Researchers have uncovered a breakthrough in the study of alcoholism by discovering that excessive alcohol consumption is triggered by gene mutation. The study, conducted jointly by five British universities and published in the journal Nature Communications, confirmed that the gene Gabrb1 regulates alcohol consumption, but can lead to a drinking problem when that gene is faulty.
Normal mice in the study showed a preference for a bottle of water over a bottle of diluted alcohol, but those with the faulty gene consumed the alcohol as 85 percent of their daily intake. "It's amazing to think that a small change in the code for just one gene can have such profound effects on complex behaviors like alcohol consumption," said Dr. Quentin Anstee, consultant hepatologist at Newcastle University and joint lead author. The research also stated that the mice drank the alcohol voluntarily, consuming enough wine within a one-hour period to become intoxicated and have difficulty moving. Some of them even willingly worked for their alcohol during this period by pulling a lever to obtain it.
Although more research needs to be done to determine if the gene has the same impact on humans, it could potentially have a major impact in the treatment of alcohol abuse. "There's still a great deal we don't understand about how and why consumption progresses into addiction, but the results of this long-running project suggest that, in some individuals, there may be a genetic component," said Prof. Hugh Perry. "If further research confirms that a similar mechanism is present in humans, it could help us to identify those most at risk of developing an addiction and ensure they receive the most effective treatment."
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- Ex-Cop Guilty of Aiding Half-Brother's Drug Trafficking Operation [Philly.com]
- Chicago Mulls Updating Smoking Ban to Include E-Cigs [Sun Times]
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- Obama's Drug Czar Says Driving While Stoned 'Unacceptable' [NBC]
- 'Real Housewives' Star Brandi Glanville Says She's Done Cocaine [Hollywood Life]
- Drunk UConn Professor Arrested for Peeing on Cars [WTNH]
Heavy cocaine users may binge on the drug not to seek a high, but rather to avoid a low. That’s according to the findings of a new study published in Psychopharmacology, which says that avoiding emotional lows could play a major role in cocaine binges. Using lab rats for their study, Rutgers University Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience Professor Mark West, who led the study, said the initial positive feelings associated with the drug were short-lived and “quickly replaced by negative emotional responses whenever drug levels begin to fall.”
West and his team evaluated the pitch of the calls made by the rats after they binged on drugs, noting that high-pitched calls were common in the first 35 to 40 minutes after use. "Then if the animals are kept at their desired level, you don’t observe positive or negative calls. But as soon as the drug level starts to fall off, they make these negative calls,” said doctoral student David Barker, who co-authored the study. West confirmed that the “results suggest that once the animals started a binge, they may have felt trapped and didn’t like it.”
However, cocaine binges may be less frequent overall because cocaine use has dropped dramatically in the U.S. The White House’s Office of National Drug Policy said the number of U.S. cocaine users dropped from 2.4 million in 2006 to 1.4 million in 2011. The number of cocaine addicts fell from 1.7 million to 800,000 during that same time period, while the number of first-time users during those years was reduced from one million to 670,000.
According to the Tulsa Police Department, methamphetamine has been the cause of 11 murders so far in 2013, including two grisly quadruple homicides, even though the number of meth labs being found has decreased.
Following a peak of 429 meth labs found in 2011, Tulsa has seen a dramatic drop to only 143 found so far this year. But that hasn’t stopped a steady rise in homicides that have been linked to the meth trade, and that has police concerned. "Something's going on. There is an increase in violence at this moment," said Sgt. Dave Walker of the Tulsa Police. In January, police raided a home and found a large amount of meth inside the residence. That same home was the scene of a gruesome slaying the weekend before Thanksgiving, where four people were found shot to death. Earlier in November, meth was to blame in the beating death of a 34-year-old man, while at the beginning of the year two victims in another quadruple murder were known meth dealers. Walker speculated that the uptick in violence was partly due to meth suppliers settling old scores and dealing with turf disputes.
But while meth-related homicides continued, there was a 65 percent drop in the number of meth labs found. Police attribute the drastic decline to legislation that passed in July 2012 limiting access to pseudoephedrine, an essential ingredient in manufacturing meth. "The more you control pseudoephedrine, the (fewer) meth labs you're going to have," said Cpl. Mike Griffin. "If you (revert) pseudoephedrine back to a Schedule III drug like it once was, they would go down even further, so it's really simple."
Among the many benefits attributed to the family dinner, the prevention of drug abuse is one that has been researched the most. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, an organization associated with Columbia University, has been studying the link between family dinners and substance abuse for ten years by analyzing data collected from surveys filled out by teenagers. The studies have consistently found a link between more frequent family dinners and a lower incidence of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use among teens.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, family values proponents and others have found such results unsurprising. The connection between family dinners and healthier, happier teens "conjures up Norman Rockwell images of families seated around the table together," said Daniel P. Miller, assistant professor of human behavior at the Boston University School of Social Work.
But Dr. Miller and other scientists were skeptical of those results and wondered if the findings would hold up under closer scrutiny when income, parent's work hours, and other controlling factors were worked into the study. Last year, he and his colleagues accessed data from a different federal survey that followed 21,000 teenagers for almost ten years. Because external factors were more tightly controlled with this data, the researchers were able to conclude that the frequency of family meals had an insignificant effect on behavioral and academic performance. Last year, another pair of researchers, Kelly Musick, associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University, and Ann Meier, associate professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, used teen data to specifically examine the link between drug use and family meals. They also found that there was no correlation between the frequency of family dinners and subsequent drug use when controlling for factors like quality of family relationships, activities with parents, parental monitoring, and household resources.
Both Miller and Musick were careful to note that even though the evidence connecting family dinners to drug use is lacking, family dinners are still important. "They might not be important in the way we typically talk about them," said Dr. Miller. "But that doesn't mean they don't have all sorts of benefits."
A recent report from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health says that one in six unemployed workers are addicted to drugs or alcohol. The survey showed that 17% of unemployed workers had a substance abuse problem, nearly double the percentage of full-time workers who reported problems with drugs or alcohol at 9%. Because the survey relied completely on self-reported data, the percentage of unemployed workers with a drug problem could be even higher.
University of Miami sociologist Michael French said that unemployment and substance abuse go hand in hand. “On one hand, their income falls and they’re less able to afford alcohol or drugs. But at the same time, they’re faced with more idle time to fill recreational activities,” he said. “The leisure effect is dominating the income effect. We find that when the unemployment rate increases, all else equal, drinking increases.”
Eight states currently require unemployed people to take drug tests in order to determine their eligibility for welfare and other forms of government assistance. Arizona was the first state to adopt the program in 2009 and officials claimed the testing could save the state $1.7 million per year, but it was confirmed in 2012 that only one person had failed a drug test out of the 87,000 screenings which took place in the state during those three years.
It’s not just the unemployed, however, who are struggling with drugs. A record 21 million American adults had a substance abuse problem in 2012, half of whom had full-time jobs. Alcohol was the most commonly abused substance, but 40% of those addicted to marijuana, cocaine and heroin also had full-time employment. Approximately 9% of full-time employees identified themselves as casual drug users who had used an illicit substance in the prior month.