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gambling addiction

10/20/14 3:30pm

Brain Abnormalities In Gamblers Different From Drug Addicts

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While all addictions are linked to some form of brain alteration, a new study conducted by researchers in London and Cambridge has found that the brains in pathological gamblers are different than those who abuse alcohol or narcotics.

The study, which will be presented at the ECNP Congress in Berlin this week, found that the opioid systems in gambling addicts reacted differently than in those who were deemed healthy. The researchers examined the brains of 14 pathological gamblers and 15 healthy participants after each were given an amphetamine tablet. Scans revealed that the brains of problem gamblers didn't release as many endorphins as their healthy counterparts. A subsequent questionnaire confirmed the results when the problem gamblers revealed that they experienced lower levels of euphoria.

"From our work, we can say two things," said lead researcher Dr. Inge Mick. "Firstly, the brains of pathological gamblers respond differently to this stimulation than the brains of healthy volunteers. And secondly, it seems that pathological gamblers just don't get the same feeling of euphoria as do healthy volunteers. This may go some way to explaining why the gambling becomes an addiction."

Because of these lower levels of euphoria, gambling addicts have to work harder in order to experience the same "rush" as a non-addict, which contributes to becoming more heavily involved in gambling. Dr. Mick said the results of the study, despite the small sample size, could lead to new treatments for problem gamblers, though some outside the study expressed skepticism with the results.

"Gambling is a behavioral addiction which is influenced by biological, psychological and social factors," said Dr. Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University. "As to whether a gambling addiction is different to an alcohol or cocaine addiction, the sample size in the study is small and we need to see more research in this area first."

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By Shawn Dwyer

recovering celebrities

10/20/14 1:00pm

Macklemore Returns To Drug Court To Speak At Graduation

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More than 15 years after entering a Seattle drug court for the first time, rapper Macklemore returned to speak at a graduation ceremony.

Macklemore, a.k.a. Ben Haggerty, reappeared to help celebrate the 20th anniversary of King County Drug Court, addressing those in the room by simply saying, “Hi, I’m Ben. And I’m an alcoholic.” An arrest at age 15 initially brought him there and inspired him to get sober. Although he has had admitted to relapses over the years since then, the rapper said he has been sober since August 2008.

“Drug court gives people a way to get sober, to heal,” he said. “I don’t want to just get through the day. I want to live. That is what Drug Court is to me.” Since its inception, the King County Drug Court has graduated over 2,000 participants and saved taxpayers around $95 million.

The rapper, who hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 2012 with “Thrift Shop,” has been open about the difficulties of staying sober while on the road and adjusting to his newfound fame. He tries to go to AA meetings on the road when possible, but said it’s often difficult to get into a routine with meetings. "It's been a struggle the past year," he said in March 2013. "It's very important to go into the rooms of AA, smell the shitty coffee and be reminded that without sobriety, I would have no career."

Macklemore has also spoken about kicking his addictions in some of his songs. The track "Church" contrasts the collectivism of his religious upbringing with the realities he faced growing up, including almost losing his life to drug use.

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By McCarton Ackerman

sorry excuse

10/20/14 8:30am

Pennsylvania Gov. Blames Employee Drug Testing On Job Creation Woes

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Pennsylvania is currently 47th among U.S. states when it comes to job creation, but Gov. Tom Corbett thinks employee drug testing is the reason companies are not able to fill jobs.

Speaking to the PennLive editorial board last week in Harrisburg, Corbett said that companies can’t find employees who are able or willing to pass drug tests. The statement is similar to what he said in an April 2013 interview that made headlines, but he has mainly relied on anecdotal evidence from the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association (PMP) to back up his claim.

However, that organization refuted his statement after hiring a polling firm to survey 200 executives from manufacturing businesses throughout the state. Their findings concluded that “for most companies, drug testing did not lead to a large percentage of potential employees refusing to take a drug test or show up for a drug test."

A “small percentage” of applicants, 16% in total, failed their drug tests, while 19% refused to take one. The report did acknowledge that these numbers were still “a red flag and a real concern for employers.”

The drug concerns aren’t entirely surprising given that it’s easier and cheaper for young people in the state to buy heroin than a six-pack of beer. Small bags of heroin are being sold for as little as $5 to$10, which is contributing to the ongoing rise in overdose deaths each year throughout the state. State Representative Richard Marabito said there are about 766,000 residents with addiction problems, but only 52,000 are currently receiving treatment.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has listed several recommendations for correcting this problem in a report released last month. Among them are making it easier to prosecute dealers whose clients die of overdoses and instilling a “Good Samaritan” law so that those who seek help for overdose victims won’t face criminal charges.

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

10/20/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Oct. 20, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

the politics of weed

10/17/14 7:30pm

Will Hillary Clinton Push to Legalize Marijuana In 2016?

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The public’s stance on the legalization of marijuana has drastically changed since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first entered politics, when only 16% of the public favored legalization. But now, more than 58% of Americans want the consumption of the drug legalized and many activists feel the 2016 elections will give their movement serious traction.

Clinton has previously denounced the legalization of marijuana, but more recently she’s warmed to the idea. But the future potential president wants to see what the research says before seriously considering legalizing the drug on a national level.

“I’m a big believer in acquiring evidence, and I think we should see what kind of results we get, both from medical marijuana and from recreational marijuana before we make any far-reaching conclusions,” Clinton said. “We need more studies. We need more evidence. And then we can proceed.”

It’s very possible the Democrats will nominate Clinton for president in 2016, but many marijuana activists fear she may be too pragmatic for their cause.

“She is so politically pragmatic,” said Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “If she has to find herself running against a conservative Republican in 2016, I am fearful, from my own view here, that she is going to tack more to the middle. And the middle in this issue tends to tack more to the conservative side.”

Marijuana activists expect a huge turnout of young people at the polls, and with nearly 70% of 18- to 29-year-old Americans in support of the legalization of marijuana, the odds are in their favor.

“There will certainly be even more on the ballot in 2016,” said Tamar Todd, director of marijuana law and policy and the Drug Policy Alliance. “More voters coming to the polls means more support for marijuana reform and in presidential election years, more voters turn out.”

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By Brent McCluskey

LSD

10/17/14 5:30pm

Researchers Still See Therapeutic Value in LSD

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Despite being classified as a Schedule I drug by the U.S. government, LSD has attracted renewed interest among researchers interested in exploring its therapeutic value.

Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, was initially considered as treatment for a variety of conditions, ranging from repressed emotions to alcoholism and even as an analgesic for pain. An array of side effects, including its potential to produce impaired judgment, panic attacks, and exacerbate mental conditions like schizophrenia—as well as its popularity with the counterculture of the 1960s—led to a ban by the Food and Drug Administration in 1968 and classification as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. However, studies on possible therapeutic uses for LSD have continued in Europe for decades.

Two recent European studies underscore the continuing interest in medical applications for LSD. In September of this year, researchers at Imperial College London published their findings after conducting a study on the drug’s efficacy in hypnotherapy. Ten volunteers were given two injections—one containing a moderate dose of LSD, and the other a placebo—two weeks apart, and asked after each injection to relax and “think along” with descriptions of pleasant actions or locations. The volunteers who received the LSD injection reported that the experiences were 20% more “vivid” than those who received the placebo.

The second experiment, also published this year, was a double-blind study conducted by researchers in Switzerland, who were also given either a low dose of LSD or a placebo to determine the drug’s effect on anxiety related to the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness. Those who were injected with the drug showed a noticeable reduction in anxious feelings after just two sessions.

In both cases, the respective researchers saw no ill side effects in volunteers who received LSD. Further clinical testing will undoubtedly be required before any significant change to the drug’s legal or social standing can be effected.

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By Paul Gaita

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