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coffee addiction

10/08/14 3:30pm

Is Caffeine Addiction In Your DNA?



Long blamed for jittery nerves and poor sleeping habits, coffee has in recent years been cited as beneficial for a number of health issues, from breast cancer and diabetes to even a lower risk of death.

Exactly how coffee affects people in a positive manner, and others in a negative way, has long been a source of debate in the science community. But a new study, conducted by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has found a direct link between caffeine and genetics.

More than 120,000 regular coffee drinkers of European and African-American origins were involved in a genome-wide meta-analysis, which identified two variants that mapped to genes involved in caffeine metabolism. Another pair identified near different genes may potentially influence the rewarding effects of caffeine, while two additional variants, involved with processing fats and sugars into the bloodstream, had previously not been linked with the metabolic or neurological effects of coffee.

The research shed new light on why caffeine affects individuals in different ways and how those effects influence coffee consumption. A single cup of coffee may provide enough stimulation for one person, while others may require two or more to feel the same effect. The latter amount may cause the single-cup-a-day person to feel more nervous, anxious, or even experience gastrointestinal distress, which would prevent them from consuming larger amounts in the future.

How this information is linked to the potentially beneficial aspects of coffee and caffeine is the subject of further research, according to Marilyn Cornelius, a research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who led the study.

“The next question is who is benefiting most from coffee,” she said. “If, for example, caffeine is protective, individuals might have very similar physiological exposure to caffeine. But if coffee has other potentially protective constituents, those levels are going to be higher if you drink more cups, so they might actually benefit from non-caffeine components of coffee. It’s a bit complex.”

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By Paul Gaita


10/08/14 1:00pm

Georgia Police Conduct Spectacularly Failed Pot Raid Over Okra Plants


Dear police, this is not pot. Shutterstock

A retired Atlanta man received a surprise when a heavily armed K9 unit and helicopter crew showed up on his property, but it turns out they mistook his okra bushes for marijuana plants.

Georgia state patrol sheepishly apologized and took some of the okra leaves with them, but tried to justify the exorbitant use of police force by declaring that “it did have quite a number of characteristics that were similar to a cannabis plant. If we disturbed [him] in any manner, that’s not our intent.”

Even though he was cleared of all crimes, okra gardener Dwayne Perry said he was concerned the incident would ruin his reputation in the neighborhood. “I was scared because I didn’t know what was happening,” he told reporters. “They were strapped to the gills. I do the right thing and they come to my house strapped with weapons. It ain’t right.”

Much of the funding from these helicopter raids comes from marijuana eradication programs that are funded by the Drug Enforcement Administration. However, these programs are known for grossly exaggerating the size of their cannabis hauls by including non-psychoactive compounds such as “ditchweed,” which has no detectable levels of THC and doesn’t contribute to the marijuana trade. In September 2006, the DEA confirmed that 219 million of the 223 million plants destroyed the previous year by law enforcement, or 98% of all plants seized, would classify as ditchweed.

"The irony, of course, is that industrial hemp is grown legally throughout most the Western world as a commercial crop for its fiber content,” said Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "Yet the U.S. government is spending taxpayers' money to target and eradicate this same agricultural commodity."

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By McCarton Ackerman

stigma of addiction

10/08/14 10:30am

California Chips Away at the Stigma of Addiction



This article first appeared in AlterNet.

It’s not every day that a state does something compassionate and sensible for people who use drugs, but recently, California did just that. On September 15, Governor Brown signed AB 1535 (Bloom), which will allow people who use drugs and their loved ones to walk into a pharmacy without a prescription, ask for the lifesaving opiate overdose reversal medicine naloxone, get educated about its use, purchase it, and walk out with it. It’s a good health practice—and it’s also making a strong statement of support that people at risk of an opiate overdose should be able to easily obtain the medicine that can save their lives.

People struggling with chemical dependency sometimes live on the margins, where whatever problems they may have—medical, emotional, mental or otherwise—usually get worse and more expensive to treat. Telling drug-dependent people in no uncertain terms that their lives matter—that their health and their right to access the same medicines as everyone else matters—is a small but essential step in helping to save lives and connect them to mainstream health services.

California’s new law creates an opportunity for the people at greatest risk of an accidental fatal overdose to have a fact-based conversation with a pharmacist about naloxone. They can purchase the medicine that could save their own lives or the lives of others. We know this approach works. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a landmark study documenting over 10,000 overdose reversals by laypeople who were provided naloxone and taught how and when to use it.

Like many states in recent years, California has seen the number of fatal drug overdoses grow in the more rural, isolated corners of the state, as well as in the metro areas. This law will help bring naloxone to all Californians—rural, metro and otherwise. Our state has  somewhere around 5,000 pharmacies, representing an enormous opportunity to expand access to this lifesaving drug for potentially tens of thousands of residents. We now join a number of other states, including New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington, New York, and Vermont, where naloxone is being furnished in a growing number of community pharmacies.

Too often, people struggling with a chemical dependence are labeled ‘addicts’ and treated as though they are in some way fundamentally ‘less than,’ less intelligent, less human, less deserving of compassion or help. Labels like ‘addict’ and ‘junkie’ can stigmatize people to the degree that they start drifting away from the mainstream and away from the healthcare services that can save their lives. This is an antiquated approach to helping people and thankfully it appears we may be turning a corner on it.

Recently, a number of organizations including the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy have started coming forward to address stigma by urging the removal of inflammatory labels like ‘addict’ from medicine and drug treatment research; instead encouraging the adoption of unbiased, more accurate, person-first language. People with substance problems deserve the same basic dignity and respect when interacting with healthcare professionals as anyone suffering with any treatable condition. The new law is a powerful reinforcement of this basic principle.

Despite our best efforts, some people may never stop using drugs—but they also never stop being human beings. All people should have the same access to lifesaving medication, whether they use drugs or not.

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By Meghan Ralston


10/08/14 8:30am

New Study Links Heavy Drinking to Lower Sperm Quality



The more alcohol men drink, the lower the quality and concentration of their sperm, according to new research published in the journal BMJ Open last week.

Being intoxicated can lead to changes in hormones and other chemicals in the body, including cortisol, glucose, and insulin, all of which can affect sperm quality, according to Dr. Michael Heard, an obstetrician, gynecologist, and reproductive endocrinologist at The Heard Clinic and Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas.

The research found a negative association between sperm concentration (i.e. sperm count and quality) with increasing habitual alcohol consumption. Sperm concentration was poorer among men having at least five drinks a week compared to those having just one drink weekly. The drop in sperm concentration was the most pronounced in men who consumed at least 25 drinks weekly.

The cross-sectional study observed 1,221 Danish men between the ages of 18 to 28, who were examined to determine whether they were fit for military service between 2008 and 2012. The men were asked about their drinking habits, and provided semen and blood samples.

It’s important to note that the study was not able to show that alcohol had a direct effect on sperm concentration, only that increased alcohol consumption was associated with fewer and less quality sperm.

“We tried to adjust for other possible factors like diet, smoking, weight, etc., which did not explain the association,” said Dr. Tina Kold Jensen, a professor of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark. “But we cannot rule out whether this effect may be due to other factors [not measured] associated with alcohol intake.”

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By Victoria Kim


10/08/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Oct. 8, 2014


That's all I got. Shutterstock

By Shawn Dwyer

drugs in sports

10/07/14 7:30pm

Biogenesis Founder Has Bail Revoked After Failed Drug Test


Photo via

Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch is almost guaranteed to receive a jail sentence after it was revealed that he will plead guilty to conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids. But the infamous PED peddler had a head start on his time behind bars when his bond was revoked after failing another drug test.

U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles jailed the disgraced Bosch after he reportedly failed a third drug test. He previously had two positive tests for cocaine in August and wasn’t attending voluntary treatment. He had been out on $100,000 bail. Bosch is expected to plead guilty next week and could receive a 10-year prison sentence, but will likely receive a reduced amount of time due to his cooperation with authorities.

“I simply have no confidence in his ability to appear as required," said Gayles at a hearing. "The pressure on the defendant, I don't find a mitigating factor. I don't find that he's a good candidate to remain out on bond."

Bosch was arrested last August along with nine others as part of a two-year investigation known as Operation Strikeout. In addition to administering human growth hormone and other steroids to numerous Major League Baseball players, up to 15 high school and college athletes received performance-enhancing substances from Bosch.

The federal investigation also looked into whether he acted as a physician despite lacking a license. Several friends and associates told ESPN’s Outside the Lines that Bosch claimed he was a medical doctor. He also listed himself as “Dr. Bosch” on state corporate filings for Medical HRT, a former venture that never got off the ground.

Nearly 20 professional players connected to the Biogenesis clinic have been suspended by MLB after failing drug tests or having their doping regimens revealed in clinical records. The league confirmed in January 2013 that players will now receive random blood tests during the season. Players were previously only tested for drugs during the off-season and spring training.

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By McCarton Ackerman


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