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11/18/14 5:30pm

Researchers Study Vapers' Brains to Learn About Smoking Addiction



Studying the brain of someone puffing on an e-cigarette, or “vaping,” may bring us closer to understanding smoking addiction.

A small pilot study did just that, revealing interesting activity in brain areas linked to reward and addiction, and in areas involved in perception of taste and smell, according to Matt Wall, study leader and imaging scientist at Imperial College London.

“E-cigarettes…provide a very good simulation of traditional smoking [and] we have shown that using e-cigarettes with fMRI is an excellent paradigm for direct evaluation of the effects of smoking on human neurophysiology,” said Wall.

The benefit of studying the brains of people smoking e-cigarettes is to study the brain effects of what Wall called the behavioral and sensory repertoire of smoking. The vaping devices allow researchers to monitor these effects, which until now were impossible to monitor while burning conventional cigarettes in the confined space of an MRI scanner.

E-cigarettes make it possible to record brain activity with each puff. Wall noted that the limited success of other forms of nicotine replacement therapy, like patches or gum, suggests that smokers are hooked on more than just nicotine.

“There’s something unique about the drug [nicotine] and the delivery system—the smoking—combined which makes it really, really addictive,” Wall said.

The next step is to conduct larger studies, as the pilot study was not large enough to draw any firm conclusions. A similar study in Australia, which started this year, will follow nicotine users over the next five years to determine whether an individual’s neural makeup can determine if they will become addicted to nicotine.

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By Victoria Kim


11/18/14 3:30pm

Demi Lovato Defends Those With Eating Disorders on Twitter



A longtime advocate for those battling anorexia and bulimia, and a sufferer of eating disorders herself, singer Demi Lovato went on Twitter to voice her vehement support for those suffering from the debilitating disease.

After describing eating disorders as a "mental illness [that] can be isolating," Lovato praised the Depression and Bipolar Disorder Alliance for helping her through her own struggles before going on her tweeting spree.

"Having an eating disorder doesn't show 'strength.' Strength is when you are able to overcome your demons after being sick and tired for so long," Lovato wrote. "There's a wide misconception that anorexia and/or bulimia is a choice and you often hear people say things like 'why doesn't she just start eating?' Or even 'just stop throwing up.'"

"It's the ignorance and lack of education on mental illnesses that continues to [put] mental health care on the back burner to Congress even though this is an epidemic that is sweeping our nation, and causing more and more tragedy every day," she continued.

In January 2011, Lovato entered rehab to deal with her ongoing depression that led to bulimia, and abusing drugs and alcohol. During treatment, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has remained strongly committed to her recovery ever since, even to the point of deciding to live in a sober house for a year.

Of course, Lovato is no stranger to using Twitter to speak out against addiction. Earlier this year, she railed against how Hollywood portrayed drug and alcohol abuse in the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman's overdose death. She later scorned Lady Gaga for "glamorizing" eating disorders after the pop queen allowed performance artist Millie Brown to vomit on her during a performance at SXSW.

Lovato's latest Twitter spree wasn't directed at anyone in particular, but was not any less passionate. "Eating disorders do not discriminate. Neither does any other mental illness," she wrote. "These are deadly diseases that are taking lives daily...It's time we start taking mental illness as serious as physical illnesses."

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By Shawn Dwyer

legalize it

11/18/14 1:00pm

California's Top Cop Says Weed Legalization 'Inevitable'


Wiki Commons

California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a recent interview that she was unopposed to the legalization of marijuana and felt that it would become an "inevitable" reality in the Golden State.

Last Wednesday, Harris attended an event at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., where she was interviewed about her position on legalization by BuzzFeed News.

“I am not opposed to the legalization of marijuana...[though] I have to look at it from a law enforcement perspective and a public safety perspective,” she said. “I think we are fortunate to have Colorado and Washington be in front of us on this and figuring out the details of what it looks like when it’s legalized.”

While California was among the first states to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, efforts to make recreational weed legal was stalled after a ballot measure failed to pass in 2012. But public attitudes have shifted considerably in the state and around the nation, with legalization efforts seeing substantial gains this past election in Alaska, Oregon, and D.C.

With polls showing strong support for legalization in California, it looks as though it could pass in 2016. Though Harris believes "there’s a certain inevitability about it,” she has remained skeptical about how to approach legalization.

“We have seen in the history of this issue for California and other states, if we don’t figure out the details for how it’s going to be legalized the Feds are [going to] come in, and I don’t think that’s in anyone’s best interest,” Harris said.

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By Shawn Dwyer


11/18/14 10:30am

Matt Lauer Grills One Direction About Drug Use on 'TODAY'


Photo via

Matt Lauer has sparked the fury of One Direction’s teenage fans after his pointed question about the drug use of band member Zayn Malik during a recent interview on TODAY.

One Direction was at Universal in Orlando, Fla., to promote their new album, but were missing Malik. Liam Payne explained that Malik had a “tummy bug” and couldn’t make the trip, but Lauer raised eyebrows by insinuating that Malik is an addict.

“Liam, there’s obviously a lot of concern. A lot of fans have been tweeting overnight. There’s been a lot of action on social media about him,” said Lauer. “Is it something more serious than just a minor illness? There have been rumors of substance abuse, what’s going on?”

Payne refused to take the bait and insisted Malik had a stomach bug. Those in the audience also began loudly booing Lauer and One Direction fans later took to Twitter to slam his line of questioning. “Leave it to Matt Lauer to spice up a One Direction album launch interview with inappropriate, rude leading questions,” wrote one fan.

Malik later spoke out against and denied any form of drug use. “I’m really angry and upset by what was said,” he told the Daily Sun. “I was really ill at the weekend. That’s why I couldn’t fly to America. “ A spokesman for One Direction said that Malik “will join the band for promotion for the new album as soon as he can.”

While it doesn’t appear that Malik has a drug problem, Lauer’s question wasn’t totally unwarranted. He and band member Louis Tomlinson were videotaped smoking what appeared to be marijuana while visiting Peru last May. However, marijuana is legal in Peru as long as it’s for personal use and the person is carrying less than eight grams.

Tomlinson declared that he wanted to “light up” as the car left a parking lot and a rolled cigarette appears to be lit shortly after. He then joked about a nearby police car escorting their van, declaring “One nil bitch! Look at this bitch! He's having a look. He's thinking, 'I'm sure I can smell an illegal substance in there.' And he's hit the nail on the head."

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By McCarton Ackerman

harm reduction?

11/18/14 8:30am

Magazine For Drug Addicts To Make Money For Drug Use


Front cover of Illegal! Photo via

A group of Danish drug-reform campaigners have published a magazine whose primary goal is to help addicts in London fund their drug habit legally.

The quarterly magazine, called Illegal!, was initially launched in Denmark in September 2013. The initial publication was in Danish and has enjoyed a circulation of about 15,000 copies, but an initial 2,000 copies of the English language-version are being sold on London streets.

As a means of helping down-and-out drug users obtain money without resorting to theft or prostitution, they are given the magazine for free and then sell it for about $5.50 per copy. However, those who buy the magazine are advised the seller is “more than likely” to spend the money on drugs.

“Everyone has a right to do with their body as they wish and, if that means a two-day acid trip in Camden or an ecstasy-fuelled night in Shoreditch, then so be it,” read the magazine’s foreword. "What we lack is education. Welcome to Illegal! magazine in London.” The first issue focuses on “safer and more enjoyable drug use” and was written with the help of the Global Drug Survey.

Editor-in-Chief Michael Lodberg Olsen said if the initial test run is a success, then drug users would pay about $2.25 per issue to help cover the costs of the magazine. Although the magazine doesn’t skimp on substance or content, his primary goal with Illegal! was to help spark a conversation about drug use.

“We can’t just ignore that drugs are everywhere and there are heavy drug users on the streets who often fund their habit through theft or prostitution. This offers them an alternative. It is about breaking the cycle between drug use and crime,” he said. “We don’t think the magazine breaks any laws. We have told people that, if someone is unhappy about the magazine being sold near a particular place, then they should move on.”

Denmark has always been on the more progressive side when it comes to addressing drug use. Danish Parliament passed legislation in June 2012 that would allow for “fix rooms,” or drug consumption centers where users are supervised when using. A second DCR was opened that August both centers now host 1,800 users who smoke and inject heroin and cocaine.

But that isn’t to say that drug use at DCR’s is necessarily safer. Although no deaths have taken place in the two Copenhagen fix rooms, 135 people overdosed on site in the first year.

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By McCarton Ackerman


11/18/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Nov. 18, 2014


C'mon, man! Photo via

By Shawn Dwyer


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