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Scooped by Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home
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Abusing Pot in Teenage Years May Damage Adult Memory

Abusing Pot in Teenage Years May Damage Adult Memory | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

A new study has found that teens who were heavy marijuana users have abnormal brain structure and perform poorly on memory tests."

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:



Rick Nauert reports on PsychCentral about a study by investigators from Northwestern University concerning  the adverse impact of teens' daily marijuana smoking on the shape and function of the hippocampus, a brain structure that plays a key role in the preservation of long-term memories.


The study was published in the journal Hippocampus and 97 subjects participated. Healthy control subjects were matched with individuals who had a marijuana use disorder, schizophrenic subjects with no history of a substance use disorder, and schizophrenic subjects with a marijuana use disorder. Subjects with marijuana use disorders started using the drug between the ages of 16 and 17 and used it daily for about three years. They did not abuse other drugs and, at  the time of the study, they  had been marijuana free for approximately two years. 


Structural MRIs of the participants' brains revealed that that subjects with a history of daily marijuana smoking had abnormally shaped hippocampi, despite the two years of abstinence from the drug. The longer these subjects had engaged in heavy use of marijuana,  the more abnormal the shape of their hippocampus, according to the researchers.  These subjects also  "performed about 18 percent worse on long-term memory tests than young adults who never abused cannabis".


Nauert correctly reports that, "In the U.S., marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug, and young adults have the highest — and growing — prevalence of use."

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ADHD Linked to Earlier Use of Illicit Drugs in Teens: Study - US News

ADHD Linked to Earlier Use of Illicit Drugs in Teens: Study - US News | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it
But one expert stressed that treatment for the disorder may curb those impulses
Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


A new study published  in the journal Addictive Behaviors and reported on health.usnews.com  indicates that  "among people who use illicit drugs " those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) start using them one to two years earlier in their youth than those without the disorder."  On average, subjects with ADHD began using alcohol at 13, about 1.5 years before those without the disorder.


The lead author of this study,  Eugene Dunne, a doctoral student in clinical and health psychology, emphasized that it could not prove cause and effect but that pattern was one that is commonly seen, "with alcohol being the first reported, followed very closely by cigarettes, then leading to marijuana and eventually more illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin."


The HealthDay article queried child psychiatrists and experts in developmental and behavioral pediatrics who suggested that because those with ADHD frequently  also suffer from anxiety symptoms as well, alcohol and other central nervous system depressants may be used to alleviate anxiety and temporarily elevate mood.   Others cautioned that children with ADHD are not destined to develop substance abuse disorders. Notably, this study did not gather information about what type of ADHD subjects had or whether they received effective treatment for the disorder. 


A 2008 study by Volkow and Swanson found no evidence that  childhood treatment with stimulant medication decreases the high risk of substance abuse among those with a diagnosis of ADHD. However, a more recent study in the British Journal of Psychiatry (July 11 2013) and reported on Medscape  found that "adolescents with ADHD who were not treated with a stimulant medication for their disorder had a 2-fold increased risk of developing an SUD compared with their counterparts who were treated."  In any case, the current study highlights the need, as its authors suggest, for  substance use prevention programs to begin at an earlier age among teens with ADHD. Volkow and Swanson made a similar recommendation for the development of integrated treatments that target both ADHD and substance abuse. In my experience, the anxiety that is  so often seen in conjunction with ADHD frequently stems from misconceptions among parents and teachers about the disorder.  For example, it is very difficult for parents and teachers to understand why students with ADHD can perform in an exemplary fashion at some tasks, under certain conditions, and then perform abysmally in others (where for example, sustained attention to a boring task might be required).  When parents and teachers default to the "lazy, bad, stupid" hypothesis to explain these discrepancies, this provokes anxiety and undermines self-esteem in children with ADHD.  So education about the neurology of ADHD and the relationship between ADHD and substance abuse is as  important for parents and teachers as it is for students--and, clearly, as early as possible. 

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PsychCentral: Teens with Head Trauma Far More Likely to Use Drugs, Alcohol

PsychCentral: Teens with Head Trauma Far More Likely to Use Drugs, Alcohol | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

"Teens who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are two to four times more likely to use drugs or alcohol, compared with teens with no history of TBI, according to new research published in The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation."

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


This article by Traci Pederson on PsychCentral notes that a TBI "is defined as any hit or blow to the head that results in being knocked out for at least five minutes or spending at least one night in the hospital due to head trauma symptoms".


It is not clear from these results  whether a TBI heightens the risk for head injury or vice versa, but the data indicates a  clear link between adolescent TBI and brain injury.  Moreover,  the authors of the study emphasize that  use of psychoactive substances may impair recovery from head trauma. They also want parents, professionals and patients, who may discount the seriousness of concussions, to take these injuries very seriously since "every concussion is a TBI" with potentially profound impacts on adolescent development.

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Can Brief Exposure to Oxycodone Cause Long-term Behavioral Changes?

Can Brief Exposure to Oxycodone  Cause Long-term Behavioral Changes? | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

New research using a rat model suggests even brief usage of the painkiller oxycodone may impair behavior in a person even after use of the medication ends.

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


PsychCentral reports on an animal study about the impact of brief exposure to oxycodone on behavioral flexibility.  The study was  performed by investigators from the  Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published in the journal Learning and Memory Behavioral flexibility refers to  the ability to adjust behavior  when environmental circumstances change and it is important to addiction researchers because habits cause harm when people repeat the same behaviors despite deteriorating circumstances.  It is well known that psychoactive substances cause changes in brain structure and function, including changes in the pre-frontal cortex which are associated with the capacity to to change behavior when confronted with new information. However, as the PsychCentral report notes,  "the effects of a typical dose of oxycodone, a commonly prescribed opiate pain medication with high abuse liability, had not been systematically explored."


Researchers led by  Matthew Shapiro, Ph.D. tested rats  on a variety of measures including the  initial learning of a maze discrimination task, a memory retention test,  either oxycodone or saline exposure for five days,  a post-drug reminder (memory) test and subsequent spatial memory, and motor habit tests. The drug-exposed rats were given relatively mild doses of oxycodone, "comparable to what is prescribed to alleviate post-surgical pain in humans". When the rats were re-tested in a drug-free state, chocolate sprinkles were  offered as a new reward for learning.  The investigators reported that "even relatively limited exposure to oxycodone can impair how ...brain circuits are able to guide behavior".  Even when they were drug-free, the oxycodone exposed rats  responded to experimental challenges in "rigid, maladaptive ways". The researchers concluded that the demonstrated impairments in decision-making "could be one reason why people continue to use or abuse the drugs, long after they are medically necessary.”  For reasons that are not yet clear, some of the drug-exposed rats were still able to perform normally after exposure to oxycodone.  


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Dorothy Retha Cook's curator insight, June 22, 2015 6:13 PM

THEY NEVER TELL YOU THAT!

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Medscape: Prescription Opioids Involved in Most Overdoses in the ED

Medscape: Prescription Opioids Involved in Most Overdoses in the ED | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it
Prescription opioids, including methadone, are involved in more than two thirds of opioid overdose cases seen in US emergency departments.
Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


Medscape reports that a research team led by MIchael A. Yokell, ScB, from Stanford University School of Medicine in California examined a national emergency department dataset and published a research letter online October 27 in JAMA Internal Medicine   stating that prescription opioids, including methadone, are involved in more than two thirds of opioid overdose cases seen in US emergency departments. The investigators found that  a high frequency of  comorbidities among overdose patients, including chronic mental disorders,  circulatory problems and respiratory  diseases, leading Yokell to advise clinicians to "exercise care when prescribing opioids to patients with these conditions." The team reported that "Co-intoxication with benzodiazepines was seen in 22% of patients, indicating a need for very cautious prescribing of opioids in conjunction with other sedating medications." Yokell also recommended that "More resources should be directed to enhance access to naloxone (the antidote for opioid overdose), increase safe prescribing practices among clinicians, raise awareness about the risks of overdose among people who use prescription and non-prescription opioids, and ensure that overdose victims have access to life-saving emergency medical services."

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Study: Smoking interferes with neurocognitive recovery during abstinence from alcohol

Study: Smoking interferes with neurocognitive recovery during abstinence from alcohol | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

A new study indicates that smoking status influences the rate and level of neurocognitive recovery among alcohol dependent patients.

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:

As this article in Medical News Today indicates, it is well known that people with alcohol use disorders show impairment across multiple neurocognitive domains following detoxification from alcohol. This study from the University of California San Francisco, which will be published online in the November 2014 issue of Clinical & Experimental Research,  studied the effects of cigarette smoking on cognitive recovery during abstinence.The researchers looked at processing speed, learning and memory, and working memory because these abilities have been shown to be adversely affected by alcohol use disorders and chronic cigarette smoking.There were 30 participants with diagnosed alcohol use disorders.  30 of them  had never smoked, 28 were former smokers, and 75 were active smokers.  There were also  39 never-smoking control subjects without alcohol use disorders who participated in the study. 


MNT reports that participants  those who stopped drinking but continued to smoke, as well as participants who smoked in the past "were slower to recover some types of mental skills over a period of months as compared to those who never smoked." The differences were most pronounced in areas  such as "visual memory, attention, and the capacity to quickly perform motor tasks that require directed, focused mental activity." The authors of the study suggest that cognitive recovery may be compromised by several mechanisms, and highlight the fact that,  "The components of cigarette smoke can promote significant oxidative stress in the lungs, blood vessels, and brain in humans.

Some heartening news:  Timorthy Durazzo, an author of the study, expressed surprise about the degree of recovery shown by the never-smokers in the study.  These participants  showed full recovery on all measures after 8 months of sustained abstinence from alcohol. They were no different from controls on any measure, even though the average alcohol consumption for the never-smoking ALC participants was about 370 drinks per month during the year prior to study.  Durazzo said, "This suggests that significant cognitive recovery is possible during sustained abstinence from alcohol."

It is common for smokers in early  recovery from substance use disorders to be advised that giving up smoking is too stressful during the early going and may precipitate relapse.  However, this study suggests that continuing to smoke may undermine some of the cognitive abilities, such as focused attention to recovery activities, that are required to address the challenges  of this difficult period.  As the authors of this study observe,  their results  "strongly reinforce the growing clinical movement to offer a comprehensive smoking-cessation program to individuals seeking treatment for alcohol and substance use disorders."







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NIDA Study: Hardcore pot smoking could damage the brain's pleasure center

NIDA Study: Hardcore pot smoking could damage the brain's pleasure center | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it
Long-term use of drug appears to mute brain's response to the reward chemical, dopamine
Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


Science Magazine reports on a study by NIDA director Nora Volkow and colleagues about the impact of heavy marijuana use (about 5 joints a day, 5 days a week for 10 years) on the dopamine systems in the brain.  It is well-known that drugs of abuse flood the brain's rewards regions with dopamine and eventually impair the ability of the brain to produce dopamine in response to other, biological rewards.   Over time, this results in drug rewards becoming more important to users than anything else.  As the Science Magazine article explains, "past studies had hinted that the same might not be true for those who abuse marijuana."


In an attempt to clarify  matters,  Volkow et al gave gave methylphenidate to 24 marijuana abusers and 34 control subjects, since methylphenidate, or Ritalin, is known to increase the amount of dopamine in the brain. Subsequent neuroimaging showed that both groups produced more dopamine after taking methylphenidate.  However, the control subjects demonstrated expected signs of arousal afterwards, including higher heart rates, blood pressure readings and feelings of being restless and high.  The marijuana abusers did not.  Science Magazine notes that, in fact, "Volkow had to double-check that the methylphenidate she was giving them hadn’t passed its expiration date."


Volkow's team concluded that the lack of a physical response to a powerful psychostimulant among marijuana users may indicate that the drug has damaged the reward circuitry in their brains, and that even though they apear to produce the same amount of dopamine as non-abusers, their brains, as Science Magazine puts it, "don't know what to do with it," and therefore, like other drug abusers, cannabis users may experience less pleasure in response to other ordinarily rewarding events, and so, like other drug abusers, come to increasingly rely on marijuana for feelings of pleasure, or even normalcy.


The article concludes with remarks by Paul Stokes, a psychiatrist at Imperial College London who wasn’t involved in the research. Stokes said the study "probably tells you more about cannabis dependence than about recreational use.” However, when Stokes  did a similar brain imaging study of people who smoked marijuana no more than once a week, he observed “similar themes” when it came to dopamine.


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New Hope Recovery's curator insight, October 23, 2014 4:29 PM

We have seen this result in our clients.

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How to cope with alcoholism in the family: BOOK REVIEW | Addiction Blog

How to cope with alcoholism in the family: BOOK REVIEW | Addiction Blog | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

"This book can serve as an invaluable guide for all parents who are raising children in a family that deals with alcoholism...Raising Healthy Children provides clear and sensible guidance for adults who are trying to protect children from the harms caused by parental alcoholism...anyone who is facing problems with alcohol in their family can benefit from reading this."

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:



A new review for Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home.

New Review for Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home http://wp.me/p2Enux-fX  http://fb.me/1LqmpobMb 

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Psych Central News: Little Knowledge, Lots of Overdose Risk for Young Opioid Users

Psych Central News:   Little Knowledge, Lots of Overdose Risk for Young Opioid Users | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

“We found that despite significant overdose experiences, nonmedical PO users were uninformed about overdose awareness, avoidance, and response strategies, especially the use of naloxone".

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


Psychcentral reports that researchers from NYU interviewed subjects between the ages of 18 and 32 who had engaged in nonmedical prescription opiod (PO) use in the past 30 days about "their  knowledge of and experience with opioid safety/overdose prevention services and practices."  They also asked participants what they knew about  naloxone, a specific opioid receptor antagonist used to reverse an opioid overdose. They reported that:


"The lack of knowledge in this high risk group was disturbing. In most cases, when asked about their experience with overdose, participants described their use of folk methods, such as slapping the individual or placing them in a cold shower, to revive an opioid user who appeared to have experienced an overdose."


The investigators also found that participants viewed PO use as quite distinct from  nonmedical PO use and heroin use--even if they had transitioned to the use of heroin.  In other words they saw others as "junkies" and stigmatized the use of medical and psychological services available to "junkies" and were unwilling to use them.


Most of the participants had attended some high school and half had attended some college, so the authors of the study strongly suggested that harm reduction education and the distribution of naxolone in these settings could enhance overdose prevention efforts.


Obviously medical and mental health professionals should educate parents and young adults about these issues as well.

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Second-hand Trauma May Double the Risk of Later Substance Abuse Disorders: How to Protect Children

Second-hand Trauma May Double the  Risk of Later Substance Abuse Disorders:  How to Protect Children | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it


This blog post explores implications of a large Swedish study that found that  children who experienced even one of four secondhand traumas under study had twice the risk of later drug abuse.  It includes  guidelines for protecting children whose families have faced traumatic events, including death of  or serious injury to an immediate family member  or major illness in a parent or sibling.

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Does Recreational Marijuana Use Change Brain Structure? New Research says yes.

Does Recreational Marijuana Use Change Brain Structure? New Research says yes. | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it
"Cannabis Use Is Quantitatively Associated with Nucleus Accumbens and Amygdala Abnormalities in Young Adult Recreational Users"
Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


A study by Gilman, et al. in the April 2014 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience found that marijuana exposure, even in young recreational users is associated with exposure-dependent alterations of the core reward structures in the human brain.


The investigators noted that while marijuana use is associated with the impairment of cognitive functions such as learning, memory, attention and decision-making, it is still the  most widely used illicit drug on college campuses and, partly due to changing social and legal perspectives about the drug, use is also increasing among adolescents. Animal studies show changes in the brain structures that underlie impaired cognitive functions  and this study aimed to determine whether similar alterations occur in the human brain, even after casual use of marijuana. 

Twenty young adults (age 18–25 years) who were current marijuana users and 20 control subjects participated in this research. Participants were matched with respect to age, sex (9 males and 11 females in each group), handedness, race, and years of education. All participants were right-handed. Marijuana participants used marijuana at least once a week, but were not dependent, according a Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM-IV (SCID).


Marijuana users completed were asked about their use of the drug over the past 90 days, including the days they used, how many separate times per day they used and how many joints they consumed per each smoking occasion. All participants in the study supplied similar information concerning their alcohol use.

The researchers performed high-resolution MRI scans on young adult recreational marijuana users and nonusing controls and analyses of the scans "revealed greater gray matter density in marijuana users than in control participants in the left nucleus accumbens extending to subcallosal cortex, hypothalamus, sublenticular extended amygdala, and left amygdala, even after controlling for age, sex, alcohol use, and cigarette smoking". As the authors point out, these discoveries are consistent with animal research that shows structural changes to key reward structures after exposure to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of cannabis.


The authors also state that:


"These results extend prior studies showing that drugs of abuse that are known to elevate (dopamine) release are associated with structural abnormalities in the brain and related disruptions in behavior (Makris et al., 2004Makris et al., 2008). The multimodal convergence of these findings also points to the salience of structural differences in the brain related to drug exposure and strongly argues that human addiction research, if not all psychiatric study, must move past a predominant focus on neurotransmission."

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Study: Alcohol Disorders More Likely to Push Women Off Career Ladder

Study:  Alcohol Disorders More Likely to Push Women Off Career Ladder | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

A new study about the impact of alcohol use disorders on career trajectory holds troubling news for women.

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


Psychcentral reports on a study by researchers at Icahn-Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York that examined the impact of alcohol use disorders (AUDS) on how individuals progressed in their careers.  This research focused on the "substantive complexity" of tasks workers were charged with, including their latitude to make decisions and the expansion of their responsibilities. The investigators diagnosed AUDS by looking at whether subjects drank more than they intended or attempted to cut down on their drinking. 


Lower work trajectory was positively correlated with more AUDS both initially and during follow-up and both men and women with lower AUD rates showed greater career advancement.  But while men had higher rates of AUDS, "the association between AUD and flat or downward occupational trajectory appeared stronger in women" according to the Psychcentral summary.


The investigators concluded that,  “declining occupational trajectory is a consequence of AUD development,” rather than a predictor , but said the association  between AUDs and occupation appears to be “complex and reinforcing,” Psychcentral reports that, "They believe that women’s career paths 'may be more readily disrupted' by AUDs, compared to men’s."


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Medpage Today: Opioid, Heroin Deaths Continue to Climb

Medpage Today: Opioid, Heroin Deaths Continue to Climb | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it
Overdose deaths from both prescription opioids and heroin continued to rise in 2011, the most recent year for which data were available, according to the CDC.
Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


Figures just released by the CDC about opiod-related deaths in 2011 (the most recent year for which data are available) indicate that "While prescription opioid deaths followed a more than decade-long trend and increased about 2% to 16,917, heroin deaths jumped by 44% -- from 3,036 in 2010 to 4,397."


The Medpage report indicates that the CDC believes the increase in heroin deaths is partly due to users having less access to prescription painkillers and thus, switching to heroin, which is cheaper and more readily available. It also cites remarks by Dr. Andrew Kolodny, Chief Medical Officer of Phoenix House, a national addiction treatment organization  who responded to the spike  in heroin deaths by saying:


"I see this as all the same problem,  an epidemic of people addicted to opioids,  Treatment has to be easier to access than pills or heroin."

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New Research Adds to Our Understanding that Alcoholism is a Brain Disease, Not a Moral Problem

New Research Adds to Our Understanding that Alcoholism is a Brain Disease, Not a Moral Problem | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

"Researchers led by Catherine Fortier at Harvard Medical School found that chronic alcohol misuse damaged white matter in areas of the brain that are important for self-control and recovery from alcoholism. The findings appeared in the December 2014 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research."

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:

This study adds to a growing body of data, obtained by using  neuroimaging technology, that suggests that heavy drinking badly  undermines the very brain systems that are necessary to control powerful impulses, including the compelling urge to drink. It also indicates that recovery of these systems can take years to achieve.


The study used high-resolution diffusion magnetic resonance brain scans to compare a group of 20 healthy light drinkers to a group of 31 individuals with a history of alcoholism. Alcoholic subjects  drank heavily for an average of 25 years but they had been abstinent for about five years.

Despite five years of abstinence, the recovering subjects showed  "pronounced reductions in the structural integrity of frontal and superior white matter tracts... that are involved in the brain’s reward system."  The study's authors emphasize that the affected networks are "essential for controlling impulsive behavior and stopping drinking".

Longer and heavier alcohol use was associated with more extensive damage.  In this study, it appeared that recovery of white matter tissue was more likely in drinkers who became abstinent before turning fifty.

It's important to remember that there are interventions that have been shown to promote neural growth that can be employed to help those in recovery, including psychotherapy, meditation, exercise and SSRI medications.
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Different mental disorders cause same brain-matter loss, study finds

Different mental disorders cause same brain-matter loss, study finds | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it
A meta-analysis of 193 brain-imaging studies shows similar gray-matter loss in the brains of people with diagnoses as different as schizophrenia, depression and addiction.
Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


Stanford University School of Medicine  has published a study in the current issue of JAMA Psychiatry  (February 4) that indicates there is a common pattern of gray matter loss  in key brain structures across a wide spectrum of brain disorders that clinicians and researchers tend to view as distinct problems.


The study analyzed whole-brain images of nearly 16,000 people in their meta-analysis of 193  peer-reviewed papers and found that when  patients who fell into  six diagnostic categories, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder and a "cluster of related anxiety disorders" were compared with healthy controls,  they exhibited a  loss of gray matter  in three key brain structures  associated with key executive functions, including planning and decision-making  and inhibition of counterproductive impulses. The structures  affected included  the left and right anterior insula and the dorsal anterior cingulate.    


 The Stanford researchers performed further analyses that showed that gray-matter shrinkage in the three  brain structures was independent of any medication effects or overlapping psychiatric conditions.


Some activities that have been shown to promote new neural growth include  exercise, psychotherapy, meditation, medications, and stimulating environments. 

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Popping Pills: Teens and Prescription Painkillers

Popping Pills: Teens and Prescription Painkillers | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

Twenty-four percent of high school students admit to taking at least one prescription painkiller, and 20 percent of teens admit to abusing prescription drugs before the age of 14, according to a 2012 survey at Drugfree.org."

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


I'm adding this as a companion piece to yesterday's post about animal research pointing to a potentially dangerous impact of even short term use of oxycodone. (The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai study suggested that the effect of a typical dose of oxycodone could be, in some instances, a relatively long-term  impairment in decision-making ability that increases the potential for addiction to develop: http://goo.gl/23KKZF or see my post on the right ).


This article describes the ways in which opioid painkillers might be too easily available to teens (whose developing brains are even more susceptible to remodeling by psychoactive substances and proposes that parents: talk with teens about the dangers of prescription painkillers--even when they are prescribed by physicians; carefully check their own medicine cabinets and clear them of prescription opiates; and, when filling a prescription, ask the pharmacist to only provide a few of the allotted number of pills (you can go back and get more of the prescribed amount later if it is necessary to do so.)  


This pair of articles provide  a useful and timely caution for parents, who may not be aware of the powerful impact of opioid painkillers on the brain or the fact that adolescents (and others) who get hooked on pills are increasingly turning to cheaper and more easily accessible drugs such as heroin once their supply of prescription painkillers run out.

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Where's That Pink Cloud When You Need It? Understanding and Managing Post-Acute Withdrawal

Where's That Pink Cloud When You Need It?  Understanding and Managing Post-Acute Withdrawal | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

"Post-acute withdrawal presents a significant challenge to many people for at least a year after they stop using alcohol and or other psychoactive substances. Knowing what to expect, and how to reduce the symptoms of PAWS  can help individuals and families work together to make life far more manageable in early recovery."

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


This article explains the changes in brain structure and function that produce post-acute symptoms in people recovering from drug and alcohol use disorders and describes strategies for reducing these symptoms.

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Casual Marijuana Smoking in College: What are the Risks?

Casual Marijuana Smoking in College:  What are the Risks? | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

"If I were to design a substance that is bad for college students, it would be marijuana.” Dr. Hans Breiter, Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University.

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


This article in The New York Times elaborates on Dr. Jodi Gilman's research on the neurological impact of marijuana on the brains of casual users, which I summarized in a  previous post (http://goo.gl/gogPV7).  However, this article is interesting because it explains how and why even moderate use may be particularly damaging to young people. Again, this was a small study (40 subjects) but it found that the seven participants who smoked only once or twice a week had structural differences in the nucleus accumbens, a key reward structure in the brain,  and in the amygdala, which is a fundamental structure for processing emotions, memories and fear responses. Moreover, the more marijuana subjects smoked, the greater these differences were.


In this interview Dr. Gilman expressed particular concern about college students, whose brains are still developing and who, as she noted, are making major life decisions, including  “choosing a major (and) making long-lasting friendships.” It was already known that THC interferes with  working memory, decision making and motivation for about 24 hours. But the structural changes that Gilman found indicate "that the effects of THC are longer lasting than we previously thought.” The article cites other research that points to adverse and long-lasting effects of marijuana smoking, including a  study released in 2012 that showed that teenagers who were found to be dependent on pot before age 18 and continued using it into adulthood lost an average of eight I.Q. points by age 38. It also notes that Hans Breiter, a co-author on the Gilman  research, found in a study last year that changes in the nucleus accumbens persisted in young adults who had smoked daily for three years but had stopped for at least two years.  His subjects had impaired working memories as well.  Dr. Breiter commented that,  “Working memory is key for learning. “If I were to design a substance that is bad for college students, it would be marijuana.”

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Are Family and Community Ties Protective or Stressful for Women Susceptible to Substance Use Disorders?

Are Family and Community Ties Protective or Stressful  for Women Susceptible to Substance Use Disorders? | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it
Strong family ties can protect against a genetic susceptibility for substance abuse in men, but less so in women, according to a new study.
Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


Medical News Today reports on the results of a large study lead by sociologist Brea Perry of Indiana University that included 4307 adults from 1,026 families.  The research team looked for the presence of a GABRA2 gene variant that has been linked to an increased risk of substance abuse.  Though the MNT article does not explain this link, several studies have shown that people with certain GABRA2 variants  are more likely to be alcoholics, possibly because they have different activity in the insula, a brain area "known to moderate craving, addictive behavior and anxiety" (http://goo.gl/xbjfDC)  Individuals with this variant in GABRA2 also tend to show more impulsiveness when they are under stress in experimental exercises. Some studies have implicated GABRA2 variations in alcoholism associated with anxiety disorders (http://goo.gl/mGzrAH)


The study by Perry et al found that strong family and community ties reduced the likelihood  that men with the GABRA2 variation would abuse alcohol, drugs or tobacco.  However, the  study found that the opposite was true for women. Strong social and family ties did not appear to be a protective factor against substance abuse for women with this genetic variant.


Perry noted that the different results for men and women might be because they "experience some aspects of the social world in divergent ways". She observed that for women, family and community relationships may actually prove burdensome in a way they typically do not for men.


"In families and communities, for example, women often bear more responsibility for developing and maintaining relationships and so more of the care work that is required in those contexts.


Perry suggested that women with heightened stress sensitivity might benefit from stronger social services and programs, such as  government-subsidized child care or in-home health workers for those with ill relatives that reduce pressure that can stem from family and community relationships.



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PsychCentral: Binge Drinking Can Amplify Liver Damage

PsychCentral: Binge Drinking Can Amplify Liver Damage | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

University of Missouri researchers discovered binge drinking or over-consumption of alcohol is especially dangerous among those who already drink a lot.

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


Rick Nauert reports on PsychCentral about a study done by University of Missouri researchers that indicates that binge drinking amplifies liver damage caused by heavy drinking.  He cites remarks by Shivendra Shukla, Ph.D., lead author of the study, about "unnatural" epigenetic changes in histone structures that occur in the liver as a result of binge drinking, and explains that histones work to protect DNA and help it function correctly. These changes lead to inflammation and cell damage and eventually to cirrhosis and cancer of the liver.  Stauert also points out that "damage to the liver also harms other major organs such as the heart, kidney, blood vessels, and the brain."






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Study: Substance Abuse Treatment Cuts Violence Risk In Severely Mentally Ill

Study: Substance Abuse Treatment Cuts Violence Risk In Severely Mentally Ill | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

"A new study suggests treating the substance abuse problems of those with severe mental illness can reduce their risk of future violence."

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


PsychCentral reports that a study by Yue Zhuo,  Clara M. Bradizza, and  Stephen A. Maisto, conducted under the auspices of the University of Buffalo, found that substance abuse is a stronger predictor of violence than severe mental illness and that  treating the substance abuse disorders in  dually diagnosed patients illness can reduce their risk of future violence.


These researchers identified 278  patients of a publicly-funded community mental health center in Buffalo, New York who were diagnosed with both a severe mental illness (a schizophrenia-spectrum or bipolar disorder) and a substance use disorder. These subjects not only met criteria for current alcohol dependence (97%) or alcohol abuse (3%) but also  had high rates of comorbid drug use disorders. 86% met  DSM-IV criteria  for at least one drug use disorder (76% cocaine abuse/dependence, 46% marijuana, 23% opiates, 16% sedatives/hypnotics and 9% amphetamines) in addition to their alcohol use disorder.  Investigators followed these subjects over a 6-month period following their admission to an outpatient dual diagnosis treatment program.  Data obtained from these subjects was then  then analyzed to  study the association between subjects' attendance at treatment and subsequent displays of aggression.


For the purposes of this study, "treatment utilization was defined as the number of days during the first 4 months following treatment enrollment that participants either received outpatient treatment and/or were in attendance at a self-help group meeting (e.g., Alcoholic Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous,  or Double Trouble in Recovery)." Aggression was assessed by querying subjects monthly  about how often the following events happened as a result of their drinking or drug use:  (a)  arguments with family and friends; (b) physical fights when under the influence; (c) arrests due to behavior when they were drunk or high; (d) infliction of injury to someone else; and (e) damage to  property or breaking things. These questions, along with assessments  of drug and alcohol use and treatment utilization were administered for the previous 12 months at baseline and monthly after the initiation of the study.


Analyses revealed that dual diagnosis treatment was associated with lower levels of subsequent aggression. However, a thorough examination of the data held some surprises for the investigators. 

 They observed that, "In our model, severity of psychiatric symptoms did not predict severity of later aggression; instead, aggression was more closely associated with severity of substance use " and thorough analyses of data indicated that "greater treatment involvement was associated with reduced substance use, which was associated with lower levels of aggression".  The research team concluded that "substance use was found to mediate the relationship between dual diagnosis treatment and aggression" and that "targeting substance use reduction in treatment may have the additional benefit of reducing the risk of later aggression among dual diagnosis patients."


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Dawn Stary's curator insight, October 6, 2014 1:20 PM

Most individuals with #mentalIllness are non-violent; however, we have seen over and over again that some persons with mental illnesses can be violent and devastatingly so.  We should, as a society, take all steps to demystify mental illness and address the root problems of it but it makes sense to also address the substance abuse that can be coupled with mental illness; especially if it can decrease violence. 

Ziggi Ivan Santini's curator insight, October 25, 2014 10:55 AM

"Treatment programs should include interventions that are likely to decrease substance abuse, as this may provide the additional benefit of reducing the risk of later aggression among dual-diagnosis patients. This not only improves the lives of affected individuals and their families, but also provides a safer environment for society as a whole.”

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Anxiety Sensitivity a Risk Factor For Substance Abuse in Young Adults?

Anxiety Sensitivity a Risk Factor For Substance Abuse in Young Adults? | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

"Anxiety sensitivity" may be an important cognitive vulnerability that may help to identify those at particular risk for substance use."

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


Struggles with anxiety and substance use problems often occur together, and as the authors of a new study point out, young adults seem especially prone to develop these disorders.  Dixon, Stevens and Viana (2014) hoped to clarify the nature of the relationship between anxiety and substance abuse.  They accomplished this  by investigating whether  anxiety sensitivity (AS) had an impact on the relationship between trait anxiety and  substance use disorders.  (Anxiety sensitivity is a term used to describe an individual's level of fear about experiencing such anxiety-induced symptoms as  increased heart rate, sweating, muscle tension and headaches.  People with a great deal of anxiety sensitivity typically  believe that such  symptoms will lead to a terrible physical, social or mental  outcome. On the other hand, trait anxiety refers to the characteristic amount of stress that an individual experiences.) 


The researchers looked at AS in a large group of young adults (mean age 18.7 years) and did find that for  those who had a great deal of anxiety sensitivity, use of illicit substances increased as trait anxiety (the general level of stress a person experiences) increased.  This effect seemed most pronounced for those who feared an adverse cognitive or physical impact of their anxiety symptoms.  The authors of the study suggested that  "interventions should target AS reduction in anxiety-prone individuals to reduce and prevent substance abuse."


This study was published in the August 18, 2014 edition of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. An abstract is available here: http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-33802-001/.

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PsychCentral: Children Who Experience Family Members’ Trauma Have Twice the Risk for Substance Abuse as Adults

PsychCentral: Children Who Experience Family Members’ Trauma Have Twice the Risk for Substance Abuse as Adults | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it
Study shows that secondhand trauma when young increases risk of addiction as an adult.
Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:

 

A study  published in the August issue of the journal Addiction and summarized on PsychCentral by Richard Taite looks at the impact of second-hand trauma on later substance abuse.  Researchers examined the Swedish Hospital Discharge record to learn traumatic medical events in the families of  1.4 million children born in Sweden between 1984 and 1995. They discovered which child had  a parent or  sibling who had been diagnosed with cancer or experienced an injury which resulted in permanent disability or who had  been a victim of assault or died. They assigned each child a score of 0-4 depending on the amount of secondhand trauma s/he experienced, Then the  researchers examined medical, legal and pharmacy records to see which subjects were  diagnosed with substance abuse problems when they reached their 20's.  Taking care to control for other factors that could affect substance use, such as socioeconomic status, drug use by family members, psychological wellbeing and parents' educations, investigators found that children who experienced even one of these secondhand traumatic events had twice the risk of later drug abuse.  Children who experienced the death of a parent were at greatest risk and having a parent or sibling who was the  victim of violent assault was the second most powerful factor. The PsychCentral report points out that "substance abuse was even higher in children whose siblings had experienced trauma than it was in children whose parents had been traumatized".  According to Taite, investigators acknowledged that children who experience the trauma of a loved one may also be living in an environment that promotes drug abuse in other ways, but they observed that a sample size of 1.4 million permits them "to draw strong conclusions from (the) data."



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Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's curator insight, August 5, 2014 1:07 PM

A study  published in the August issue of the journal Addiction and summarized on PsychCentral by Richard Taite looks atthe impact of second-hand trauma on later substance abuse.  Researchers examined the Swedish Hospital Discharge record to learn traumatic medical events in the families of  1.4 million children born in Sweden between 1984 and 1995. They discovered which child had  a parent or  sibling who had been diagnosed with cancer or experienced an injury which resulted in permanent disability or who had  been a victim of assault or died. They assigned each child a score of 0-4 depending on the amount of secondhand trauma s/he experienced, Then the  researchers examined medical, legal and pharmacy records to see which subjects were  diagnosed with substance abuse problems when they reached their 20's.  Taking care to control for other factors that could affect substance use, such as socioeconomic status, drug use by family members, psychological wellbeing and parents' educations, investigators found that children who experienced even one of these secondhand traumatic events had twice the risk of later drug abuse.  Children who experienced the death of a parent were at greatest risk and having a parent or sibling who was the  victim of violent assault was the second most powerful factor. The PsychCentral report points out that "substance abuse was even higher in children whose siblings had experienced trauma than it was in children whose parents had been traumatized".  According to Taite, investigators acknowledged that children who experience the trauma of a loved one may also be living in an environment that promotes drug abuse in other ways, but they observed that a sample size of 1.4 million permits them "to draw strong conclusions from (the) data."


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American Academy of Pediatrics: ADHD 'Inextricably' Linked to Substance Abuse

American Academy of Pediatrics: ADHD 'Inextricably' Linked to Substance Abuse | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and substance use disorders (SUDs) are "inextricably intertwined," and parents and patients should be made aware of this, according to a clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


A new report on Medscape describes an article that appears in the June 30 issue of Pediatrics which "offers clinicians practical strategies for reducing the risk for SUDs in patients with ADHD and suggestions for safe prescribing of stimulant medication."


According to Megan Brooks' article on Medscape, Pediatrics  describes the results of a  meta-analytic review of relevant research which  found that children with ADHD "were twice as likely to have a lifetime history of nicotine use; nearly 3 times more likely to report nicotine dependence in adolescence or adulthood; almost 2 times more likely to meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence; approximately 1.5 times more likely to meet criteria for marijuana use disorder; twice as likely to develop cocaine abuse or dependence; and more than 2.5 times more likely to develop an SUD overall."


The AAP believes stimulant medication "may reduce the risk for trying drugs and developing an SUD"  and reassures consumers and clinicans that there is no evidence that stimulants increase the likelihood of developing an SUD. Their report states that "Misuse and diversion of stimulant medications are more widespread problems than abuse or addiction".  However, the report also cautions that, "Individuals with co-occurring ADHD and active SUDs require a careful, individual risk/benefit assessment regarding the safety of prescribing a stimulant medication."

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Medical News Today: Nicotine in e-cigarettes and smoking cessation devices 'carcinogenic'

Medical News Today:  Nicotine in e-cigarettes and smoking cessation devices 'carcinogenic' | Addictions and Mental Health | Scoop.it

A team from Virginia Tech has been carrying out a series of studies investigating the carcinogenic (cancer-causing) properties of nicotine. In their latest paper, they report that, in addition to previously acknowledged qualities such as its addictiveness, nicotine is a carcinogenic substance."

Barbara Wood, Ph.D. www.alcoholismandthefamily.com / Author of Children of Alcoholism and Raising Healthy Children in an Alcoholic Home's insight:


This report, by James McIntosh on Medical News Today describes a study led by  geneticist Jasmin Bavarva, who exposed cells to nicotine and compared them to unexposed cells.  The research team found  thousands more mutations in exposed  cells vs. control cells. McIntosh says that:


"The patterns of mutation found were similar to those observed in cells experiencing oxidative stress, a known precursor to cancer. The authors conclude that nicotine exposure can adversely affect genes by inducing mutations, and over the period of significant exposure may contribute to increased cancer incidence."


McIntosh suggests that considering the carcinogenic risks of nicotine, smokers might want to look at other strategies.  He cites a recent study that compared success rates for smokers who attempt to quit by  using e-cigarettes and those who used other methods: The study found that:


  • 20% of participants trying to quit by using e-cigarettes were successful
  • 10.1% of participants trying to quit by using other nicotine replacement therapies were successful
  • 15.4% of participants trying to quit without assistance were successful.




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