printed on its cover.

The idea took hold with Dr. Crystal. He started thinking about the possibility of linking an addictive molecule, such as cocaine, to a cold virus or certain parts of a cold virus. If successful, he thought, there was a potential to “trick the immune system” into thinking that the addictive molecule was a cold virus. The body would respond by developing an immunity to the cocaine.

How the Vaccine Works

The vaccine induces antibodies in the body. When someone snorts cocaine, the antibodies bind it up and prevent it from reaching the brain. As a result, the user doesn’t experience the “rush” or sense of euphoria associated with cocaine use.

The vaccine would render cocaine ineffective as a way to get high. Without the physical and psychological rewards associated with cocaine use, it may be easier to stop using the drug.

Cocaine Vaccine Wouldn’t Stop Cravings

The cocaine vaccine wouldn’t stop cravings that an addict experiences. A person would still need to undergo addiction treatment to learn strategies for coping with them.

Human Trial Starting Soon

The cocaine vaccine has already been successful in animal trials. Dr. Crystal commented recently that experimental animals can be given a shot of cocaine “and it doesn’t touch them at all.”

Dr. Crystal and his research team are currently recruiting people for a human clinical trial, which will involve 30 participants. This part of Dr. Crystal’s research is expected to be completed next year. If the first human trial proves successful, it will still be a number of years before a vaccine for cocaine addiction is available on the market.

Is a Vaccination for Cocaine Addiction a Viable Solution?

Without more research, it’s difficult to say whether a vaccination will actually help those with cocaine addiction. In the meantime, those struggling with addiction should reach out for help. If you or a loved one are addicted to cocaine, or another substance, contact a professional at Desert Cove Recovery today.

Reduce Risk of Opioid Overdose

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 treatment for alcoholics

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.

benzo use brain changes

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.