Addiction, Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Gender Differences, JAMA, Sexual Health / 27.03.2016 Interview with: Dr. Sari L. Reisner PhD Research Fellow in the Department of Epidemiology Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Associate Scientific Researcher in the Division of General Pediatrics Boston Children’s Hospital/ Harvard Medical School What are the main findings? Dr. Reisner: Transgender youth—including adolescent and young adult transgender women assigned a male sex at birth who identify as girls, women, transgender women, transfemale, male-to-female, or another diverse gender identity on the transfeminine spectrum—represent a vulnerable population at-risk for negative mental health and substance use/abuse outcomes. Although community surveys of transgender people in the United States have found a high prevalence of depression, anxiety, and substance use relative to the general adult U.S. population, studies typically utilize screening instruments or sub-threshold symptom questions and do not use diagnostic interviews. Diagnostic interview data are scarce among young transgender women; such data are important to establish guidelines for diagnosis and treatment for this youth group given their complex life experiences. The aim of this study was to report the prevalence of mental health, substance dependence, and co-morbid psychiatric disorders assessed via a diagnostic interview in an at-risk community-recruited sample of young transgender women. This observational study reported baseline finding from a diverse sample of 298 sexually active, young transgender women ages 16-29 years (mean age 23.4; 49.0% Black, 12.4% Latina, 25.5% White, 13.1% other minority race/ethnicity) enrolled in Project LifeSkills, an ongoing randomized controlled HIV prevention intervention efficacy trial in Chicago and Boston, between 2012-2015 (NIMH-funded, multiple PIs: Rob Garofalo, MD, MPH & Matthew Mimiaga, ScD, MPH). (more…)
Alcohol, Author Interviews, Breast Cancer, Genetic Research, PLoS / 18.03.2016 Interview with: Chin-Yo Lin, Ph.D. University of Houston Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling Department of Biology and Biochemistry Science and Engineering Research Center (SERC) Houston, TX 77204-5056 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Lin: Many studies have established that alcohol consumption is a risk factor for breast cancer. Breast cancers associated with drinking tend to be hormone receptor-positive, the type is commonly treated with the drug tamoxifen which blocks the actions of estrogen in driving tumor growth in pre-menopausal women. Alcohol consumption has also been shown to increase the risk of disease recurrence in patients. Our study shows that alcohol can enhance the effects of estrogen by increasing cancer cell division and also reduce the efficacy of tamoxifen. The key mechanistic insight from the study is that alcohol treatment of breast cancer cells increased the expression of BRAF, a cancer-causing gene that is commonly mutated and activated in other types of cancers. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, Pediatrics / 11.03.2016 Interview with: Yanning Wang, MS Statistical Research Coordinator Department of Pathology, Immunology and Laboratory Medicine Department of Health Outcomes and Policy University of Florida College of Medicine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: A number of new stimulant medications have been approved for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) treatment in the past decade. The expansion of this market, along with the increase in ADHD diagnosis, provides greater availability of these drugs. This has raised public health concerns about potential non-medical use of prescription stimulants. Our study analyzed data from the National Monitoring of Adolescent Prescription Stimulants Study, which recruited and surveyed youth aged 10 to 18 years from entertainment venues in 10 US cities. We found that 6.8% of youth (750 out of 11,048) used prescription stimulants in the past 30 days. Among those 750 youth, more than half reported some type of non-medical use, and using someone else’s medication was the most common form (88.4 %). We investigated the difference between two subgroups of non-medical users: youth who only used stimulants non-medically, and those who had a prescription and reported non-medical use in the past 30 days. We found youth who only used stimulants non-medically at higher rate of using other substances and more likely to have close friends who have tried other drugs. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cannabis, Lancet, Mental Health Research / 08.03.2016 Interview with: Dr Sagnik Bhattacharyya Reader in Translational Neuroscience and Psychiatry Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, KCL Consultant Psychiatrist, Early Intervention Pathway Director, Maudsley Early Intervention in Dual Diagnosis clinic Psychosis Clinical Academic Group, South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust King’s Health Partners What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Bhattacharyya: Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in the world and its use has been linked to the onset of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Whilst a lot of research has investigated the association between cannabis use and the development of psychosis, there is less clarity regarding the consequences of continued cannabis use in those with an established psychotic disorder. We therefore pooled together all available evidence from studies that specifically looked at the effects of cannabis use on outcome following the onset of psychosis. Based on data from more than 16000 patients with a first episode or more established psychosis, our results show that continued cannabis use is consistently associated with poor outcome in the form of more relapses (as indexed by psychiatric hospitalisation), longer hospitalisations and increased positive symptoms. However, outcomes were not as bad if cannabis use was discontinued following the onset of psychosis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cannabis, Mental Health Research / 06.03.2016 Interview with: Dr. Rashmi Patel MA (Cantab) MA BM BCh PGDip (Oxon) MRCPsych Clinical Lecturer in General Psychiatry Kings College London What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Patel: Previous studies suggest that cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of developing a psychotic disorder but, until now, little was known about the effects of cannabis on people with an established psychotic disorder. Using novel text mining techniques, we investigated the association of cannabis use with the clinical outcomes of over 2,000 people following their first episode of psychosis. We found that cannabis use was associated with significantly poorer clinical outcomes including a 50% increased frequency of hospital admission and 35 additional days spent in hospital in the 5 years after first receiving treatment. We also found that the poor outcomes associated with cannabis use may be linked to antipsychotic treatment failure. (more…)
Alcohol, Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, NYU, OBGYNE, Sleep Disorders / 27.02.2016 Interview with: Donald A. Wilson, Ph.D. Professor, Departments of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Neuroscience & Physiology NYU Langone Medical Center Senior Research Scientist Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Wilson: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is characterized by cognitive, emotional and behavioral problems that are life-long.  Generally, it is assumed that the initial trauma of alcohol exposure at a critical time in life is the cause of these problems.  In this study using an animal model of FASD, we find that developmental alcohol causes a life-long disturbance in sleep.  Given that sleep is important for memory and emotion, among other things, this suggests that developmental alcohol can produce a daily insult to the brain, far outlasting that initial exposure.  Each night, the brain is unable to store memories, adjust emotional circuits, remove waste products, in the way that it should, because FASD has disrupted sleep. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Opiods, Pain Research / 19.02.2016 Interview with: Dr-Jeffrey-ScherrerJeffrey F. Scherrer, PhD Associate Professor Research Director Department of Family and Community Medicine Saint Louis University School of Medicine St. Louis, MO 63104  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Scherrer: We initiated a series of studies on chronic opioid use and risk of depression about 3 years ago and obtained an NIH R21 to study prescription opioid use and risk of new onset depression, depression recurrence and transition to treatment resistant depression.  The rationale comes partly from clinical observations of the research team (I am not a clinician, just a epidemiologist).  We also observed the large field demonstrating patients with depression are more likely to get opioids for pain, take them longer and develop abuse.  We wanted to switch the direction of effect to determine if the reverse exists.  After publishing two papers demonstrating longer use of opioid was associated with increasing risk of depression, our next step was to look at recurrence among patients with a recent history of depression. Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report? Dr. Scherrer: Our main recommendation is clinicians should repeatedly screen patients for depression.  While screening at time of starting opioids is common, repeated screening is worth consideration.  Patients with depression who may experience temporary euphoria should not expect opioids to cure depression and they may increase risk for worsening mood and or recurrence after long term use. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cannabis, Genetic Research, Memory / 17.02.2016 Interview with: Prof. Celia Morgan PhD Professor of Psychopharmacology University of Exeter  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Morgan: We know cannabis increases the risk of psychosis but it is unclear how we can predict who is vulnerable to these negative effects. This study suggested that cannabis may have stronger effects in people carrying a particular genetic variant. This might be related to their risk of developing psychosis. We also found that women are more susceptible to the short term memory impairing effects of cannabis. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, HIV / 16.02.2016 Interview with: Pedro Mateu-Gelabert, Ph. D. Principal Investigator National Development Research Institutes, Inc. New York, NY 10010  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Mateu-Gelabert: Heroin production in Colombia increased dramatically in recent decades, and some studies point to an increase in local heroin consumption since the mid-1990s. Despite this rapid increase, little is known about the effects of these activities on heroin injection within Colombia. One of the biggest concerns surrounding heroin injection is the potential spread of HIV through drug user networks. Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report? Dr. Mateu-Gelabert: The key take home message in the paper is that a widespread early implementation of harm reduction services (e.g. opioid substitution therapy, HIV testing, syringe exchange programs)  can prevent HIV among young PWID (People Who Inject Drugs) before it rapidly spreads within drug injection networks. Reducing HIV among young drug injectors could prevent the spread of HIV from PWID to the general population. (more…)
Alcohol, Author Interviews, Nutrition, Weight Research / 13.02.2016 Interview with: Francis Tayie, PhD, MPhil, MS. BSc(HONS) Food, Nutrition and Dietetics Department of Human Environmental Studies Southeast Missouri State University Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Tayie: This article which is the first report to show a positive link between alcoholic beverage consumption and increased moisture intake, also reports increases in calorie intake above what is supplied by alcohol, as well as increased body weight status. The general view is that alcoholic beverages do not contribute to moisture intake. This view is generally due to the diuretic effect of the ethanol in alcoholic beverages, specifically depression of vasopressin resulting in increased loss of moisture via the kidneys. Nevertheless, much of the water in alcoholic beverages, especially in light drinks such as beer and wine may be retained, as indicated in this study. Alcoholic calories count!! The view that alcoholic beverages do not contribute calories to the intake of drinkers is largely debatable. Most of the confusion results from the complex metabolism of the ethanol in alcoholic beverages. Metabolism of ethanol utilizes specific metabolic pathways different from the metabolism of macronutrients. Notably, the
  • 1) alcohol dehydrogenase system,
  • 2) MEOS (microsomal ethanol oxidizing system),
  • and 3) the catalase system.These metabolic systems variably yield some calories but some calories are lost as body heat. It is likely that all of these pathways are not activated simultaneously, and their activities depends on drinking experience. Some calories become available via the alcohol dehydrogenase system, and to a lesser extent via the MEOS. In addition, alcoholic beverage consumption associates with decreased self-restraint, one consequence of which is increased food intake. The promoting effects of alcohol on food intake is multipronged, from social components, to alterations in the effects of appetite regulating neuropeptides.
Accidents & Violence, Alcohol, Author Interviews, CMAJ / 10.02.2016 Interview with: [wysija_form id="5"]Dr. Russ Callaghan, PhD Associate Professor Northern Medical Program University of Northern British Columbia Prince George, British Columbia  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Callaghan: In Canada, the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) is 18 years in Alberta, Manitoba and Québec, and 19 in the rest of the country. Given that public-health organizations not only have recommended increasing the MLDA to 19 years, but also have identified 21 years as ideal, the current study tested whether drivers slightly older than the MLDA had significant and abrupt increases in alcohol-impaired driving (AID) crimes, compared with their counterparts just younger than the MLDA. Data on the effectiveness of Canadian drinking-age laws is lacking, and the current study provides important information for the current national and international MLDA debates. (more…)
Addiction, ADHD, Author Interviews, Eating Disorders / 29.01.2016 Interview with: Dr. Kenneth Koblan PhD Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. Fort Lee, NJ and Marlborough, MA Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Koblan: Assessing abuse potential is important in the clinical development process for any therapy affecting the central nervous system, especially those that may act on dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitter systems. Human abuse liability studies are conducted to evaluate the abuse potential associated with drugs that affect the central nervous system. Drugs that increase dopamine levels may be associated with stimulant effects and abuse (e.g., cocaine and amphetamine), whereas drugs that increase serotonin and/or norepinephrine levels are not generally associated with recreational abuse (e.g., selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Among drugs with effects on dopamine neurotransmission, slowing the rate of absorption is thought to reduce abuse potential, and increasing the rate of elimination is thought to reduce rewarding effects and abuse liability due to sustained elevations in drug concentrations resulting in sustained inhibition of dopamine transporters (DAT). Dasotraline is an investigational dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor from Sunovion in late-stage development to evaluate its use in treating the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and binge-eating disorder (BED). Dasotraline has slow absorption and elimination that supports the potential for plasma concentrations yielding a continuous therapeutic effect over the 24-hour dosing interval at steady state. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, Methamphetamine, Pediatrics, UCLA / 22.01.2016

More on Pediatrics on Interview with: Lynne M. Smith, MD FAAP LA BioMed lead researcher Vice Chair for Academic Affairs Professor of Clinical Pediatrics Department of Pediatrics Division of Neonatology Medical Director, High Risk Infant Follow-up Program Associate Program Director, Neonatal-Perinatal Fellowship Training Program Co-Director, Third Year Medical Student Clerkship Founding co-Leader, Schwartz Rounds at Harbor-UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Harbor-UCLA Medical Center Torrance, CA Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Smith: It is the first study of its kind, and it holds hope for improving outcomes for children exposed to the methamphetamine in the womb. The study found that while prenatal methamphetamine exposure can lead to targeted behavioral issues, a supportive home environment significantly decreases the severity and risk of these issues. The study is a follow-up to the Infant Development, Environment and Lifestyle (IDEAL) study, which is a prospective, multi-center, longitudinal study of children exposed to methamphetamine in the womb. It is designed to address some of the limitations of earlier studies. The IDEAL study enrolled children from Los Angeles; Des Moines, IA; Tulsa, OK, and Honolulu, HI, who had been exposed to methamphetamine in utero. Previous reports from the IDEAL study documented the outcomes up to age 5 and found emotional issues and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders in the children with prenatal methamphetamine exposure. The new study surveyed 290 children enrolled in IDEAL up to age 7.5 years and found a strong relation between prenatal methamphetamine exposure and rule-breaking and aggressive behavior. It also found a strong relation between adversities in the home and rule-breaking and aggressive behavior. Among the adverse conditions considered were maternal substance abuse, extreme poverty, changes in the primary caregiver, sexual abuse of the caregiver and maternal depression. The researchers concluded that while prenatal methamphetamine exposure is strongly related to behavioral and emotional control issues, early adversities may be a strong determinant of behavioral outcomes. (more…)
Alcohol, Author Interviews, BMJ, Pediatrics, Tobacco Research / 16.01.2016

More on Alcohol on Interview with: Dr Joanne Cranwell PhD, CPsychol The UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies  School of Medicine Division of Epidemiology & Public Health Clinical Sciences Building University of Nottingham MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Dr. Cranwell: We conducted this particular study because it is well established that adolescent exposure to alcohol and tobacco in the media, such as film, television, and paid for advertising are determinants of subsequent alcohol and tobacco use in young people. The extent of potential exposure has been transformed over the past decade by the emergence of social media, in which exposure to pro-tobacco content has also been linked to favourable attitudes towards tobacco, including intention to smoke, in young non-smokers. Our previous published research highlighted that popular YouTube music videos contain tobacco and substantial alcohol content, including branding. Alcohol advertising is largely self-regulated by the alcohol industry and the Portman Group who speaks on behalf of the UK drinks industry.   The Advertising Standards Authority also provides guidance on marketing of alcohol products in the UK. Broadly speaking the guidelines from these three regulators state that “Marketing communications for alcoholic drinks should not be targeted at people under 18 and should not imply, condone or encourage immoderate, irresponsible or anti-social drinking”. However the extent to which adults and adolescents are exposed to tobacco or alcohol content from YouTube at a population level has not been quantified. In this new study we have therefore estimated population exposure to tobacco and alcohol impressions, defined as appearances in 10-second intervals in a sample of popular videos, in the British adolescent and adult population. (more…)
Author Interviews, NEJM, NIH, Opiods / 14.01.2016

For more on Opioids on please click here. Interview with: Wilson M. Compton, M.D., M.P.E. Deputy Director National Institute on Drug Abuse Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Compton: Deaths related to opioids (from both prescription pain killers and street drugs, like heroin) have dramatically increased in the past 15 years.  How these different types of opioids are related to each other is important because the pain killers ultimately are derived from prescriptions written by health care providers and street drugs, like heroin, are from illegal sources.  The different types of opioids vary in there source but are quite similar in their effects in the brain.  Given the different sources, interventions to reduce availability vary across the two categories. There is also a concern that interventions to reduce the availability of prescription opioids may be encouraging people to switch to heroin.  That’s the main question addressed in this review. (more…)
Alcohol, Author Interviews, Lancet, Pediatrics / 08.01.2016 Interview with: Svetlana Popova, M.D., Ph.Ds., M.P.H. Senior Scientist Social and Epidemiological Research, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Associate Professor, Epidemiology Division, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto Associate Professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto Graduate Faculty Associate Member, Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Dr. Popova: It has been known for many years that prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with a number of adverse health consequences for both the mother and developing fetus. Women who consume alcohol during pregnancy place their child(ren) at risk of developing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), and can experience a number of other adverse pregnancy outcomes including stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, premature birth, intrauterine growth retardation, and low birth weight. It was also previously known that people with FASD have many comorbidities (the simultaneous presence of two or more chronic diseases or conditions in a patient) due to the permanent damage of prenatal alcohol exposure on the fetus. However, until now it was unknown how many and what type of diseases, and at what frequencies they occur. Therefore, we reviewed the medical and epidemiological literature to identify the disease conditions that have been found to occur in people with FASD. Then based on the identified studies we estimated the pooled (combined) prevalence of the comorbid conditions found to occur among individuals with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS; the most severe and visibly identifiable form of FASD). We restricted our analysis to FAS because it is the only expression of FASD in the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases, version 10 (ICD-10). (more…)
Addiction, Alcohol, Author Interviews / 06.01.2016 Interview with: Kate Chitty PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow Sydney Medical School School of Medical Sciences Pharmacology The University of Sydney  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Chitty: Recreational poisonings, defined here as poisonings that occur as a result of using alcohol and/or illicit or prescribed drugs for recreational purposes or to induce acute rewarding psychoactive effects, represent a significant and potentially lethal form of harm attributed to drug use. There is limited information on hospital admissions for recreational poisonings separately from all hospital admissions for drug harms, despite a surge in overdose occurring at youth events. Identifying trends in recreational poisoning will enable better planning of drug and alcohol services and government initiatives to reduce harms and consequences associated with drug and alcohol use. (more…)
Author Interviews, CMAJ, Opiods / 04.01.2016

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Surveillance of the harms associated with chronic opioid use is imperative for clinicians and policy-makers to rapidly identify emerging issues related to this class of medications.  However, data regarding opioid-related deaths is difficult to obtain in Canada as it is collected by local coroners and is not widely available to researchers.  We conducted a validation study to evaluate whether regularly collected vital statistics data collected by Statistics Canada can be used to accurately identify opioid-related deaths in Canada. We compared deaths identified from charts abstracted from the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario to those identified using several coding algorithms in the Statistics Canada Vital Statistics database.  We found that the optimal algorithm had a sensitivity of 75% and a positive predictive value of 90%. When using this algorithm, the death data obtained from the Vital Statistics database slightly underestimated the number of opioid-related deaths in Ontario, however the trends over time were similar to the data obtained from the coroner’s office. (more…)
Alcohol, Author Interviews, PLoS / 02.01.2016 Interview with: Dr. Florian Naudet INSERM Centre d'Investigation Clinique 1414 Faculté de Médecine, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Rennes Laboratoire de Pharmacologie Expérimentale et Clinique Rennes, France Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Naudet: To reduce harm, alcohol-dependent individuals are usually advised to abstain from drinking, but controlled (moderate) drinking may also be helpful. To help people reduce their alcohol consumption, the European Medicines Agency recently approved nalmefene for use in the treatment of alcohol dependence in adults who consume more than 60 g (for men) or 40 g (for women) of alcohol per day. However, several expert bodies have concluded that nalmefene shows no benefit over naltrexone, an older treatment for alcohol dependency, and do not recommend its use for this indication. This is problematic because randomised controlled trials (RCTs) should lead to objective conclusions concerning treatment efficacy and this was not the case concerning nalmefene's approval. We therefore performed a meta-analysis of aggregated data to enable an objective reappraisal of the efficacy of nalmefene for relevant health outcomes and on alcohol consumption endpoints at both 6 months (+/- 1 month) and 1 year (+/- 1 month). We identified five RCTs that met the criteria for inclusion in our study. All five RCTs (which involved 2,567 participants) compared the effects of nalmefene with a placebo; none was undertaken in the population specified by the European Medicines Agency approval. Among the health outcomes examined in the meta-analysis, there were no differences between participants taking nalmefene and those taking placebo in mortality (death) after six months or one year of treatment, in the quality of life at six months. The RCTs included in the meta-analysis did not report other health outcomes. Participants taking nalmefene had fewer heavy drinking days per month at six months and one year of treatment than participants taking placebo, and their total alcohol consumption was lower. These differences were small in terms of clinical significance. Additionally, more people withdrew from the nalmefene groups than from the placebo groups, often for safety reasons. Thus, attrition bias cannot be excluded. (more…)
Annals Internal Medicine, Author Interviews, Emergency Care, Opiods, Pain Research / 29.12.2015 Interview with: Marc R. Larochelle, MD, MPH Assistant Professor of Medicine Boston Medical Center Boston, MA  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Larochelle: More than 16 thousand people in the United States die from prescription opioid overdose each year. However, morbidity extends well beyond fatal overdose - nearly half a million emergency department visits each year are related to prescription opioid-related harms. Emergency department visits for misuse of opioids represent an opportunity to identify and intervene on opioid use disorders, particularly for patients who receive prescriptions for opioids to treat pain. We examined a cohort of nearly 3000 commercially insured individuals prescribed opioids for chronic pain who were treated for a nonfatal opioid overdose in an emergency department or inpatient setting. We were interested in examining rates of continued prescribing after the overdose and the association of that prescribing with risk of repeated overdose. We found that 91% of individuals received another prescription for opioids after the overdose. Those continuing to receive opioids at high dosages were twice as likely as those whose opioids were discontinued to experience repeated overdose. (more…)
Author Interviews, CDC, Opiods / 22.12.2015 Interview with: R. Matthew Gladden, PhD Behavioral Scientist Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention CDC Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Gladden: The rate for drug overdose deaths has increased approximately 140% since 2000, driven largely by opioid overdose deaths. Nearly every aspect of the opioid overdose death epidemic worsened in 2014. Drug overdose deaths increased significantly from 2013 to 2014. Increases in opioid overdose deaths were the main factor in the increase in drug overdose deaths. The death rate from the most commonly prescribed opioid pain relievers (natural and semisynthetic opioids) increased 9%, the death rate from heroin increased 26%, and the death rate from synthetic opioids (a category that includes illicitly-made fentanyl and synthetic opioid pain relievers other than methadone) increased 80%. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Methamphetamine, PLoS / 16.12.2015 Interview with: Camron D. Bryant, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Laboratory of Addiction Genetics Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics & Psychiatry Boston University School of Medicine Boston, MA 02118  Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Bryant: The addictions, including addiction to psychostimulants such as methamphetamine and cocaine, are heritable neuropsychiatric disorders. However, the genetic factors underlying these disorders are almost completely unknown. We used an unbiased, discovery-based genetic approach to fine map a novel candidate genetic factor influencing the acute stimulant response to methamphetamine in mice. We then directly validated the causal genetic factor using a gene editing approach. The gene - Hnrnph1 (heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein H1) - codes for an RNA binding protein that is involved in alternative splicing of hundreds of genes in the brain. Based on a genome-wide transcriptome analysis of differentially expressed genes within the striatum -  a crucial brain region involved in the stimulant properties of amphetamines - we predict that Hnrnph1 is essential for proper neural development of the dopamine circuitry in the brain. These findings could have implications for understanding not only the addictions but also other neuropsychiatric disordersthat involve perturbations in the dopaminergic circuitry. (e.g., ADHD and schizophrenia) as well as neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease. (more…)
Alcohol, Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, BMJ / 11.12.2015 Interview with:

Professor, Frans Boch Waldorff General Practitioner Research Unit of General Practice Denmark

MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Prof. Waldorff: While there are numerous studies focusing on alcohol as a risk factor for dementia and mortality in healthy subjects, virtually no attention has been paid to the effect of alcohol consumption in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Considering that AD is a neurodegenerative disorder and that alcohol has known neurotoxic effects, one could easily jump to the conclusion that alcohol is damaging for patients with AD. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the positive association between moderate alcohol intake and mortality shown in population-based studies on healthy subjects can be transferred to patients with mild AD. In our study we found that patients with mild  Alzheimer’s disease , moderate alcohol consumption (two to three units per day) was associated with a significantly lower risk of death compared with those who only had alcohol occasionally (one or less than one unit per day), and with those who had high alcohol intake (more than 3 units per day). Abstinence or high alcohol intake did not significantly raise mortality compared with those drinking only occasionally. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cannabis / 29.11.2015 Interview with: Dr Silvia Rigucci MD Department of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Sensory Organs Sapienza University of Rome Rome, Italy Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr Rigucci Nowadays, ‘skunk-like’ products contain more Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than they did around a decade ago and they have been shown to induce psychotic symptoms. Therefore,  exploring the impact of cannabis potency on brain structure is becoming particularly important. We found that frequent use of high potency cannabis significantly affects the structure of white matter fibers in the brain, independently of the presence of a psychotic disorder. (more…)
Addiction, Alcohol, Author Interviews, Cannabis, OBGYNE, Ophthalmology, Pediatrics / 28.11.2015 Interview with: Professor Benjamin Thompson PhD School of Optometry and Vision Science Faculty of Science, University of Waterloo Waterloo, Ontario Canada Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Thompson: Our investigation was part of the longitudinal Infant Development and Environment and Lifestyle (IDEAL) study that was designed to investigate the effect of prenatal methamphetamine exposure on neurodevelopment. Although the negative impact of prenatal drug exposure on a wide range of neurodevelopmental outcomes such cognitive and motor function is established, the effect on vision is not well understood. To address this issue, vision testing was conducted when children in the New Zealand arm of the IDEAL study turned four and half years of age. Although the primary focus of the IDEAL study was the impact of methamphetamine on neurodevelopment, the majority of children enrolled in the study were exposed to a range of different drugs prenatally including marijuana, nicotine and alcohol. Many children were exposed to multiple drugs. This allowed us to investigate the impact of individual drugs and their combination on the children’s visual development. Alongside standard clinical vision tests such as visual acuity (the ‘sharpness’ of vision) and stereopsis (3D vision), we also tested the children’s ability to process complex moving patterns. This test, known as global motion perception, targets a specific network of higher-level visual areas in the brain that are thought to be particularly vulnerable to neurodevelopmental risk factors. (more…)
Alcohol, Author Interviews, Gender Differences, NIH / 24.11.2015 Interview with: Aaron White, PhD Senior Scientific Advisor to the Director Office of the Director National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism National Institutes of Health Bethesda, MD Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. White: Recent studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that alcohol use by women in the United States might be on the rise and that long-standing gender gaps in drinking and related consequences might be narrowing. Using data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, we found that differences in the drinking patterns of females and males ages 12+ narrowed between 2002 and 2012 for current drinking (drinking at least once in the last 30 days), number of drinking days per month, past year DSM-IV alcohol abuse, and past-year driving under the influence of alcohol. For instance, the percentage of women who drank in the previous 30 days rose from 44% to 48%, while for men the percentage decreased from 57% to 56%. Average drinking days per month increased for women from 6.8 to 7.3 days, but dropped for males from 9.9 to 9.5 days. Driving under the influence (DUI) declined for both, but less so for females (from 10.3% to 7.9%) than males (from 19.0% to 14.4%), thereby narrowing the gender gap for DUI. Analyses revealed additional changes within specific age groups in the population. (more…)
Alcohol, Author Interviews, Smoking / 30.10.2015 Interview with: Mahesh Thakkar, Ph.D. Associate professor and director of research School of Medicine's Department of Neurology Missouri University Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Thakkar: It is well known that “smokers drink and drinkers smoke.” The question is why. In our previous research, we had observed that alcohol promotes sleepiness by inhibiting the brain region known as the basal forebrain. So we asked, “Does nicotine override alcohol-induced inhibition and activate the basal forebrain?” This study was performed to address these questions. The main finding of this study is that nicotine, when co-used with alcohol, attenuates alcohol-induced sleepiness by overriding alcohol-induced inhibition of the basal forebrain region. (more…)
Alcohol, Author Interviews, Pediatrics / 28.10.2015 Interview with: Heather Fay, MHS Program Services FCD Educational Services Newton, MA Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: This study was conducted by FCD Prevention Works, an international non-profit focused on school-based, substance abuse prevention. Using FCD’s database of over 50,000 6th-12th grade student survey responses, we sought to explore the relationship between parental permission of student substance use and negative consequences related to substance use. We compared student alcohol and other drug use in the home, with or without a parent’s knowledge, to students’ self-reported negative consequences related to their own alcohol use. As might be expected, students who used alcohol or other drugs at home without their parents knowing were more likely to report negative consequences in the past 12 months related to their alcohol own use. Students who used at home with their parents knowing were protected against some negative consequences. These students were less likely than students who did not report this behavior to feel guilty about their drinking or regret something they did while drinking. However, these same students were at an increased risk of experiencing negative consequences related to addiction. These consequences included those which are indicative of a mounting dependency on alcohol, such as needing a drink or other drug first thing in the morning, using alcohol or other drugs alone, passing out because of drinking, and getting hurt or injured as a direct result of their alcohol use. (more…)
Alcohol, Author Interviews, Pediatrics / 28.10.2015 Interview with: Daniel J. Dickson, M.A. Graduate Student and Brett Laursen PhD Department of Psychology Florida Atlantic University Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: With age, adolescents spend more time with peers, and engage in drinking behaviors at increasing levels. In particular, girls who reach puberty at earlier ages than their peers are at higher risk for abusing alcohol. This may be because early maturing girls seek out the company of older more mature peers, ​who have greater access to alcohol and (in the case of those prone to delinquency) may be more welcoming to younger girls who are having difficulties with agemates. Our study investigates the association between changes in parental autonomy granting and girls’ alcohol abuse over a three year period (ages 13-16), as a function of timing of pubertal maturation. (more…)
Author Interviews, Opiods, Pain Research / 28.10.2015 Interview with: Richard L. Rauck, M.D. Director of Carolinas Pain Institute Winston Salem, NC Medical Research: How large is the problem of chronic pain severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock, long-term opioid treatment and for whom alternative treatment options are inadequate? Dr. Rauck: Chronic pain affects more than 100 million Americans - more than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. It is the most common cause of long-term disability, costing the U.S. billions of dollars annually in medical costs and lost wages and productivity.   Medical Research: What are the main medical conditions associated with this type of pain?  Dr. Rauck: A National Institute of Health Statistics survey indicated that low back pain is the most common cause of chronic pain (27%), followed by severe headache or migraine pain (15%), neck pain (15%) and facial ache or pain (4%). (more…)