Global Commission on Drug Policy: Legalization, decriminalization, and the war on drugs

A commission made up of some big names, though not really any names of addiction or drug researchers I noticed, just released a report that’s making a lot of noise throughout every news channel including NPR (see here, and here for stories) and others (see CNN). They want the debate about the current state of drug regulation expanded, and since I’ve written on the issue before, I figured it’s time for another stab at this. Continue reading “Global Commission on Drug Policy: Legalization, decriminalization, and the war on drugs”

Convincing yourself to quit smoking – The influence of personal beliefs on smoking

no-smoking1A study published in Addictive Behaviors showed that thinking actively about quitting smoking cigarettes allows people to smoke less!!!

In the experiment, participants from one group of smokers were asked to think about reasons to quit smoking and write them down on a piece of paper. Participants from a second group of smokers were asked to read pre-written anti-smoking arguments.

Both groups of participants were then asked to wait up to 30 minutes while the experimenter prepared a task unrelated to the actual experiment. Individuals who generated their own arguments against smoking abstained from smoking cigarettes longer than those who read pre-written anti-smoking arguments.

The results of this experiment suggest that self-generated information has a greater influence on smoking behavior (at least in the short-term) than information that is simply read.

Many anti-smoking campaigns try to “educate” people out of smoking cigarettes. They provide a great deal of information on the potential health hazards of smoking and try to convince smokers to quit. This approach can be dangerous as smokers might feel as though they are being attacked and react defensively. The truth is, many smokers already understand the consequences of tobacco use. If anti-smoking campaigns could find a way to develop personal beliefs against smoking, smokers might have an easier time not lighting up.

Citation:

Müller, B., van Baaren, R.B., Ritter, S.M. (2009) Tell me why…the influence of self-involvement on short term smoking behavior, Addictive Behaviors, 34(5)

About Addiction: Bath Salts, DUI’s and Anxiety Addiction

Do you care about addiction? Of course you do, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now. Well, you’ve come to the right place A3 will try to address all your questions, but for now, you’ve stumbled onto our weekly links post full of information about addiction from around the world wide web. So enjoy!

Drugs: Bath salts, menthol cigarettes, and Charlie Sheen

PhoenixHouseOC-Geoff Henderson, the senior director for Phoenix House, the country’s largest nonprofit provider of substance use disorder and behavioral health treatment services recently attended the hearing in Los Angeles to ban bath salts. He gave his interpretation on the bath salts issue, emphasizing that in our world today we have an increasing amount of access to a variety of substances and that new things are continuously emerging that individuals might try. For more of Henderson’s thoughts check out his blog.

Star-Telegram– A study has been conducted which found that adding menthol to cigarettes may increase the likelihood of addiction. Menthol cigarettes are considered to be so dangerous because they have a cooling and anesthetic effect which may get more adolescents to smoke. There is a debate to see if menthol cigarettes should be banned. Right now they make up 30 percent of the cigarette market and are favored by 80 percent of African American smokers.

Psychology Today– Charlie Sheen is the latest celebrity that is dealing with drug addiction. He has previously mentioned that he did not want to go to rehab because he thought that he could clean himself up and expressed his disdain for everything 12-steps. A lot of people thought that this was ridiculous but here is an article in which Dr. Stanton Peele agrees with Charlie. Dr. Peele believes that a person can be fixed if they are being forced to do so and that I why he agrees with Charlie Sheen that only he can overcome his addiction on his own. Read this article to get a different opinion on addiction treatment.  You can check out this article for Dr. Jaffe’s take on the same issue.

Alcohol-The youth and DUI’s

Medical News Today– A new study by (SAMHSA) found that 5.9 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 14 drank alcohol and about 317,000 of them received this alcohol from their parents or got it at home. This can dangerous because being exposed to alcohol at an early age can expose at-risk children to an increased risk of alcohol abuse and addiction later on in their lives. Parents should be educated about such risk factors and about limiting access and increasing education for at risk youth.

Contra Coast Times– A man who was arrested for driving under the influence was found guilty of a DUI after showing up to his pretrial hearing drunk. The man ran his vehicle off the road into a barbed wire fence back in 2010. At the time of the arrest his blood alcohol level was more than four times the legal limit.

The Daily Beast– Can there be such a thing as anxiety addiction? Some individuals think so. A study was conducted that found that during demanding and stressful circumstances our bodies cultivate and thrive on anxiety. The study found that during a stressful circumstance is was possible that some individuals use anxiety to boost cognitive performance while others are comforted by anxiety.  Whether this should be called addiction, I’m not sure, but the idea of anxiety as rewarding is interesting.

 

The genetics of quitting smoking- Bupropion and nicotine metabolism

If you’ve been reading A3 for a while, you know that we’re big supporters of scientific progress in addiction treatment. While it may be true that addicts need to want recovery in order to truly turn their lives around, the choice is hardly ever that simple and if we can tip the balance in the favor of treatment, or a better way of life, I say let’s go for it. When it comes to genetics and addiction, I’ve normally talked only about the fact that a person’s genetic code may predispose them to addiction or to other related conditions (like depression, anxiety, and so on). Aside from a single mention of pharmacogenomics, I don’t think I’ve spoke much about the way genetics can help us tailor addiction treatment to individual needs. We’re about to fix that.

Replacement therapies and quitting smoking

You’ve heard of nicotine patches and gums, right? In the research community, those are all known as Nicotine Replacement (NR) therapy and they’ve proven to be some of the most helpful tools for those who are quitting smoking. By allowing smokers to still get the nicotine their body craves (even though there are thousands of other chemicals in cigarettes that likely make them even more satisfying) without having to light up, these NR methods let cigarette addicts get their NIC fix while slowly lowering their dose and getting away from the habit of putting a cigarette in their mouth. Like methadone, buprenorphine, and other replacement therapies, the idea is to move addicts one step away from the actual addictive behavior and allowing them to begin adopting a healthier way of living. Replacement therapies are very successful, even if some people hate the idea of giving drugs to drug addicts, and nicotine replacement works well by itself for some people (though only about 20%).

But when it comes to nicotine, like with many other drugs, different people metabolize the stuff at different rates. The individual variability in the internal processing of nicotine greatly affects how many cigarettes individuals smoke and also the probability that they will become addicted to tobacco (people who metabolize nicotine more quickly smoke more and are more likely to become addicted to smoking). Fast metabolizers are also half as likely to be able to use nicotine replacement alone to quit smoking (1). However, when you put all of the addiction research together, it becomes pretty obvious that the same variability in nicotine metabolism can also help us determine the best course of treatment for tobacco addiction.

Metabolism, treatment, and the best way to quit smoking

Bupropion helps fast metabolizers increase their quitting chancesFortunately for smokers, the only research finding in this area hasn’t been that slow metabolizes have a much better chance of quitting smoking with nicotine replacement therapy. The same group of addiction researchers (led by Caryn Lerman of University of Pennsylvania), also found that buporopion, the smoking cessation medication everyone knows as Zyban (and the antidepressant called Wellbutrin), could help those fast metabolizers catch up with the slow metabolizers when it came to quitting (see the figure on the left taken from the actual study – you see that the dark bars, who are the bupropion patients, do as well as the white bars regardless of their metabolism rate, which is on the bottom). The researchers found that while slow matabolizers of nicotine did much better with simple smoking cessation therapy and fast metabolizers did very poorly (30% versus 10% quit respectively in each of the groups), adding bupropion made all groups look essentially the same (2). The moral? While those slow metabolizers don’t really get much of a benefit from using bupropion since they do pretty well with talk therapy or nicotine replacement alone, the fast metabolizers really need it to even their chances of quitting – and once they get bupropion, they do pretty well!

Genetics and addiction treatment – is this just the beginning?

Hopefully you’re now convinced that genetics can really help us determine what treatment course will best suit a specific person over another. There’s little question that this sort of approach is in its infancy, and you certainly can’t go to a doctor right now and get your metabolism rate for a drug analyzed (unless you’re part of a research study), but this sort of work shows great promise in improving the outcomes of addiction treatment. When you look back at that original paragraph, and the quite common thinking that addicts need to WANT to be better – I would argue that those fast metabolizers probably wanted to quit smoking as much as anyone else in the study, and their physical makeup just made it that much more difficult for them. I think that if you look at the science of addiction closely, you’ll find that this supposed lack-of-motivation is sometimes more of a myth than a reality. Many addicts want to get better, they want to stop behaving in ways that specifically mess up their lives but they just find it incredibly difficult. My hope is that this is where science can truly make a difference, by making it just a little bit easier…

Hopefully one day we’ll be able to specifically adjust addiction treatment programs according to individual patients’ needs, including the use of medications, specific behavioral treatments, and more.

Citations:

1) Robert A. Schnoll, Freda Patterson, E. Paul Wileyto, Rachel F. Tyndale, Neal Benowitz, & Caryn Lerman. Nicotine metabolic rate predicts successful smoking cessation with transdermal nicotine: A validation study (2009).

2) F Patterson, RA Schnoll, EP Wileyto, A Pinto, LH Epstein, PG Shields, LW Hawk, RF Tyndale, N Benowitz & C Lerman1. Toward Personalized Therapy for Smoking Cessation: A Randomized Placebo-controlled Trial of Bupropion (2008).

About Addiction: Drug use and crime, increasing marijuana use, cravings and brain function

Check out the newest links about addiction. Leave us your feedback!

Drug use & Crime

Huffington Post: Over 5,000 lives were taken in drug related crimes in Mexico in the past year. Drug trade related violence is linked directly to the rising levels of drug use worldwide.

Marijuana use

Bloomberg Businessweek: For the first time since 2002, the number of Americans smoking marijuana rose . Around 12.5% (39 million people) between the ages of 15 and 64, smoked marijuana in 2008, up from 12.3 percent the year before. Medical Marijuana anyone?

Drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes

Science Daily: Drunkenness increases the risk for violent behavior, but only for individuals with a strong inclination to suppress anger. Seems similar to my thesis findings.

Health Day: American teenage girls seem more receptive to drinking alcohol and taking other drugs than in earlier years. Teenage girls reach more than ever for drugs and booze to help them emotionally.

Health Day: There seems to be a connection between parents who smoke and children who weigh more or misbehave more than other children. This speaks to the environmental, as well as genetic, influences on behavior and health.

Cesar Fax: The percentage of high school students who for the first time tried alcohol or cigarettes before the age of 13 has decreased over the last ten years. In 1999, around one-third of high school students had reported drinking alcohol and one-fourth reported smoking a cigarette for the first time before age 13.

Health Day: Smoking may cause certain genetic mutations in older women, and therefore boost the risk of colon cancer in that population. In the general population, there is not much of connection between smoking and a higher risk of colorectal cancer.

Cravings and Brain function in addiction

Science Daily: Recovering addicts who avoid coping with stress succumb easily to substance use cravings, making them more likely to relapse during recovery.

Science Daily: Becoming addicted could result from a persistent impairment of synaptic plasticity in the brain. There exists a correlation between synaptic plasticity and the transition to addiction.

About Addiction: Smoking, Alcohol, Painkillers, Prescriptions

This are new, interesting articles about addiction. Check out the links to the articles, and give us your feedback.

Smoking and related issues

Health Day: Smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a disease that robs people of their sight.

Reuters: When cigarette smokers quit smoking, chronic stress levels may go down. This should give smokers reassurance that quitting will not deprive them of a valuable stress reliever.

Reuters: A nicotine mouth spray may help prevent cigarette cravings three times faster than nicotine lozenges or chewing gum. This might help smokers who are trying to quit smoking.

Cesar Fax: The percentage of national tobacco retailers selling to minors appears to have leveled off. The average national retailer violation rate decreased from 40.1% to 10.8%, and stabilized at 10.8%.

wcstv: Under a proposed deal reached by Governor David Paterson and Albany legislators, cigarette taxes would increase by $1.60 per pack. In New York City, the price of one pack of cigarettes would cost over $10 in many stores. The hope is that this huge price increase will help smokers quit smoking and reduce overall levels of smoking in New York.

About addiction to alcohol, painkillers, and prescription medication

Hazelden: Abuse of alcohol, painkillers, and prescription medication is rising dramatically among older people. Signs of alcohol abuse and drug addiction are different in older adults than in younger people.

Science Daily: Religiosity can moderate genetic effects on alcohol abuse during adolescence but not during early adulthood. The heritability of an alcohol abuse phenotype depends upon the social environment within which it is measured.

Medical News TODAY: Sleep problems can predict the onset of alcohol abuse in healthy adults and relapse in abstinent alcoholics. Puberty is related to sleep problems and later bedtimes, which are associated with alcohol abuse.

Health Day: Exercise may be an effective treatment option for alcoholism. In addition, alcoholism disrupts normal daily circadian rhythms, which can lead to disrupted sleep patterns.

About addiction and mental illness

KansasCity.com:  To study drug addiction and mental illness researchers, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, have received a $1.8 million federal grant. One of the leading researchers states that conditions such as drug addiction and depression are major problems across the globe.

About Addiction: Smoking, drinking and Heroin

Some great, informative articles about addiction, alcohol and smoking, as well as some about Heroin.  We also have some new sites with links listed here so give us your feedback on what you like!

Alcohol

Caron Chit Chat: According to a world renowned addiction treatment center, the female problem drinker in Dallas is most likely between the ages of 25-39, single, prefers wine and beer to hard liquor, drinks more with her girlfriends than on a date or with work colleagues and may not sleep well.

PhysOrg.com: Binge drinking can cause long lasting damage to an important area in the brains of adolescent monkeys, suggesting that binge drinking could have serious effects on memory formation in adolescents.

HealthDay: One in five college students admitted to drunk driving. Additionally, more than 40% of twenty year old adolescents rode in a car with an intoxicated driver.

Medical News Today: Young people in the two years after high school who are in romantic relationships are less likely than their peers to report heavy drinking and marijuana use. Marriage lowers the odds that people will get drunk frequently or smoke pot.

HealthDay: As teens become adults, their tendency toward impulsive behaviors decreases as well as the amount of alcohol they consume. Teenagers tend to mature as they get older as well as drink less alcohol.

SAMHSA: Around 508,000 adolescents aged 12-17 in the United States drink alcohol; 641,000 use illicit drugs; and more than 1 million smoke cigarettes on any average day. This data was conducted in a national survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Heroin

The Sydney Morning Herald: Heroin users regularly land in hospitals, and heroin use is often fatal. This study traced all hospital admissions of a group of heroin users over 10 years, to mid 2004.

REUTERS: According to the National Institute on  Drug Abuse, around 3.7 million people in the US have used heroin sometime in their lives. Prescription heroin may help addicts to stay off street drugs.

Smoking

PhysOrg.com: Increasing cigarette taxes could be an effective way to reduce smoking among alcohol or drug abusers or people with mental disorders. A ten percent increase in cigarette pricing resulted in an eighteen percent decline in smoking among alcohol or drug abusers or individuals with mental disorder.

REUTERS: Tobacco companies and retailers say in a lawsuit that anti-smoking signs in New York City showing a decaying tooth, diseased lungs and a damaged brain violate cigarette vendors’ free speech and should be removed.