Cocaine use could make you lose your marbles much earlier than planned. According to findings from the University of Cambridge, middle-aged people dependent on cocaine demonstrate symptoms of older brains, such as cognitive decline and memory problems. Also, people who are addicted to the drug seem to lose twice the brain volume each year as non-users. "We have a growing number of older people seeking treatment for drug problems," says Karen Ersche, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge. "The Baby Boomer generation is a generation that has used more drugs than any generation before them, so they actually may suffer from an accelerated aging process, and we need to take this into account when we provide treatment." Using MRIs to measure gray matter volume in 120 adults who were of a similar age, gender and verbal IQ, but half of whom had cocaine dependency, the research showed that the cocaine-dependent adults had 3.08 milliliters per year in gray matter loss, compared to 1.69 milliliters in those without substance abuse. Ersche says the brain atrophy may be a result of oxidative stress, which is caused by the production of unstable molecules called reactive oxygen species; when the body can't remove these molecules or repair the damage they cause, disease can result. According to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, cocaine is used by 21 million people worldwide, about 1% of whom become dependent on the drug.
American Pie's Chris Klein may have publicly stated that his German Shepherd, Chief, helped him to get and stay clean, but he's certainly not the only sober person to call a four-legged friend a serious aid on the road to recovery. In her new Kindle Single, Animal Attraction, Fix Executive Editor Anna David writes that while she's "not going to claim my kitten made me see that I didn’t need to slowly kill myself anymore…a few weeks after this sweet little furball came into my life, I’d simply had enough of the late, jittery nights and realized I couldn’t bear the loneliness and depression I was living with any longer." David will be leading a hotly-anticipated video discussion about addiction, sobriety and pets over on the recovery social networking site In The Rooms tomorrow (Thursday), April 26 at 6 pm PST/9 pm EST. It's one not to miss: considering that ITR has—among the many groups on its site—over 13 pet-related ones, including Cat Lovers and Pug Addicts, the live video chat should be an animal-lover's paradise. But no catty comments allowed.
The foray into drug dealing of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson's brother may have led to his murder, during which two other family members were also killed. Jason Hudson was murdered along with his mother and his7-year-old nephew back in October 2008. Accused killer William Balfour—the ex-husband of Hudson’s sister—is now claiming that he and Jason Hudson were business partners in selling drugs. "He was involved in a dangerous business," says assistant public defender Amy Thompson, who is representing Balfour. "It brought danger to him and he lived in Englewood, probably the most dangerous neighborhood in the city of Chicago." Witness Lonnie Simpson testified in the trial that he did deal drugs with Jason Hudson, but claims he didn’t have any enemies in his neighborhood. “[Police] did nothing to determine if it might have been Jason Hudson’s violent business that led to him getting shot twice before, that led to these murders," says Thompson. “They did nothing to follow the trail other than the weak trail that leads to William Balfour.” An emotional Jennifer Hudson also took the stand, claiming she never liked or trusted her sister’s then-husband Balfour. “I tried to keep my distance with William any chance I got," she said. "Where he was, I tried not to be. So if I saw him, I separated myself.”
The anticonvulsant drug gabapentin—used to treat epilepsy and neuropathic pain—may help pot smokers kick the habit. Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute tested 50 cannabis users who were seeking treatment, in a 12-week trial. The study—published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology—showed that those who used gabapentin smoked less pot, and experienced fewer withdrawal symptoms such as sleeplessness, drug cravings, and dysphoria. They also scored higher on tests of attention, impulse-control, and other cognitive skills, when compared to those given a placebo. Addiction research has shown that excessive drug use can weaken impulse control through over-activation of reward-circuitry in the brain; compounded by the stress of withdrawal, this can make it difficult for regular pot smokers to quit. "That weakening of self-control-related circuits makes it even harder for people to resist drug cravings when they're trying to quit, but gabapentin may help restore those circuits, by reducing stress and enabling patients to sleep better, so that they function better while awake," said study author Barbara J. Mason. If confirmed in later trials, gabapentin would be the first drug approved by the FDA for treatment of marijuana dependence. "A lot of other drugs have been tested for their ability to decrease cannabis use and withdrawal, but this is the first to show these key effects in a controlled treatment study," said Mason. "The other nice thing about gabapentin is that it is already widely prescribed, so its safety is less likely to be an issue."
- How Cocaine Rots Your Brain: Using Coke Doubles the Speed You Lose Your Grey Matter [Daily Mail]
- Mexican Cartel Boss and 23 Others Indicted [Fox News]
- Smoking Cuts Risk of Benign Brain Tumor [MedPage]
- Pain Drug Might Help People Quit Smoking Pot [UT San Diego]
- 4-year-old Boy Tests Positive for Cocaine [Reuters]
- Drunk Driver Rear-Ends Blood Alcohol Testing Van, Breaks Cop's Leg [NBC]
- Melissa Gilbert Compares Dancing with the Stars to Getting Sober [People]
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy—or a workaholic. Growing numbers of people are succumbing to workaholism, as technology blurs the boundaries between our working and private lives. According to University of Bergen Psychology professor Dr. Cecilie Schou Andreassen, the effects can include: insomnia, health problems, burnout, stress, and tension in relationships. She and her colleagues have developed a tool to measure workaholism: "The Bergen Work Addiction Scale." In the process they asked 12,135 Norwegian employees from 25 different industries to answer "never, rarely, sometimes, often, or always" to different statements. The scale—which draws on seven core elements of addiction: salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict, relapse and problems—is claimed to reliably categorize participants as non-addicted, mildly addicted or workaholic. So has your work ethic crossed the line into addiction?
How often do these statements apply to you?
• You think of how you can free up more time to work.
• You spend much more time working than initially intended.
• You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and depression.
• You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
• You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
• You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work.
• You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.
If you answer "often" or "always" to four or more of these statements, the scale suggests you may be a workaholic. The Bergen Work Addiction Scale will be used to address workaholism as a global problem, and to research recovery and treatment options. If you find you're addicted to not working, however, you may be on your own.