About Addiction: Smoking, Drugs, Drinking and Cancer

New links for interesting articles about addiction. Check them out!

Tobacco, nicotine, and Smoking

Medical News Today: According to a recent study in China there is a new effective strategy for treating tobacco addiction.  Researchers have developed a novel tea filter that seems to help with cigarette addiction. (Note: this link doesn’t give direct access to the article so we’re basing the summary on the article itself)

SAMHSA: According to a new nationwide study, adolescent smoking may be influenced by mothers’ smoking or depression. The study states that adolescents living with mothers who smoke are 25.6% more likely to smoke. It’s frightening to think that 1.4 million 11-17 year old kids started smoking in the past 12 months!

Science Daily: Exposure to prenatal smoking may lead to psychiatric problems. According to new research, exposure to prenatal smoking can increase the need for psychotropic medications in childhood and young adulthood.

Hard drugs

Science Daily:  A newly developed and tested modified enzyme has been shown to break down cocaine into inactive products nearly 1000 times faster than the human body. The article states further that cocaine toxicity due to drug overdose results in more than half a million emergency room visits annually. This new enzyme could help prevent OD deaths by breaking down the drug.

Fox News: The number of soldiers seeking opiate abuse treatment has been increasing, going up from 89 in 2004 to 529 last year.

Addiction Inbox: A study that uses the Stroop test (have to name the colors of words and not the words themselves) seems to be a good predictor for addiction treatment effectiveness and drop out rates. Pretty cool stuff!

Alcohol

Join Together: This is a short article summarizing research which shows that rare childhood leukemia is tied to drinking during pregnancy. According to this research, children whose mothers are drinking during pregnancy are 56 percent more likely to develop a rear form of leukemia called AML.

Addiction Tomorrow: Britain is considering raising the prices of their very low-end alcohols most likely in an attempt to damper the young adults that binge drink and of alcoholics since they are most often the ones that drink the low-end alcohol.

College students and binge drinking

Contributing co-author: Andrew Chen

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as any pattern of alcohol consumption that brings an individual’s BAC (blood alcohol content) above .08 (the legal limit in most states). This equates to approximately 4-5 drinks for a man or 3-4 drinks for a woman within a 2 hour period.

In case some of you forgot, one drink is approximately a 1.5 oz shot OR 5 oz. of wine OR 12 oz. of beer.

College binge drinking norms

College students are one population in which binge drinking is prevalent. Prior to 18 years of age, students who end up not attending any college are most at risk for binge drinking. However, after 18 (the age when most people graduate from high school), students who attend a 4 year university become the population most at risk to binge.

So what is it about going to college that makes people want to drink more?

One important factor to consider is the way we portray college in the media. Television shows and movies often show binge drinking as the “normal” way college students consume alcohol (think beer bongs). This gives students unrealistic ideas of how much the average college students drinks. In fact, when asked how much most students drink in a typical drinking situation, students consistently overestimate how much their peers drink. This false norm creates an atmosphere where people are pressured to drink more than they normally would on their own.

The long-term consequences of binge drinking

Aside from the obvious impact of heavy drinking on health, binge drinking can lead to other very unpleasant outcomes. Among college students, students that drink heavily report higher incidences of regretted sex, sexual assault, riding with a drunk driver, loss of consciousness, and going to class hungover compared to those that drink moderately.

What can parents do?

Research has shown that parents continue to influence the choices their children make long after they leave for college. Parents can decrease the chances that their children will develop problematic drinking behaviors by doing two things: monitoring and modeling. Monitoring consists of asking a child where they are, what they are doing, and who they are interacting with. Modeling consists of setting a good example, communicating expectations, and transmitting values.

By remaining involved in their child’s life, parents may also indirectly influence who their child becomes friends with, which in turn influences their drinking behavior.

Citation:

Timberlake et. al (2007) Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research

Abar. C, Turrisi, R. (2008) How important are parents during the college years? A longitudinal perspective of indirect influences parents yield on their college teens’ alcohol use

About Addiction- marijuana, tanning, tobacco and more

We have some great new weekly links for you to enjoy and learn from this week.  And as always please give us feedback if there are topics you would like to see more/less of in our weekly links and articles so we can best help you.

CNBC: This article talks about the legalization of marijuana. It talks about a poll that found support for legalization to be as high as 56% of those polled.

Center for substance abuse research: College students celebrating their 21st birthday drink more than anticipated. They drink an average of 12 drinks though researchers had predicted about 7 .

AOL StyleList: This article describes a new study that states that tanning is as addictive as drug abuse. The research was conducted using a questionnaires given to 421 students.

And students who tan may be different than others in other ways as well, according to the new study (reported on in Business Week as well), which found that students who tan drink more alcohol and smoke more pot. 42% of tanning addicts reported to use more than one drug in the previous month.

New England Journal of Medicine: This article talks about tobacco product regulation. According to the article, tobacco use causes 400,000 deaths annually in the United States. It talks about the by Obama signed Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

CNN: This article talks about a Nicotine vaccine that is promising. Researchers announced a vaccine that would help smokers stop smoking at a national meeting this week.

Psychology Today: This article states that when someone deals with mental illness and drug abuse his or her treatment is complicated and more difficult. The article states several reasons why it is more difficult to treat mental illness and drug abuse when they are co-morbid.

Smoking cigarettes just makes it better… The enhancement effect of nicotine

A recent study by a Kansas state researcher (find it here) reports that part of the power of nicotine may be in its enhancement of other experiences that go hand in hand with it.

While the online source I included suggests that nicotine’s effect may be only in this indirect enhancement, my reading of the article proved that in fact, at high doses, nicotine alone provided the same effects all by itself.

Nicotine as an enhancer

My dissertation is actually going to be based on a nicotine experiment, so this is a topic I know quite a bit about now. As this recent study reports, it seems that animals are rarely willing to work for nicotine alone, something I found surprising at first. I mean, given how many people are addicted to cigarettes, I thought this stuff would be an easy sell. Instead, it’s taken quite a bit of work to figure out how exactly to make nicotine rewarding enough without making its effects almost too much to bare initially. As someone who used to smoke and remembers the nausea I felt the first time I tried, I understand.

Even still, I’ve had to play around quite a bit to make my my nicotine worthy of lever presses and nose-pokes. I now firmly believe that nicotine addiction has quite a bit to do with the context, behaviors, and other factors associated with smoking.

Is nicotine different from alcohol, meth, and cocaine?

So, much like the previous post I put up regarding the finding that drinking enhances people’s enjoyment when they smoke, it seems that not-surprisingly, the same thing happens the other way around – Smoking makes drinking better.

In truth, this isn’t all that surprising, there has been a lot of research showing that many drugs make the animals in research do more of other things they like. This has been shown for crystal meth, cocaine, and a number of other stimulants, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same is true for other drugs. The thing that makes nicotine a little different is that it is almost never rewarding all by itself. Well, at least in the lab…

Citation:

Nadia Chaudhri, Anthony R. Caggiula, Eric C. Donny, Sheri Booth, Maysa Gharib,Laure Craven, Matthew I. Palmatier, Xiu Liu & Alan F. Sved (2007) Self-administered and noncontingent nicotine enhance reinforced operant responding in rats: impact of nicotine dose and reinforcement schedule.Psychopharmacology, 190, pg. 353–362

Maybe its not all about friends: Parents, race, alcohol, and drug abuse

contributing author: Gacia Tachejian

Have you ever asked yourself where it is that kids learn about drug use? Parents have long been known to protect their young ones from “bad” influences from outside, but a recent study at Yale shows that a major source influence still exists within the home.

Interestingly, the researchers, headed by Dr. William R. Corbin, found that family drinking patterns affected kids of different ethnicities differently. The researchers collected web questionnaires from over 2000 young adults to assess the influence of family drinking, social-group drinking, and thoughts about drinking on the actual behavior of entering freshmen.

Friend Vs family – Racial differences

Keg PartyAs usual, peer influence was found to be the strongest predictor of the participants’ actual drinking (in terms of average drinks per day, and frequency of drinking), accounting for almost half of the overall drinking behavior. However, the peer influence was much stronger for White participants than for Latino ones. On the other hand, family drinking habits were twice as important in affecting Latino kids’ drinking as White kids’ behavior.

The difference in the source of the influence helps explain the gender gap in drinking that exists among Latinos. While White men and women seem to drink about equally, among Latinos, drinking is much more common in men than in women. Young Latina women probably learn early on that drinking is much more acceptable among men and that they are expected to drink less. This is not to undermine the importance of social-group drinking among the Latino participants here, which still accounted for the lion’s share of the alcohol consumption, even in this group.

How does this help us?

The important issue here is in determining which interventions might be most effective in reducing drinking. Obviously, family-based interventions would be less likely to help among the White kids in this sample, though they most likely would reduce drinking among Latino kids.

Overall, the results seem to suggest that one of the major sources of influence on drinking behavior, and most likely drug-using behavior, is still found within the home. This is especially true when considering the larger picture, given that even a child’s peers are influenced by their own parents…

One is too many, a thousand not enough: Does a slip or relapse mean the end?

Breaking news: When alcoholics who have gone through treatment have a drink after a certain length of sobriety, most don’t go off the deep end.

Slip scares and abstinence relapse

RelapsingThe old AA adage: “One drink is too many, and a thousand not enough,” refers to the fact that alcoholics who are sober are assumed to return to their evil ways after even a small slip (known as a relapse). This notion is meant to warn AA members to resist temptation lest they find themselves right back where they started. Or worse.

Most research into sobriety considers a person a success only if they remain sober throughout the study period. The followup periods last anywhere between 6 months to a year (or sometimes more). Have a drink, and you’ve lost. Game over. No one’s ever really looked at what people who have relapsed actually do after the relapse. Which is why the recent findings reported in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors are so intriguing.

Recent relapse research findings

When looking at the behavior of 563 participants, the researchers found that 30% stayed sober for the entire 12 month follow-up period. This leaves a whopping 70% who had at least a drink in the year following treatment. However, the vast majority of those who drank in the first year after treatment (82%) developed moderate, infrequent, drinking habits. In fact, only about 6% started drinking heavily and frequently after their relapse. Even of those who drank, as many as 25% were completely dry for at least an entire month after their relapse.

The bottom line on relapse?

These findings suggest that at least for a year after becoming sober, a relapse is not necessarily the detrimental, destructive, event it has always been feared to be. It is surely possible that these drinking habits change, but according to these findings, if drinking frequency goes anywhere after the initial relapse, it’s down, not up.

I’m not trying to make light of relapse here, and I’m certainly not saying that relapsing is a positive thing. Nevertheless, given the fact that relapse is almost always a part of the recovery process, I’m suggesting that having a relapse shouldn’t scare everyone involved. It doesn’t seem to in any way suggest a necessary demise.

Citation:

Witkiewitz, K. & Masyn, K. E. (2008). Drinking trajectories following an initial lapse. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 22, 157-167.

Latest drug addiction research from CPDD: Drug use patterns among adults

I’m currently attending the annual meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) in Reno, NV.

Since there’s so much drug addiction research being presented here, I figured I would post a daily update with some of the things I found most interesting. There’s absolutely no way for me to see all the presentations I’m interested in, so what I get to see is what you get to hear about.

One of the interesting presentations today had to do with a broad study of drug use patterns among adults who are not drug addicts. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama (who ran the CARDIA study), looked at the drug use patterns of adults enrolled in a Coronary Artery Risk study over many years. It’s important to note that drug use in this case does not include smoking, drinking alcohol, or marijuana use. The researchers also didn’t distinguish between use of different drugs for the purpose of this study.

The researchers found 4 common drug use patterns:

  1. No current use – Over 80% of the participants reported no use within a month of any of the follow-up dates. More than half of those people said they’d used at least one drug at some point in their life, but their use was not common enough to ever fall within a month of their check-ups.
  2. Early use, low frequency – About 12% of people used drugs with some frequency at an early age but then reduced their use throughout the follow-up period.
  3. Persistent use, low – These users continued to use drugs throughout the study period, but their use did not escalate.
  4. Early, persistent, use – These users started early, used a lot, and though their use tapered off, it remained higher than any other group throughout the study.

I personally think that these findings are encouraging. They show that at least within this population, only a small proportion of individuals engage in what we would consider chronic, dangerous, drug use.

I reported similar findings regarding relapse in alcoholics in another post a while back (see here), and I’m glad that statistical techniques are being used to uncover larger patterns of drug use and abuse in a more general population.

More addiction research to come. There’s almost too much to report!