High Achieving Adolescents Less Likely To Smoke, But More Likely to Drink, Use Pot

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. James Williams
UCL Medical School
UCL
, London, UK

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Despite a downward trend over the last decade in the usage of particular substances amongst adolescents in the UK, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis remain prevalent behaviours in this demographic. These risky health behaviours present a large problem in terms of public health due to the immediate and long-term health problems they cause, as well as negative non-health outcomes such as poor educational attainment and reduced employment.

The role of academic ability in determining patterns of substance use is not clear and no study has evaluated academic ability at age 11 in relation to the onset and persistence of all three substances from early to late adolescence and into young adulthood. Our study sought to determine the association between academic ability and the onset and persistence of substance use in adolescence in a representative sample of English school pupils. This would answer for the first time whether ability was associated with ‘experimentation’ in early adolescence or if the association persists into late adolescence.

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Competitive Athletes At Risk For Addiction

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Laurie de Grace

Master’s graduate from the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation
University of Alberta

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Little is known about the development of substance addiction in the context of sport. There is substantial evidence showing a positive association between sport participation and alcohol use, particularly the binge drinking that is more commonly associated with athletes than non-athletes. However, the connection between sport participation and the use of other substances is not clear. We undertook this study to learn from the perspective of those in recovery from substance addiction, how sport may or may not have played a role in their substance use and subsequent addiction.

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Scientists Block Cocaine Addiction in Mice by Increasing Cadherin “glue” at Synapses

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Andrea K. Globa, Ph.D. Candidate Graduate Program in Neuroscience Life Sciences Institute University of British Columbia Vancouver, BC, Canada

Andrea Globa

Andrea K. Globa, Ph.D. Candidate
Graduate Program in Neuroscience
Life Sciences Institute
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC, Canada

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Addiction is a complex disease, characterized by continued substance use despite serious negative consequences, increased drug tolerance, and withdrawal. In fact, the statistics show that over 40 million Americans abuse or are addicted to nicotine, alcohol or other drugs. This is a huge public health issue, so naturally, scientists are interested in figuring out why people get addicted, and in particular why certain people are more prone to addiction than others.

Studies examining genetic differences in addicted populations have shown that there are many mutations in genes that are important for brain function. One group of genes affected encode proteins that act as ‘glue’ to hold cells together. These proteins are called cadherins. In the brain, cadherins are important for holding brain cells together at spots where they communicate with one another – and these points where brain cells talk to one another are called synapses.

Many neuroscientists believe that addiction is actually a type of “pathological” learning, where there are changes at synapses in a brain circuit involved in reward and motivation. So we decided to examine the molecular mechanisms that are important for the strengthening of synapses in this brain circuit.

To put it very simply, to learn something you have to make your synapses stronger, and this involves adding more cadherin or ‘glue’ to the synapse. We wanted to see if these same rules held true in addiction.

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Strong Alcohol Policies Linked to Fewer Young Adults Dying In Car Crashes

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Scott E. Hadland, MD, MPH, MS Assistant Professor of Pediatrics | Boston University School of Medicine Urban Health & Advocacy Track Director | Boston Combined Residency Program Boston, MA 02118

Dr. Scott Hadland

Scott E. Hadland, MD, MPH, MS
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Boston University School of Medicine
Urban Health & Advocacy Track Director | Boston Combined Residency Program
Boston, MA 02118

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Studies to date have shown that states’ alcohol laws can help prevent young people from dying in car crashes. However, studies to date have usually only looked at a single policy at once. We wanted to build on these previous studies by looking at the overall effect of multiple alcohol laws acting at once. We also wanted to look at laws not necessarily only targeting drinking and driving among young people, but also policies aimed primarily at adults over 21.

We studied deaths of young people under 21 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes across the United States between 2000 and 2013. We found that one-quarter of all young people died in a crash involving a driver who alcohol level was over the legal limit. One-half died in a crash in which the driver had any level of alcohol in their bloodstream above zero.

We also found that most young people died on evenings and weekends, which is when people are most likely to have been drinking. Importantly, almost half of all young people died in a crash in which they were the passenger, not the driver. In 80% of cases in which they were the passenger, it was actually an adult >21, not a young person, who was driving the vehicle.

We then looked at states’ alcohol laws, and found that the stronger the set of alcohol policies in a state, the lower the likelihood of young people dying in a crash that was alcohol-related. Policies included laws relating to alcohol taxes, alcohol availability and hours of sales, and graduated driver’s licensing for young people, among many others.

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Your Pets’ Medications Can Poison Your Kids

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Kristi Roberts, M.S., M.P.H. Research Project Coordinator Center for Injury Research and Policy Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus, Ohio

Kristi Roberts

Kristi Roberts, M.S., M.P.H.
Research Project Coordinator
Center for Injury Research and Policy
Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Columbus, Ohio 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

  • We know that 74.1 million US households own at least one pet and one-half of households have a child age 19 years or younger living in the home so there is a potential for unintentional pediatric exposure to pet medication.
  • We realize that pets are common and an important part of families, especially those with young children. However, pets often require medications to keep them healthy and these medications could be dangerous to a child if the child is exposed (gets a hold of or swallows the medicine).
  • We looked at 15 years’ worth of data and found that over 1,400 children were exposed to a veterinary pharmaceutical product. That is about 95 each year or 2 children every week that are being exposure to medications intended for pets.
  • Children under 5 years old are the age group most frequently exposed to medications intended for pets. These young children typically ate or swallowed the medication after they found it when climbing on the counter or while the parent was trying to give the medication to a pet. Most of the calls were for medications intended for dogs.
  • Teenagers were also exposed to medications intended for pets but for different reasons. Many teens mistakenly took pet medication instead of human medication.
  • The majority of exposures occurred at home (96%) and were not expected to result in long-term or long-lasting health effects (97%).
  • While many people don’t think of their pet’s medication as harmful some medications, both human and veterinary, could be highly dangerous even at low dosages, especially for small children.

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Can Propranolol Reduce Nicotine Cravings?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Lin Lu, M.D. Ph.D. Director/Professor, Institute of Mental Health and Peking University Sixth Hospital Director/Professor, National Institute on Drug Dependence, Peking University Beijing China

Dr. Lin Lu

Lin Lu, M.D. Ph.D.
Director/Professor, Institute of Mental Health and Peking University Sixth Hospital
Director/Professor, National Institute on Drug Dependence, Peking University
Beijing China

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Nicotine addiction is the leading preventable cause of mortality, and causes over 6 million deaths each year. One fundamental mechanism that maintain smoking relapse in smokers is the persistence of memories of both nicotine reward and nicotine-associated conditioned stimulus (CS, e.g. ashtray,cigarette lighters, etc.).Preclinical studies suggest that the drug reward memories can be reactivated by nicotine-associated CS undergo an unstable stage, named memory reconsolidation, and that pharmacological or behavioral manipulations that interfere with reconsolidation inhibit subsequent drug relapse.

However, most of the translational studies targeting reconsolidation stages of the drug reward memory have not been successful.One important reason is that when participants were exposed to nicotine-associated CS to induce memory reconsolidation, the pharmacological or behavioral manipulations only interfere with the reconsolidation of memories selectively associated with the reactivated CS, without affecting other CSs.

However, in real life, smoking is associated with multiple CSs that vary across individuals. Thus, a key question is how to interfere with reconsolidation of multiple nicotine-associated memories . In the present study, we introduce a novel memory reconsolidation interference procedure in which we reactivated multiple nicotine reward memories in rats and human smokers by acute exposure to nicotine (the UCS) and then interfered with memory reconsolidation using the noradrenergic blocker propranolol, an FDA-approved drug.

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Brain-Reward Circuit Both Under and Over Responsive in Addiction and Gambling

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Guillaume Sescousse, PhD Senior post-doc Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging The Netherlands

Dr. Guillaume Sescousse

Guillaume Sescousse, PhD
Senior post-doc
Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging
The Netherlands
with collaborators Maartje Luijten, PhD,
and Arnt Schellekens, MD PhD

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: People with an addiction process rewards in their brain differently from people who are not addicted. However, whether this is associated with “too much” or “too little” brain activity is an open question. Indeed, past research has produced conflicting findings.

In order to get a reliable answer, we have combined 25 studies investigating brain reward sensitivity in more than 1200 individuals with and without addiction to various substances such as alcohol, nicotine or cocaine but also gambling. By analyzing the brain images from these studies, we have discovered an important difference in brain activity between expecting a reward and receiving a reward. Compared with non-addicted individuals, individuals with substance or gambling addiction showed a weaker brain response to anticipating monetary rewards. This weaker response was observed in the striatum, a core region of the brain reward circuit, possibly indicating that individuals with an addiction have relatively low expectations about rewards. In contrast, this same region showed a relatively stronger response to receiving a reward in individuals with substance addiction compared with non-addicted individuals.

This stronger response possibly indicates a stronger surprise to getting the reward, and is consistent with low expectations. This same effect was not found among people addicted to gambling.

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Premature Midlife Deaths Increase in US Whites and Native Americans

Dr. Meredith Shiels

Dr. Meredith Shiels

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Meredith S Shiels

Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics
National Cancer Institute
Bethesda, MD

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: In most high-income countries, premature death rates have been declining, due to the overwhelming successes of public health efforts to prevent and treat chronic disease. The US is a major outlier, where death rates overall have plateaued, or even increased, as reported recently by our sister agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of particular concern are recent reports of increasing death rates among Americans during mid-life.

To expand upon prior findings, we focused on premature death, which we defined as death occurring between the ages of 25 and 64. We examined finely detailed death certificate data for the entire U.S. population and described changes in death rates during 1999-2014 by cause of death, sex, race, ethnicity, and geography. To provide context to our findings, we compared trends in death rates in the U.S. to England and Wales and Canada.

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Reasons for Drug Policy Reform: Millions of People are Left with Untreated Pain

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Katherine Irene Pettus, PhD, OSB

Advocacy Officer International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care
Vice Chair, Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs
Secretary NGO Committee on Ageing, Geneva

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The background for this study is analysis of the three international drug control treaties, official attendance and participation at meetings of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs for the past four years, ongoing discussion of national opioid consumption rates with INCB, and years of home hospice visits in developing countries.

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Non-Routine Discharge From Military Linked To Mental Health and Substance Abuse

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Emily Brignone, BS

Informatics, Decision Enhancement, and Analytic Sciences Center
VA Salt Lake City Health Care System, Salt Lake City, Department of Psychology
Utah State University, Logan, Utah

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Nearly 30% of active duty Veterans of post-9/11 conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are discharged from military service for reasons other than expired term of service or retirement. These non-routine discharges can occur for a variety of reasons, including disability, failure to meet or maintain qualifications, early release, or misconduct. Veterans discharged under non-routine conditions are at greater risk for several concerning outcomes during the reintegration period, including unemployment, incarceration, homelessness, and suicide.

A better understanding of the context of the transition from military service to civilian life, including discharge type, may provide opportunities for mitigating risk for these negative outcomes. One potential indicator for the conditions surrounding this transition is the administrative code that the Department of Defense assigns to active duty military service members at the time of their separation from service. These codes describe the circumstances related to discharge, and can serve as clinically significant early markers for post-deployment mental illness, substance use disorders, and suicidality, and thereby subsequent adverse reintegration outcomes.

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Do Financial Conflicts Influence CDC Guidelines For Prescription Opioids?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dora Lin, MHS
Sr. Research Assistant
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness
Baltimore, MD 21205 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: In response to the opioid epidemic and growing number of overdose deaths each year, the CDC released draft guidelines to improve the safe use of opioids in primary care. The draft guidelines were open to public comment, and many organizations, ranging from professional societies to consumer advocates to local governmental organizations, submitted comments regarding the guidelines. We examined the levels of support or non-support for the draft guidelines among the 158 organizations who submitted comments.   We also examined each organization’s relationship to opioid manufacturers. Most organizations supported the guidelines, regardless of whether or not they had a financial relationship to a drug company. However, organizations receiving funding from opioid manufacturers were significantly more likely to be opposed to the guidelines than those who did not receive such funding.

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Cannabis Use Linked To Early Drinking and Alcohol Problems

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Kathleen K. Bucholz, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Psychiatry Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis MO 63110-1547

Dr. Kathleen Bucholz

Kathleen K. Bucholz, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychiatry
Washington University School of Medicine
St. Louis MO 63110-1547

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: We know that development of alcohol use disorder progresses through several stages of alcohol use, from beginning to drink, to engaging in problem drinking, and then to developing alcohol use disorder, but we don’t know whether the same factors are associated with each step in this progression. Stage-specific associations have implications for prevention, where targeting certain characteristics might stave off progression to the next level of alcohol involvement, potentially. That is what this particular study set out to investigate.

The data were from nearly 3600 adolescents and young adults, the majority of whom came from families with alcohol use disorder in their relatives. Thus, this sample was enriched with individuals who were at high risk for progressing to more severe stages of alcohol involvement. In studying the associations at each stage, we strengthened our analysis by defining wherever possible variables as risk factors only if they occurred before or at the same age as the particular alcohol stage. For example, we counted cannabis use as a risk factor for starting to drink only if it either preceded or occurred at the same age as taking the first drink. With this definition, we can infer that a particular factor is antecedent and not simply a correlated influence.

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