A word about animal research and animal rights

Animal research is a controversial topic in some circles.

ucla-van-on-fireAs some of you may know already, a UCLA group has recently banded together to counter-protest the fear-mongering tactics used by animal rights activists. Before UCLA Pro-Test became a reality, researchers on campus would hide away when on campus demonstration came our way. No more.

Dr. David Jentsch, who was one of my UCLA advisors, had his car burned and his work, and life, threatened by one of the more extreme, terrorist, animal-rights groups. I’m all for debate, but blowing up cars makes you lose your place at the table as far as I’m concerned.

So what are the animal-rights arguments?

Animal rights groups claim that animal research is simply sadistic and that it does not benefit us at all.

The notion that animal researchers enjoy hurting animals is so wrong as to be insulting. I’ve conducted animal research myself and know dozens of others who have. Not one of us enjoys hurting animals and we do our best to conduct everything in ways that minimize any discomfort to the animals. Additionally, government regulations regarding animal welfare in research are very strict and highly regulated. Research involving animals is always done while considering its necessity and weighing alternative options (like using cells, tissue, computer models, etc.).

The thought that animal research doesn’t benefit us is naive at best, but more likely purposefully misleading. Here’s a small, partial, list of advances that were made possible through animal research:

  1. Penicillin (mice)
  2. Insulin (dogs, mice, rabbits)
  3. Anesthetics (rats, rabbits, dogs)
  4. Polio Vaccine (mice, monkeys)
  5. Heart transplants (dogs)
  6. Meningitis Vaccine (mice)
  7. Cervical Cancer Vaccine (rabbits, cancer)
  8. Gene therapy for Muscular Dystrophy and Cystic Fibrosis (mice).
  9. Techniques such as bypass surgery, joint replacement, carcinogen screening & blood transfusions have all been developed & improved using animals

Now if anyone wants to claim that none of the above have significantly improved, or indeed saved, human lives, I’m ready for the debate.

about addiction: smoking, depression, students and treatment

We are back with some great articles that may be of interest to you, so check them out!  There should be new weekly links published every Monday so you are bound to find some relevant articles

From Stop Medicine Abuse:  This article talks about the youth who abuses cough medicine. It states that one in ten youths has intentionally abused cough medicines to get high.

Students and drug addiction

From Vancover Sun:  This article about mental health and addiction discusses the issue of the coexistence of mental health problems and drug addiction.

From Reuters: This text discusses the rising numbers of teen users of smokeless tobacco. According to the article, health experts rised concerns last Wednesday about the growing numbers of teen users.

From Health Day:  This is an article that talks about the link of smoking and depression. People of age twenty and older with depression are twice as likely to smoke than others.

Like advancements in medical care and science? Then support animal research

There was a Pro-Test for Science rally on the UCLA Campus today.  The goal of the rally was to spread awareness about the utility of animal-research and to help combat extremists and prove to the community and world that the ethical use of animals for biomedical research is absolutely vital to the progress and success of advancements in science.

Many of the treatments that we discuss on this site are available because of extensive research with animals. In fact, many scientific discoveries have been possible largely because animal research is an available tool for researchers. Immunizations, medical treatments for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes treatments have all been advanced greatly through the use of biomedical research with animals. Of course, great care is always taken to ensure humane treatment of the animals used.  Animals prove a vital part of advancements in medicine, genetics and other research.

Biomedical scientists endure many trials in order to become experts in the type of research techniques we’re talking about here, including extensive schooling, years of training and of course many thousands of hours spent in a lab, all for the benefit of humanity.  They should not have to additionally endure the harassment of extremists and fear for their safety and the safety of their loved ones who often are caught in the middle.

Debate is healthy; discussion is good. But the harassment and terrorizing of researchers must stop if we’re to consider ourselves an open, educated, society. All biomedical researchers want is to better society by finding cures for the many things that plague our world today, so what everyone should really be doing is thanking them.

Co-authored by Jamie Felzer

Weeding out your significant other? The effect of marijuana on relationships

contributing co-author: Gacia Tachejian

Michael Phelps smoking weed

Being young involves quite a bit of exciting change. There’s the end of high-school, the start of college and some measure of independence, and a whole slew of new experiences.

A recent study conducted by Judith Brooks at NYU School of Medicine has revealed that one of those experiences, smoking marijuana (weed) may be associated with more relationship conflict later in life. What’s amazing about this study is that the drug use here occurred earlier in life for most of the 534 participants, while the relationship trouble was assessed around their mid- to late-twenties.

Could other factors explain this finding?!

Now you may be thinking to yourself that there are a whole lot of other aspects of a person’s life that can affect their relationship quality and their probability of smoking weed in adolescence. You’d be right, but here’s what the researchers in this study ruled out as possible confounds (the scientific name for variables that obscure findings):

  • Relationship with parents
  • Aggressive tendencies
  • adjustment difficulty
  • gender
  • education

Even after controlling for all of these things, smoking marijuana as a teen still predicted having less harmonious relationships later on in life.

Limitations

All humor aside, this research is not saying that if you smoke weed you will definitely have a lower quality relationship later. What it does point out is that, on average, given a person with similar social skills, aggressive personality, and education, the one who smoked marijuana around their mid-teens is likely to have a less satisfying relationship.

UPDATE: Before you leave another angry comment about how wrong this article is to suggest that marijuana can cause any problems ever, please read my article on the difference between causality and association; this article is talking about an association, not causality.

Citation:

Brook, J. S., Pahl, K., and Cohen, P. (2008). Associations between marijuana use during emerging adulthood and aspects of significant other relationship in young adulthood. Journal of Child and Family Studies, Vol 17, pg. 1-12.

Creating a better system of addiction treatment: Matching rehabs to patients

I can’t hide it any longer, I just have to confess: I hate the way addiction treatment is managed nowadays. With over 25 million people meeting criteria for addictions in the U.S., only 10% are seeking treatment on a yearly basis. Sure, part of the problem is that others just don’t want it, at least yet, but there’s something else going on and it’s terrible.

The horrible pain of finding addiction treatment

If you, or someone you know, needs help for an addiction, your options aren’t just limited, they’re hard to find and are simply too stressful to deal with. Where do you even start? Most people wouldn’t dare go to their neighbors or family members with something like “Bobby is really struggling with his cocaine problem, do you have an idea of what we should do?” Instead, everyone is left fending for themselves, scared of going to doctors for fear of later insurance trouble, ashamed to admit their difficulties for fear of being stigmatized, and inundated with conflicting information about their chances for recovery if they do seek help.

So people go online, they seek out information, and they call provider after provider, often getting only partial semi-truths. At the end, most are left confused and the rest simply check in to the first place that will take them given their financial reality. Could you imagine if the same were true when someone broke their leg?

But isn’t addiction treatment really useless?

No, it’s not. Treatment works. It’s just that most people don’t get the treatment they need and end up paying the price (literally and figuratively). Well guess what, help is possible, it’s available, and it shouldn’t be this damn hard to find!

I think it’s about time we create a system that makes it easy for those suffering from addiction to find the right treatment for them. Not everyone needs treatment that costs $50,000 a month, and to be perfectly honest, that treatment is rarely better than much cheaper options. Still, no one would know that given bogus advertisements by rich addiction-industry-players that promise cures and fixes. The truth is that recovery is a difficult road and that different individuals may need different treatment.

Still, we know things that work: CBT works, motivational interviewing works, social-support, contingency-management, exercise, meditation, and specific medications work! So why is it that the addiction treatment industry still looks like something put together by a couple of addicts who suffer from too much self-focus and not enough organizational-capacity? Well, probably because that’s exactly our reality at the moment.

How can we make things better? Matching rehabs to patients

I say it’s time for a new age, especially given the passage of mental-health and addiction parity laws and the slow, but eventual inclusion of our most vulnerable citizens in the American health care system. As addiction-treatment becomes (finally) incorporated with medical care, the increased resources are going to mean an increased need for some standardization. It’s time for us to put people in treatment that works, that everyone can afford, and that is easy to find.

We’re currently testing a system that will use some basic, and some a bit more advanced, criteria to help direct addicts towards the right provider for them. Don’t have much money and working full-time? Then residential treatment should probably not be your first choice? Medicated for schizophrenia? You better stay away from providers that don’t offer serious mental health services (though they’ll sure take you if you walk through their doors)

We’re still figuring out the kinks, trying to improve the system even further than its current state, which I think is nothing short of magical. Eventually, I hope that it will be available for everyone, giving people real, reliable, objective access to addiction-treatment providers that do good work across the united States. It’s that easy to find a condo to buy, why shouldn’t it be that easy to find help?

Yes, I have almost 10 years of research experience into what works, but in truth, most of the issues here probably don’t require that at all. What’s needed is a little big-picture thinking and a little less fine-tooth combing. Hospitals can triage people based on a pretty quick, efficient, assessment. We can too.

Doctor prescription drug use: Addiction fears no one

The story published today by the Baltimore Sun (see here) is another sad reminder that no one is safe from addiction.

Two doctors of pharmacology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine were apparently developing quite a drug habit buying prescription drugs online and then cooking them and shooting them up. Now one of them is dead and the other is in jail looking at some serious time.

I’m not going to repeat the whole story here, but you should go read it.  Prescription drug use is a growing problem in the U.S., apparently, like other addictions, it doesn’t discriminate.