Bath salts—not the stuff you use to make your bathtub smell like lavender—are just as habit-forming as cocaine, according to a new study published in the Behavioral Brain Research journal. The designer drug of the season gnawed its way in to the public consciousness after being falsely blamed for the Miami cannibal attack, and the ever-changing properties of the chemical compound have made it difficult to test. Scientists recently tested the drug's effect on mice using "intracranial self-stimulation" (ICSS)—a method that has been used for decades as a way to look at how drugs activate the reward circuitry in the brain, which can lead to addiction. Researchers trained the mice to run on a wheel and rewarded them by stimulating electrodes that had been implanted in their brains. “If you let them, an animal will work to deliver self-stimulation to the exclusion of everything else—it won't eat, it won't sleep,” says Dr. C.J. Malanga, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Certain drugs increase the brain's sensitivity to reward stimulation, which in turn makes them work harder to receive the reward. The researchers measured the mice’s wheel-spinning efforts before, during, and after they received doses of cocaine or bath salts, and they found that bath salts had the same reward potency as cocaine. These findings suggest that bath salts, although marketed until recently as a relatively benign "legal high", could be more addictive than people may realize. "All drugs of abuse, regardless of how they act in the brain—heroin, morphine, cocaine amphetamine, alcohol, do the same thing to ICSS, they increase its rewarding value," Malanga said. A ban on bath salts in the US was signed on July 9.
- Behavioral, Cognitive Challenges Define Fetal Alcohol Exposure [PsychCentral]
- You Can't End AIDS Unless You End the Drug War [Huffington Post]
- Bath Salts Compared to Cocaine in New Study [redOrbit]
- Racial Differences in Personality Traits that Contribute to Youth Drinking [The Grio]
- Authorities Search for Grandmother, Boyfriend After Toddler Ingests Cocaine [MSNBC]
- Van Sells Weed-Flavored Lollipops Around NYC [Gothamist]
- Jaguars' Blackmon Pleads Guilty to Drunken Driving [ESPN]
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The members of Mötley Crüe are almost as famous for their wild antics as they are for their music—but even "the World's Most Notorious Rock Band" may be sobering up these days. Mick Mars, the group's 61-year-old guitar player, says he, like bassist Nikki Sixx before him, gave up partying so he can continue playing. "I don't smoke. I don't drink. I don't have many vices, except playing my guitar too much," he says. "I guess I'm kind of a boring guy these days. But that's how I'm gonna keep going with Mötley Crüe as long as I can." The heavy metal band, hailing from Los Angeles, has sold more than 80 million album copies worldwide, including 25 million in the US. But various of its members have struggled with alcoholism and addictions to drugs such as cocaine and heroin, and Mars says he battled a prescription drug addiction in addition to a bad booze habit. But now, "there's one thing that's really different for me...being sober," he says. Fans may wonder how the Crüe will change with a sober guitarist in their midst, but Mars says things will only improve. "It's really helped. The playing is better. The songs are better," he says. "There are some people who drink their whole lives. But thankfully, I was just like, 'Ah, I'm over this shit. Over the drug thing. Over the booze thing. Over this other thing.' It's great to be clear-headed, instead of just sitting around going, 'Huh?' like a dummy." One thing, at least, has not changed: "I'm still no gentleman," he says. "I'm still as big an asshole as ever. Lewd and aggressive."
Even those who manufacture the machines are not immune to the siren song of technological "devices." In Silicon Valley, device addiction is becoming a concern among employers at some of the world's biggest tech companies. Despite the fact that most of the companies in the area profit from people spending more time online, many tech executives are beginning to examine their role in the increasing problem of technology dependence and its potentially harmful impact on productivity and personal interactions. “We’re done with this honeymoon phase and now we’re in this phase that says, ‘Wow, what have we done?’” says Soren Gordhamer, who organizes Wisdom 2.0, an annual conference he started in 2010 about the pursuit of balance in the digital age. “It doesn’t mean what we’ve done is bad. There’s no blame. But there is a turning of the page.”
"Internet use disorder" will be included in the appendix of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders next year, but it has yet to be deemed an official condition. Some companies are beginning to take action to prevent "device addiction" among their own employees. Google, for example, started a company-wide “mindfulness” movement to teach employees self-awareness and to improve their ability to focus. Many employees aren't even aware that the devices they use have addictive properties. “It’s this basic cultural recognition that people have a pathological relationship with their devices,” says Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist who lectures about the science of self-control at the Stanford School of Medicine. “People feel not just addicted, but trapped.” McGonigal also believes that interactive gadgets could create a persistent sense of emergency by setting off stress systems in the brain. However, some higher-ups in Silicon Valley companies claim there's very little they can do to prevent the issue. “The responsibility we have is to put the most powerful capability into the world,” says Scott Kriens, chairman of Juniper Networks. “We do it with eyes wide open that some harm will be done. Someone might say, ‘Why not do so in a way that causes no harm?’ That’s naïve. The alternative is to put less powerful capability in people’s hands and that’s a bad trade-off.”
Florida has been cracking down hard on prescription pill mills over the last year or so, but the number of babies born with addictions is still six-times higher than it was in 2004. In 2011, more than 2,000 newborns—that's 14% of all babies born at St. Joseph's Hospital for Women in Tampa—were diagnosed with drug withdrawal syndrome, narcotic exposure, or both, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. The situation is not much better in the rest of the country, as a recent national study found that one baby is born every hour with symptoms of opiate withdrawal. Symptoms include excessive crying, itching, an inability to be consoled, diarrhea and a lack of appetite. The problem has become so extreme that a statewide Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns Task Force has been formed to fight the trend. "When we're talking about solutions and what we need to do, we need to think big," says David Wilkins, secretary of the Department of Children and Families and a task force member. "The cost of what this is doing is enormous." The difficulty in tackling the problem of prescription pill addiction among pregnant women is exacerbated by the fact that many doctors legitimately prescribe painkillers to pregnant women suffering from acute pain. It can also raise a slew of moral issues, with the state of Alabama going so far as to prosecute mothers whose babies are born addicted.