Tag Archives: study

Study Examines Non-Medical Use of Prescription Stimulants

drugalcdependcoverA new study shows that teenagers are actually more likely to experiment and abuse ADHD drugs than older college students. This goes against the common belief that college students are the most likely to resort to medications like Adderall or Ritalin in order to study for exams and juggle new responsibilities.

The results of the research are published in the July issue of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence and shows that children aged 16 to 19 are the most likely to abuse prescription stimulant drugs. The results from the study illustrate the need to educate children against drug abuse at younger ages.

“We need to have a realistic understanding of when young people are beginning to experiment with stimulants, so we can prevent them from misusing for the first time. To prevent someone from using for the first time is often more cost efficient and effective than trying to intervene once they have done it, whether a few times or for years,” explained Elizabeth Austic, the lead author of the study from the University of Michigan.

The benefit to studies like this one is that educators and parents are more aware of the age group that education and prevention methods need to start. Instead of waiting until children are in high school to talk about certain topics or substances, frankly addressing the issues with children at younger ages seems to be a better tactic. By the time children reach the age of 16, where temptation to abuse ADHD medication appears to begin its peak range, they may have already made up their minds about how they feel about drugs.

Another interesting aspect of the study was the revelation that 18 year-old women are twice as likely to abuse prescription stimulants as their male counterparts. Much of this is attributed to the appetite suppressant qualities of the drugs and the pressure to appear or feel thinner. All of this shows that our young people are under tremendous stress and are continuously exposed to dangerous substances as means of coping in life. We must work smarter earlier in their lives to help them be more resilient to those pressures, as well as change cultural norms that create the false perceptions about life.

Researchers Examine Treatment for Brain Damage Caused by Cocaine

uthealthOne side effect of heavy cocaine usage can be brain damage. An addiction to cocaine is difficult to overcome due to the extreme cravings, but brain damage from the drug makes it even harder for addicts to stay away.

For many years doctors and scientists have been working to help those whose brains have been damaged from cocaine use. Now, doctors at UTHealth Medical School are conducting an experiment using a diabetes drug called Plytieulong. The hope is that the drug will help reverse some of the negative effects cocaine has on the brain.

Scans of people’s brains who have abused cocaine for many years show large white spots. This is where the damage has been done. It was discovered that Plytieulong helped to reverse the damage and now scientists are conducting an experiment to see how extensive the reversal is. They have created two groups. One group of cocaine users are receiving a placebo drug, while the other group is receiving the Plytieulong. Scientists are watching the two groups to see if the drugs are as promising as they hope. In the future, the same drugs may also be used to treat other brain damage, whether caused by addiction or different diseases.

“I think this study is important because of the impact of addiction in general. There are estimates as high as 24 million Americans have a drug use disorder yet only a small percent of them are actually receiving treatment,” explained Dr. Joy Schmitz, one of the doctors conducting the study.

Cocaine abuse is not in the media as much as heroin or prescription drug abuse, however it is just as damaging to addicts and takes an extreme toll on users both mentally and physically. While the study is not complete, the hopes are that people who suffer from an addiction to cocaine will soon be able to receive help in repairing some of the damage they caused to themselves by using the drug.

Former Addicts Have Higher Risk of Abusing Painkillers

painjournalAchieving and maintaining sobriety may be one of the most difficult things a person can do in life. Drug and alcohol addicts generally have a high relapse rate, so a thorough aftercare plan is very important to maintaining long-term sobriety. Attending meetings, talking with a counselor, and staying away from drugs and alcohol are important components post-treatment recommendations.

Recently a study conducted by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and published in the Journal of Pain discussed the likelihood of former addicts misusing therapeutic painkillers. They found that it is important for doctors to understand their patient’s history before prescribing narcotic painkillers.

“Cross addiction is a well-studied phenomenon in which patients recovering from one substance are encouraged to avoid all mind altering substances,” explained Dr. Sylvester Sviokla. This is mostly due to a person’s inclination to take anything that will alter their senses. If the person cannot take their drug of choice, they are easily persuaded to take a different drug. When a patient complains of pain it is vital for physicians to get a complete history so as to eliminate the threat of prescribing narcotic painkillers to a patient who has had problems with addiction in the past, or at least to monitor the patient closely if they are needed.

The study followed almost 200 patients that were formerly addicted to other substances and had problems with pain. Researchers found that patients who had never been addicted to a drug or alcohol had a 25% chance of becoming addicted to narcotic painkillers. On the other end, 83% of former addicts were likely to abuse painkillers, even if they were prescribed for a legitimate problem.

In order to avoid aiding patients to relapse, it is vital that doctors have a complete history of prior drug use. Discussing all the risks associated with taking prescription painkillers is also advised, as well as finding other solutions to the pain that do not involve substances with such a high potential for abuse, if at all possible.

Study Reveals Possible Connection Between Drug Abuse and E-Cigarettes

nicotinenejmAs an emerging alternative to smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes have become the subject of tons of research. A recent study appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine explains results that nicotine in any form serves as a “gateway drug” priming the brain for harder drugs to keep the reward system satisfied. Husband-wife researchers, Denise Kandel and Eric Kandel, have been studying nicotine for years and their recent findings reveal risks associated with the newly popular e-cigarette.

Interestingly enough, when nicotine was administered to mice before cocaine, they responded more powerfully to the cocaine compared to the mice that did not receive nicotine. The reason is that nicotine stimulates a reward-related gene, which causes dramatically enhanced effects of cocaine. Lowered inhibitions are also a reported symptom of the nicotine/cocaine combination.

Once the reward gene is activated, the mice behaved differently on cocaine. They were more active and spent an excessive amount of time in the area where they received their food. The scientists believe that this is because they were craving cocaine and were attempting to satisfy that craving by seeking out more from the space where they were fed.

E-cigarettes were originally introduced as a healthier alternative to smoking. The devices do not contain the tar and chemicals that cigarettes do, however they do have the same amount of nicotine. The idea was that smokers could get their nicotine fix without the dangerous components that are in cigarettes. E-cigarettes were advertised as the best way to quit smoking. Many people have embraced e-cigarettes and big tobacco companies have become invested, but not that much research was available before they hit the market.

The connection between e-cigarettes and cocaine is alarming to some because a device that was intended to help people quit smoking cigarettes may actually lead to more dangerous behavior.

“This is a powerful facilitator for addiction to cocaine and perhaps other drugs as well. If people knew that this is in fact the danger they’d be much less enthusiastic about using nicotine,” explains Eric Kandel. Addressing the damage that nicotine has on the brain is a bit of a new take – as most people focus on the damage that it creates in the body.

“We’ve worked very hard to reduce smoking in this country, and I think it’s been a fantastic success,” Denise says. With the introduction of e-cigarettes, “Now I think we’re on the verge of destroying all of the progress that we’ve [made].”

New Link Between Substance Abuse and ADHD Discovered

adhdpetscanResearchers have been studying the potential link between adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and substance abuse. A study that is currently being conducted seems to prove that the two problems are share some commonalities.

By studying 1,778 14-year-olds, the research team was able to connect substance abuse and other disorders to the same area in the brain. The study asked the teens to do several tasks while undergoing an MRI, they were also asked to answer personality questions about themselves. The same tests were administered two years later as well.

While the results have not yet been published, some statistics from the study have been released. The research team found that of those tested 4.4% were classified as having ADHD. By the time the group reached the age of 16 the amount of them diagnosed with the disorder rose to 6.6%. The team also measured the amount of teenagers who were engaging in alcohol and/or other substance abuse. When the group was 14 years-old, 3.7% of them were abusing alcohol and 10.6% of them were abusing some sort of substance. When the group got tested at the age of 16 the numbers rose to 18.0% and 27.1%, respectively.

In order to establish a link between substance abuse and ADHD, the researchers used a statistical model to assess the risk factors that were linked to certain psychiatric symptoms. The outcome of using this model was that the research team could isolate three factors that linked substance abuse to an attention disorder.

Of the teens tested who had both a mood disorder and were ingesting drugs and/or alcohol, they had three common traits: impulsive action, impulsive choice and reward sensitivity. “Thrill or sensation seeking and abnormal activity in frontal brain regions when anticipating rewards differentiated youth who were uniquely at risk for alcohol misuse relative to those at risk for problems generally,” stated Natalie Castellanos-Ryan, who helped conduct the study.

By utilizing the data gathered in this research study, the hope is that the medical community will be able to identify early on those children who are at risk for substance abuse and intervene before there is a problem.