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10/27/14 7:30pm

Researchers Link Child Abuse to Higher Risk of Relapse

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According to a new study by researchers at the NYU School of Medicine and Yale University School of Medicine, a history of child abuse significantly raises the risk of relapse for adult addicts in early recovery. While previous studies have shown that a history of child abuse or neglect increases the risk for substance abuse disorders in adulthood, such studies were focused on the risk of developing such disorders as opposed to the risk of relapse once treatment for a substance abuse disorder is begun.

Published in the American Medical Association journal JAMA Psychiatry, the study highlighted the difficulty of treating adult addicts with a history of child abuse. After entering treatment, a significant number of addicts relapse back into substance use. Given this new connection between such relapses and a history of child abuse has now been firmly established, it raises the difficulty factor for treatment centers trying to achieve successful outcomes.

The researchers from the two schools used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to examine the brains of 79 people in treatment for substance use disorder. They examined the changes in brain function that heighten the risks for relapse. They specifically assessed whether individuals with a history of child abuse have increased chances of relapsing during treatment.

In the study, some of the addicted subjects had a history of childhood abuse while others did not. The study also included an additional 98 people unaffected by substance use disorder. Just like in the addict population, some had histories of childhood abuse while others did not. In each group, the researchers looked for certain changes in the brain previously linked to an increased risk for relapsing.

After analyzing the results of MRI exams, the study revealed clear indications of relapse-related changes in the normal brain function of participants with a history of childhood abuse. The researchers concluded that the increased relapse risk is roughly the same for all addictive substances under consideration. In addition, it also was shown that subjects with a history of childhood abuse had particularly severe relapse episodes when compared to their counterparts.

The authors of the study note that almost five out of every 10 people who experience neglect or abuse during childhood will eventually develop substance problems. The findings clearly indicated that such a history has the potential to lower effective treatment rates for substance use disorders. As a result, treatment centers could adjust and even improve their outcomes considerably by taking abuse history into account when working with clients.

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By John Lavitt

synthetic drugs

10/27/14 5:30pm

Synthetic Drug 'Cloud 9' Causes Dozens of Hospitalizations

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The hospitalization of more than two-dozen high school students after taking the new synthetic drug Cloud 9 has prompted Michigan parents to take action to protect their kids.

Local health officials have placed the state on high alert over the dangers of the this latest synthetic street drug. Despite being illegal, doctors across the state report seeing a rise in the popularity of Cloud 9 as kids smoke, drink, or inhale the drug in a vaporizer. Sold primarily as a liquid in eyedropper bottles, the drug is often used with e-cigarettes or "hookah pens."

Also known as Hookah Relax, Cloud 9 is made from a base of AB-PINACA, a synthetic cannabinoid refined in Japan. To make the new drug, AB-PINACA is combined with common household chemicals. These chemicals are found in common household items such as air fresheners and bath salts, and are highly toxic.

Police say teens are also smoking it with marijuana and adding it to energy drinks, becoming “garage chemists.” Westland Police Chief Jeff Jedrusik told a local radio station, “Parents can be easily fooled by the packaging, which looks like an air freshener or bath salts…(But) The drug is absolutely deadly…Teens are getting really sick and having near-death experiences.”

Side effects of ingesting Cloud 9 include paranoia, suicidal ideation, nightmarish hallucinations, and chest pains leading to near heart attacks. In a couple of cases, high school students were admitted into psychiatric facilities after mixing the compound with prescription drugs like Xanax and Vicodin. The mixture with the prescription narcotic and the benzodiazepine led to adverse psychological reactions.

Costing about $20 for a small vial, the product can be found inside head shops, gas stations, and convenience stores in Michigan. A Westland mother said her 17-year-old daughter bought Cloud 9 at a local gas station earlier this year and became hooked. The distraught woman described what happened when her daughter finally stopped using. "She couldn't eat and couldn't sleep. My daughter dropped 30 pounds. There were three weeks of withdrawal from it.”

Wayne County's Environmental Health staff presently are conducting random inspections of suspected retailers. Businesses found selling the Cloud 9 base substances will be asked to stop selling the products or potentially face legal action.

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By John Lavitt

casualties of war

10/27/14 3:30pm

Women Prisoners Are the Unspoken Casualties of the War on Drugs

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The latest set of disturbing statistics regarding the fallout from the war on drugs shows that the United States has the largest population of women behind bars in the world, and at least a third of those prisoners have been incarcerated for drug offenses.

A report from the International Center on Women Detainees showed that of the 625,000 women currently behind bars across the globe, a third of that number, which accounts for more than 200,000 women, are currently in U.S. prisons. They make up nearly 9% of the country’s entire prison population.

The country with the second highest number of women in prison is China, which despite a history of human rights abuse, holds only 84,600 women in detention. Furthermore, while the worldwide female prison population has been on the rise since 2006, North and South America have experienced the largest increase at 23%.

Another study by The Sentencing Project found that a third of female prisoners in the United States are serving time on drug-related charges. That number is also on the rise, and at a rate of nearly twice the number of men incarcerated for similar offenses. For many female prisoners, the punishment continues even after they complete their sentences.

A 2013 report by The Sentencing Project found that 12 states continue to impose a lifetime ban on benefits, work requirements and food stamps allotted by the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) programs to women with felony drug convictions on their record.

The ban, instituted as part of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, has been lifted or modified by 28 states. But Arkansas, Alabama, Delaware, Missouri, and Texas are among the eight that continue to impose the full ban, while 24 more, including California, continue to impose a partial ban on either TANF or SNAP benefits.

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By Paul Gaita

research study

10/27/14 1:00pm

Dutch Study Claims Creativity Not Improved By Smoking Weed

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A Dutch research team has disproved the urban legend that smoking marijuana boosts creativity.

A new study by researchers from Leiden University in the Netherlands claims not only is this not the case, but smoking pot may even inhibit and damage a person’s ability to be creative. Led by Lorenza Colzato of the Cognitive Psychology Unit at the Institute of Psychology at Leiden University and the Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, the research team recently published their findings in the journal Psychopharmacology.

For years, pot smokers have justified their use of the drug by claiming that getting high enhances their creativity. Such effects were attributed to the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Even Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, once said, "The best way I could describe the effect of the marijuana and hashish is that it would make me relaxed and creative."

The researchers wanted to test whether different doses of THC would influence creative thinking in a positive or negative way. After signing up 59 healthy regular marijuana users (52 males and seven females), they divided them into three groups. The first group was given cannabis with high THC content (22 mg), which is equivalent to three joints of strong marijuana. The second group was given cannabis with a low dose of THC (5.5 mg) that would be equivalent to a single joint. The remaining group that probably was disappointed at first was given a placebo. None of the candidates were aware of what they were being given.

The test subjects were then required to complete a series of cognitive tasks that measured two forms of creative thinking: divergent thinking, i.e. coming up with ideas by exploring as many solutions as possible, and convergent thinking, or finding the only correct answer to a question. The low-dose THC did not significantly outperform the placebo when it came to divergent thinking, and the results were relatively equal. In other words, a little marijuana led to very little change.

On the other hand, researchers did find that the first group with a high-dose of THC were significantly impaired when it came to divergent thinking when compared to the other two groups. Such impairments included "…decreased scores for fluency, flexibility, and originality of responses of participants in the high-dose condition.” It is important to note that both low- and high-dose marijuana intake appeared to have no effect on convergent thinking among the subjects of the study.

Commenting on the team's findings, Lorenza Colzato said: "The improved creativity that (marijuana users) believe they experience is an illusion. If you want to overcome writer's block or any other creative gap, lighting up a joint isn't the best solution. Smoking several joints one after the other can even be counterproductive to creative thinking."

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By John Lavitt

cure for alcoholism?

10/27/14 10:30am

Is Nalmefene the 'Magic Bullet' for Alcoholism?

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A series of recent tests in Europe may finally open the doors in the U.S. to using nalmefene as a viable means to curb heavy or compulsive drinking.

Typical medical treatments for alcoholism include naltrexone and nalmefene, two “opiate antagonists” that interfere with neurotransmitter systems in the brain to interrupt pleasurable sensations associated with alcohol. While naltrexone was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1995, nalmefene—also known as Selincro—has remained in the test phase of development.

The most recent of these studies, sponsored by the Danish pharmaceutical Lundbeck A/S, which manufactures nalmefene, administered the drug to 604 individuals as part of a double blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted over a six-month period. Those individuals who received nalmefene reduced the number of heavy drinking days—days in which men consumed 7.5 units of alcohol, or three to four pints of beer, and women consumed five units, or roughly a half bottle of wine—from 19 to eight per month, with an overall reduction of alcohol consumption by two-thirds.

The placebo group also saw diminished daily drinking by nearly half of previous amounts. Additional studies produced similar results, prompting study leader Wim van der Brink of the Amsterdam Institute of Addiction Research to proclaim nalmefene as a viable alternative to traditional means of curbing alcoholism like 12-step programs.

“[Abstinence] is heroic and dangerous, and it doesn’t do anything,” he said. “[Nalmefene] brings some of the responsibility back to the person.” Nalmefene is already available in Europe, and a U.S. study began in August to further determine whether the drug can be considered for stateside sales.

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By Paul Gaita

stomping out cigs

10/27/14 8:30am

Cigarette Company Finally Puts Out the Smoking Lamp

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Reynolds American Inc., the company that manufactures Camel cigarettes, has finally banned smoking inside of its facilities.

Previously, employees were permitted to light up practically anywhere while at work, including at their desks. But Reynolds American Inc.’s new no-smoking policy will prohibit the use of all traditional cigarettes, cigars, and pipes.

According to Reynolds American Inc. spokesman David Howard, the company’s new tobacco use policy will benefit all employees. “We believe it’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it because updating our tobacco use policies will better accommodate both non-smokers and smokers who work in and visit our facilities,” Howard said. “We’re just better aligning our tobacco use policies with the realities of what you’re seeing in society today.”

While it may seem like employees who work at a cigarette manufacturing plant would be more likely to pick up the habit, the Reynolds American Inc. employee smoking rate is about the same as the rest of the nation, which is approximately 18%.

Reynolds American Inc. plans to build designated smoking areas for those who wish to continue their habit, and will still allow the use of electronic cigarettes, moist snuff, Eclipse, and the finely milled tobacco "snoose."

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By Brent McCluskey

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Scott Phillips: You Are What You—

Last February, my oldest friend died of a heroin overdose at the age of 49. He beat me to recovery, and he beat me to death. He also gave a final, drug-alogue interview on my radio show 20 hours before he died.

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