Regtect, a new drug to treat alcohol dependence, was recently approved for sale in Japan. Unlike traditional drugs for alcoholism, which cause symptoms like nausea and headaches after consuming alcohol, Regtect works in the brain by suppressing cravings. The approval of the drug is seen as a significant step forward for Japan's largely untreated problem with booze; drinking is strongly entrenched in Japanese culture and of the estimated 800,000 alcoholics, only about 40,000 get treatment each year.
Tomomi Imanari, whose nonprofit organization is involved in the prevention of problems resulting from alcohol and drug abuse, believes the biggest problem facing Japan’s alcoholics is the social stigma that occurs with non-drinking. “Japan is a pro-alcohol society difficult for nondrinkers to get along in,” he said. “However, if people become alcohol-dependent, they are accused of being weak-willed and ostracized from society.”
According to Susumu Higuchi, the director of the National Hospital Kurihama Alcoholism Center, treating alcohol dependence is done in stages. First, the patient must realize that his dependence on alcohol is a disease - something not generally recognized in Japan. Next, the patient is detoxed from alcohol and treated for withdrawal symptoms. Finally, the patient receives individual and group therapy in combination with drug treatment.
With Regtect already available in 24 other countries, Higuchi is hopeful that the drug will help curb Japan’s alcoholism problem. Regtect has been shown in clinical trials to increase levels of abstinence after 24 weeks of use. “From now on, we will accumulate clinical data and establish a more effective and safer dosage,” Higuchi said.
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One of the top DJ’s in Belfast, Northern Ireland, passed away last weekend from a drug overdose while hosting a two-day house party at his apartment. Gerard Mulholland reportedly died after taking “speckled Rolex,” a yellow ecstasy pill that costs about $3.50 each and is cheaper than a pint of beer in the country. Four other people attending the party were hospitalized and are still receiving treatment for similar drug overdoses.
Mulholland’s Facebook page was flooded with messages and photos from grieving fans after the tragedy. “Gerard was a true gentleman. Sleep well, the word is a little less shiny without you in it,” wrote one person. “I can’t believe you’re gone, you were one of the most nicest people you could ever meet. You always had time for everyone, such a kind man.”
Eight deaths throughout Northern Ireland in 2013, including seven in the capital city of Belfast, have been linked to the pill. Many of the speckled Rolex pills have been laced with PMMA, a bulking agent that causes the body to overheat. In response to the tragedy, SDLP councillor Brian Heading said he is making himself available to dispose of the drugs with no questions asked. Local community workers and clergy have also set up drop boxes where people can dispose of the pills which will then be passed on to police.
“It is clear that whoever may be supplying this drug has no regard whatsoever for human life,” he said. “But we need to get the message out there that there is no such thing as a recreational drug.”
Zac Efron is now six months clean and sober. The High School Musical actor was spotted wearing a blue AA sobriety chip commemorating the milestone while at a Lakers game over the weekend. Efron went to rehab this past April for an alleged cocaine and alcohol addiction, but has remained largely mum about his reported time in treatment.
TMZ quoted sources close to the star last October, who said Efron’s alleged cocaine addiction became a major problem on the set of his movie Neighbors. He was allegedly a “no-show on a number of days” and the cast knew “he was struggling with cocaine.” The gossip outlet also reported that “Zac and some friends went on a coke rager in a room at the SkyLofts at the MGM Grand in Vegas … and caused around $50,000 in damage. No word on who took care of the bill.” Efron may also have recreationally used Molly, a club drug otherwise known as a form of ecstasy.
The insiders also claim that Efron received treatment for his addiction twice this year, with the actor receiving intensive outpatient care at a private residence in California for several weeks after finishing shooting Neighbors. The film is scheduled to be released in theaters next year.
Chalk up another one. On Wednesday, January 1st, Minnesota will become the latest state to randomly test recipients of welfare for drugs, despite overwhelming evidence that taking such measures to prevent drug users from receiving public assistance has very limited success, at best.
Added as an amendment during a 2012 legislation session with limited debate, the new law will require the state Department of Human Services to force recipients convicted of past felony drug offenses to identify themselves in order for them to be randomly tested – though the definition of “random” will vary from county to county. Since the law was based on the commonly held notion that many welfare recipients also do drugs, opponents have stepped up their criticisms in recent days. "I don't think anyone is under the illusion that this is about saving taxpayers money," said Heidi Welsch, director of family support and assistance for Olmsted County. "This is punitive."
Minnesota joins nine other states, including Kansas, that will test welfare recipients for drugs. Even a cursory look at the states already employing such measures has revealed that results for the programs have been lackluster, and ultimately cost more money than they save while failing to weed out drug abusers that may be enrolled in the welfare system.
While most humans hooked on nicotine struggle to kick the habit, there’s one desert creature that actually thrives thanks to its healthy consumption of the drug.
The tobacco hornworm, scientifically known as Manduca sexta, devours coyote tobacco plants all day long and consumes more than a milligram of nicotine, or roughly the equivalent of one cigarette’s worth of the addictive drug. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology have concluded that the hornworm’s immunity to nicotine allows it to consume large quantities, which in turn gives the caterpillar “defensive halitosis,” or bad breath, that it uses to fend off ravenous wolf spiders.
Senior author and biochemist Ian Baldwin led his team in conducting a series of experiments that involved starving individual wolf spiders for 24 hours and then placing hornworms loaded with nicotine into the same cup. Despite the spiders’ overwhelming hunger, they unequivocally refused to eat the caterpillars. Conversely, the wolf spiders immediately devoured other non-nicotine laden prey when placed inside the cup. "Spiders usually assess their prey after capture by tapping it with chemosensory endowed legs and palps," the study said. "Wolf spiders were clearly rejecting nicotine-fed larvae before penetrating their prey with their mandibles to inject their mixture of digestive enzymes and poisons."