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number one

4/07/14 3:30pm

Indiana Nabs Top Spot For Meth Lab Seizures

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According to state and federal statistics, Indiana now leads the U.S. in the number of methamphetamine labs seized last year.

Statistics from 2013 showed that around 1,800 labs were seized in Indiana, as compared to 1,500 in Tennessee and 1,400 labs in nearby Missouri. Missouri saw a 25 percent drop in seizure rates that was attributed to the state requiring the sale of pseudoephedrine by prescription. Pseudoephedrine is the active ingredient in decongestants that homegrown cookers use to make meth.

“I think there are a lot of labs out there. It’s too easy to get your hands on those chemicals,” said State Police First Sgt. Niki Crawford. But Crawford refused to say whether or not the state police backs prescriptions for pseudoephedrine, saying instead that it’s up to the public to work with their elected representatives.

Indiana state Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury) believes that requiring prescriptions for the drug would be ineffective at best. “I think it’s a knee-jerk reaction to the problem,” he said. “It will inconvenience a lot of people who need this product without accomplishing its goals.”

Yoder admitted that knocking out local meth labs would do little to stem the tide of meth flooding Indiana, noting that much of the drug being sold now makes its way into the states from Mexico. A lesson that Tennessee learned not long ago.

“It’s a much wider problem than some people suppose,” Yoder said.

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By Shawn Dwyer

lab results

4/07/14 1:00pm

Researchers Investigate Positive and Negative Effects of Cocaine

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Researchers at the Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Barbara have examined the motivational systems that induce animals to seek cocaine from both a positive and a negative perspective.

In the March 2014 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, scientists reported that the neural mechanism responsible for some of the negative effects of cocaine actually contributes to an animal’s motivation to chase after the drug.

Aaron Ettenberg, a professor in UCSB’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, described the approach of the research. “We weren’t looking at pleasure; we were looking at the animal’s desire to seek that pleasure, which we believe is the key to understanding drug abuse,” Ettenberg said. “Just looking at the positive is looking at only half the picture; you have to understand the negative side as well. It’s not just the positive, rewarding effects of cocaine that drive this desire to seek the drug. It’s the net reward, which takes into account the negative consequences in addition to the positive. Together the two determine the net positive output that will lead to the motivated behavior.”

Rather than conduct another dopamine study, Ettenberg’s team focused on norepinephrine (noradrenaline), a neurotransmitter that plays a part in regulating anxiety when cocaine acts upon it. The researchers selectively blocked the neurotransmitter, revealing negative effects in the animals despite a continued desire for cocaine.

The animals were given a single cocaine injection each day. The natural extension of the research is how the positive and negative systems associated with cocaine usage are affected when animals are exposed to multiple doses and ultimately addiction. The belief is that as the animals become addicted, positive consequences get reduced and the negative effects are intensified.

Ettenberg described his long-term goals for the study. “We need to more fully understand the underlying neuronal mechanisms altered by cocaine before we can treat people," he said. "Once we understand how the brain systems producing the positive/euphoric and negative/anxiety effects of the drug interact, we might be able to produce treatments that address the balance between these two opposing actions.”

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By John Lavitt

changing attitudes

4/07/14 10:30am

Poll Shows Americans Prefer Treatment Over Jail For Drug Abusers

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As American attitudes towards drug use continue to shift, a new poll has confirmed the trend by indicating that the majority of Americans prefer treatment over jail time for drug abusers.

The Pew Research Center polled 1,821 adults and found that 67 percent supported treatment for drug users, while 26 percent were in favor of prosecution. Two-thirds of those polled also wanted to do away with mandatory sentences for minor drug crimes while reducing prison time for non-violent crimes; in 2001, less than half of those polled supported reduced prison time.

But perhaps the poll's most interesting findings were related to marijuana users. An overwhelming majority of Americans thought the drug should be legal to some degree, but didn’t want it in their community. Thirty-nine percent of those polled supported legalizing marijuana for personal use and 45 percent wanted it legalized for medical use. Only 16 percent felt it should be illegal across the board. The numbers have shifted from as recently as four years ago, when a separate Pew Survey found that 52 percent of Americans thought pot should be illegal and 41 percent felt it should be legal.

Pew researchers wrote that the new findings indicate “the public appears ready for a truce in the long-running war on drugs.” But despite the more relaxed attitudes towards marijuana, 63 percent would be bothered by people smoking it in public and 41 percent objected to having marijuana sellers in their neighborhood.

The more relaxed attitudes toward drugs also haven’t stopped people from thinking that drug addiction is still a major public crisis. More than half of those polled felt drug abuse was a “serious problem” and 32 percent called it a “crisis.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

common sense

4/07/14 8:30am

FDA Approves Anti-Opioid Overdose Device

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The Food and Drug Administration has taken a major step in helping to curb the epidemic of opioid drug deaths by approving a new device that will allow family members or caregivers to administer medication to combat an overdose.

The new product, called Evzio, is a hand-held automatic injector that quickly delivers a dose of naloxone, which has long been used as an antidote for opioid overdoses from drugs such as heroin, Vicodin, and Oxycontin. The injector gives spoken instructions to the user when activated and is small enough to carry in one's pocket.

The step-by-step instructions make it possible for the first time to allow people with no medical knowledge to inject the drug into a person’s muscle or under the skin. “For years, the lack of a lay-friendly delivery system has made it difficult to make naloxone broadly available to the public and to foster its use in non-medical settings, where it is often most urgently needed,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg. “[Evzio is] an extremely important innovation that will save lives.”

However, family members and caregivers will need to get a prescription for the drug ahead of time. A price for the device has not yet been determined, but FDA officials said they are committed to making sure opioid users have access to it “regardless of their ability to pay.” Some medical experts have expressed concern that Evzio could create a false sense of security among opioid addicts, but most believe the benefits greatly outweigh any potential harm.

“This is an important milestone for the millions of patients taking opioids who are trying to balance pain management with the safe use of opioids, as well as those who are struggling with abuse,” said Eric Edwards, chief medical officer of Kaleo, the maker of Evzio. “What we’ve realized is that opioid overdoses do not discriminate…We want to make sure this product is made available to all who could benefit from it.”

Despite the FDA’s approval of the drug, the agency has generally been criticized for not doing more to combat opioid addiction. Last October, the FDA approved the controversial painkiller Zohydro, despite their own advisory committee voting against it. U.S. senators Joe Manchino (D-WV) and David Vitter (R-LA) have since launched a bribery investigation after an FDA official allegedly accepted money from pharmaceutical companies in order to obtain a seat on an FDA advisory panel meeting; a spokesman for the FDA has denied the allegations.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

4/07/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: April 7, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

smoking dope

4/04/14 7:00pm

Smoking Style Linked to Risk of Marijuana Dependency

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A report published in the journal Addiction found that it is not the potency of marijuana, but rather how a user smokes it that determines an individual's dependency.

Researchers at the Trimbos Institute of the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction found that only smoking behaviors, like how much of a joint is smoked or the pace of smoking, predicted dependence on marijuana at the study's three-year mark regardless of how much THC they consumed on a regular basis.

The study analyzed data on 98 young adults who are involved in an ongoing, long-term study of frequent pot users in The Netherlands. Each study participant was a regular pot smoker and reported smoking marijuana at least three days a week for more than a year. The researchers observed details of participants' pot-smoking behavior, asking them to bring their own marijuana and roll their own joints to make the experience as realistic as possible.

The researchers observed that smokers of more potent marijuana rolled more pot in each joint than the other participants who smoked less potent marijuana. In addition, the more potent marijuana smokers inhaled less smoke and smoked at a slower pace than the other smokers in the study.

“Users seem to partly adjust, or ‘titrate’ their THC intake, but not sufficiently so to fully compensate for the THC-strength,” said Peggy van der Pol, a doctoral candidate at Trimbos and lead author of the study. “On average, users seem not to fully compensate for cannabis strength by inhaling less smoke. Yet, as the smoking behavior may be an unconscious process, users are likely unaware whether or not they (partly) compensate their intake.”

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By Victoria Kim

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