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Effects of Alcohol

4/16/13 11:01am

Even Beer's Taste Triggers Cravings


Just a taste? Photo via

Even just the taste of beer can trigger the urge to drink more, a new study finds. Researchers used positron emission tomography (PET), to scan the brains of 49 men as they tasted both beer and Gatorade. They found a rise in dopamine levels in the brain after the men tasted a small amount of beer, even with no intoxicating effects. This response was pronounced in those men who had a history of alcoholism in their family. Dopamine is a brain-chemical associated with pleasure, and many neuroscientists believe it plays a huge role in drug and alcohol cravings. "We believe this is the first experiment in humans to show that the taste of an alcoholic drink alone, without any intoxicating effect from the alcohol, can elicit this dopamine activity in the brain's reward centers," says David A. Kareken, Ph.D., professor of neurology at the IU School of Medicine and the deputy director of the Indiana Alcohol Research Center. “The stronger effect in participants with close alcoholic relatives suggests that the release of dopamine in response to such alcohol-related cues may be an inherited risk factor for alcoholism.” Confirming the results of the brain scans, study participants also reported craving more alcohol after tasting the beer. They did not crave "more" after drinking Gatorade even though many admitted the sports drink did taste better.

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By Valerie Tejeda


4/16/13 5:00am

Morning Roundup: April 16, 2013


Is that a blunt or were they bluffing?
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By Bryan Le


4/15/13 5:54pm

Distress Helpline Available After Boston Explosions


The injuries aren't just physical.
Photo via

Anyone traumatized or triggered by today's bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon—which, at press time,had killedtwo peopleand injured at least two dozen—can speak to a crisis counselor by calling the Disaster Distress Helpline on (800) 985-5990. The Helpline is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and is "confidential and multilingual and available for those who are experiencing psychological distress as a result of natural or man-made disasters, incidents of mass violence, or any other tragedy affecting America's communities," according to a press release. It has been shown that people who have been in close proximity to a traumatic event, such as the terrorist attacks of 9/11, are many times more likely to develop a substance abuse problem. "When disaster strikes, people react with increased anxiety, worry, and anger," says SAMHSA administrator Pamela Hyde. "With community and family support, most of us bounce back. Some may need extra assistance to cope with unfolding events and uncertainties."

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By Hunter R. Slaton

afghan opium

4/15/13 4:31pm

Afghan Opium Production Up for Third Year Running


Is Afghanistan becoming a "narco-state"?
Photo via

Opium cultivation in Afghanistan is up for the third year in a row and heading towards a record high, according to a new UN report. The Afghanistan Opium Risk Assessment 2013, issued by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, attributes the increase to opium's rising price, making it an even more attractive crop for farmers. The figure for 2013 is expected to surpass the 154,000 hectares planted in 2012, according to the report. Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, accounting for about 75% of the global supply last year. "The assumption is it will reach again to 90% this year," says Jean-Luc Lemahieu, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan. "We are looking at a record high cultivation."

Lemahieu was recently interviewed for The Fix's exclusive report on the heroin addiction crisis within Afghanistan, which has an estimated 1 million addicts. Earlier this month, the UN also estimated that 1 million deaths worldwide have been caused by Afghan heroin since the US-led "War on Terror" began in 2001, while opium production has increased 40 times. Over 70% of Afthan opium is produced by just three provinces. US troops have attempted to subdue the Taliban influence and find alternative crops for these regions' farmers. But after the end of the three-year "surge" in 2012, poppy cultivation has soared. It may be that people are turning to illicit markets in greater numbers in anticipation of the predicted withdrawal of foreign forces—and cash—in 2014. "This country is on its way to becoming the world's first true narco-state," says an anonymous international law enforcement official. “The opium trade is a much bigger part of the economy already than narcotics ever were in Bolivia or Colombia.”

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By Victoria Kim

deja vu

4/15/13 3:31pm

Liquored-Up Aubrey Plaza "Pulls a Kanye"


A night to remember, but maybe not for
Plaza. Photo via

Did Aubrey Plaza wake up with a hangover and a sense of doom this morning? The Parks and Recreation actress interrupted comedian Will Ferrell as he was accepting his Comedic Genius Golden Popcorn Award last night at the MTV Movie Awards, and tried to pry the trophy from his hands (video below). “What's happening?” Ferrell asked her, “Are you OK?” Plaza, who was barefoot and carrying a drink replied “Yup!”, before leaving the stage and dropping her beverage on the floor. “Aubrey Plaza, everyone,” Ferrell quipped, “Just like we rehearsed it!” MTV, however, claims that the event was not planned. “Aubrey Plaza ran up on stage, and I think she wanted to tell me something important, but… there was no message,” Ferrell told MTV News afterwards, “It was just a a lot of hot liquor breath. And a little bit of sweat. And then she ran away. But the ship sailed on.” Plaza, who was asked to leave the event after the incident, tweeted: "thanks for the advice @kanyewest went better than planned! #mtvmovieawards," referring to Kanye West's infamous on-stage interruption of Taylor Swift during the 2009 VMA's. The actress wasn't the only celebrity under the influence at last night's event; earlier in the night, Snoop Lion and Ke$ha smoked what looked a lot like a blunt on stage.

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By Bryan Le

not kosher

4/15/13 2:22pm

Jewish Drug Lord Sues Prison Over Non-Kosher Food


Many prisons do offer kosher options.
Photo via

Convicted cocaine kingpin Simon Price is suing his prison facility for "institutionalized anti-Semitism," claiming the facility is failing to meet his kosher dietary needs. Price, an Orthodox Jew, began his 28-year sentence in 2005 after being found guilty of smuggling over $53 million worth of cocaine inside drums of syrup. He is suing British prison HMP Frankland for $3,800 in damages, alleging that he had no choice in the food he was served and that both Muslim and vegetarian criminals receive more preferential treatment behind bars. Although prisoners at HMP Frankland can choose to cook for themselves, Price says that he is forced to share utensils used to prepare non-kosher food. A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice has denied his claims of the prison's "indifferent and discriminatory attitude adopted towards Jews," stating that "we are robustly defending all elements of the claim." Price was jailed in 2005 when British Revenue and Customs officer intercepted his cocaine haul of more than 1,540 pounds of the drugs, which he tried to smuggle from the South American country of Guyana into the Dutch capital of Rotterdam. He previously spent 12 years in prison for his role in a $2.3 million dollar armed robbery at Heathrow airport during the 1970s. The lawsuit comes on the heels of a recent announcement from justice secretary Chris Grayling that he intends to stop prisoners from using UK taxpayer money to sue.

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By McCarton Ackerman


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