Our need for stimulation and dopamine's action upon the brain are connected, which explains why people who constantly crave stimulation are in danger of addictive behaviour such as drug abuse and gambling. The urge to actively seek out new experiences is a personality trait that psychologists have known about for years, but up until now scientists have been unable to prove how this urge relates to hormonal activities in the brain. Now, an international research team made up of scientists from the University of Copenhagen, University of Aarhus and University of Tokyo have been able to prove for the first time that this hunger for stimulation is greater on average among people who possess more of the gratification hormone - dopamine in the brain. The research team lead by Professor Albert Gjedde from the Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology at the University of Copenhagen and Doctor Arne MГёller from CFIN at Aarhus University used PET scans at Aarhus University Hospital to map the areas in the brain where dopamine was active among healthy volunteers.
The brain's innate interest in the new and different may help trump the power of addictive drugs, according to research published by the American Psychological Association. In controlled experiments, novelty drew cocaine-treated rats away from the place they got cocaine. Novelty could help break the vicious cycle of treatment and relapse, especially for the many addicts with novelty-craving, risk-taking personalities, the authors said. Drug-linked settings hold particular sway over recovering addicts, which may account in part for high rates of relapse. In the multi-stage study, Carmela Reichel, PhD, and Rick Bevins, PhD, of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, trained rats to prefer one side of a large Plexiglas apparatus by injecting them with one of three different doses of cocaine before placing them in that side. For the next eight days, the researchers alternated placing rats in one side or the other, injecting cocaine before placing them on one side, or injecting saline solution before placing them on the other.
"State and local efforts to thwart methamphetamine production by further limiting consumer access to a popular decongestant are pitting law enforcement against pharmacists and patients, " USA Today reports. "New ordinances in some Missouri communities and legislation pending in several states would require consumers to get a prescription to buy cold and allergy pills containing pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed and Claritin-D. The medicines still are being purchased at pharmacies to make methamphetamine, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), despite an earlier nationwide effort to track sales." These initiatives are motivated by efforts to do away with meth labs - "often in homes or hotel rooms - that use a mixture of toxic chemicals that can explode or catch fire, putting bystanders at risk and requiring costly cleanups" (Young, 2/1). This information was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with kind permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery at kaiserhealthnews.
A paper by a University of Hertfordshire academic due to be published tomorrow (29 January 2010), reports that excess ecstasy-related death rates in young users is a cause for concern. Professor Fabrizio Schifano at the University's School of Pharmacy, is lead author for a paper entitled Overview of Amphetamine-Type Stimulant Mortality Data UK, 1997 2007, which will be published in Neuropsychobiology online tomorrow. Professor Schifano and his colleagues at St George's, University of London's International Centre for Drug Policy, which runs the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths (np-SAD), reviewed stimulant-related deaths from the np-SAD database and from the British Crime Survey 2001-2007 results and found that identified 832 amphetamine and methylamphetamine-related deaths and 605 ecstasy-related deaths. What was of more concern to Professor Fabrizio and the researchers was the fact that the fatalities from ecstasy during that period were typically identified in victims who were young and healthy.
The mutation responsible for the alcohol flush reaction, an unpleasant response to alcohol that is relatively common in people of Asian descent, may have occurred following the domestication of rice. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology traced the history of the version of the gene responsible, finding that the ADH1B 47His allele appeared around the same time that rice was first cultivated in southern China. Bing Su, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China, worked with a team of researchers to study 38 populations (2, 275 individuals) including Han Chinese, Tibetan and other ethnic populations across China. He said, "Our molecular dating suggests that the emergence of the ADH1B 47His allele occurred about 10, 000-7, 000 years ago. The geographic distribution of the allele in East Asia is also consistent with the unearthed culture relic sites of rice domestication in China, suggesting that distribution of the alcohol flush mutation can be explained by the origin and expansion of the Neolithic rice culture.
As access to medical marijuana becomes more widespread, officials are debating its use as a pain-coping treatment and are easing rules for the sick to use the drug, The Wall Street Journal reports. "The U.S. Department of Justice has said it will not generally prosecute ill people under doctors' care whose use of the drug complies with state rules. New Jersey will become the 14th state to allow therapeutic use of marijuana, and the number is likely to grow. Illinois and New York, among others, are considering new laws." But there are not many clinical trials to show solid data on how successful such use of the plant is to helping patients. "A recent American Medical Association review found fewer than 20 randomized, controlled clinical trials of smoked marijuana for all possible uses. These involved around 300 people in all - well short of the evidence typically required for a pharmaceutical to be marketed in the U.S. ... Though states have been legalizing medical use of marijuana since 1996, when California passed a ballot initiative, the idea remains controversial" (Wilde Mathews, 1/18).
One of many reasons that attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings helps people with alcohol use disorders stay sober appears to be alleviation of depression. A team of researchers has found that study participants who attended AA meetings more frequently had fewer symptoms of depression - along with less drinking - than did those with less AA participation. The report will appear in the journal Addiction and has been release online. "Our study is one of the first to examine the mechanisms underlying behavioral change with AA and to find that AA attendance alleviates depression symptoms, " says study leader John F. Kelly, PhD, associate director of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Center for Addiction Medicine. "Perhaps the social aspects of AA helps people feel better psychologically and emotionally as well as stop drinking." The authors note that problems with mood regulation such as depression are common among people with alcohol problems - both preceding and being exacerbated by alcohol use.
Despite limited evidence of long-term success in using opioid pain medications for chronic low back pain, opioid prescribing has increased in recent years for back pain and other non-cancer pain indications. The implications are controversial as published studies provide little evidence indicating which patients will benefit from long-term opioid treatment. New research, published in The Journal of Pain, identifies predictors of long-term opioid use among patients with chronic back pain caused by lumbar spine conditions. Participants were recruited from 13 spine specialty centers in 11 states and totaled 2, 110. Forty-two percent reported using opioids for pain from their spine condition and a third said they take opioids every day. From their analysis of the demographic, medical and social characteristics of study participants, the researchers found that nonsurgical treatment and smoking independently predicted continued long-term opioid use and pain severity did not. The authors noted that smoking can be a marker for substance abuse disorders, which was not a characteristic evaluated in the sample due to limitations for measuring alcohol or drug use.
The study, which was published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and funded by the National Health Research Institutes of Taiwan, tested two separate intervention methods to assess the eating patterns of dementia patients in Taiwan. Loss of memory and problems with judgement in dementia patients can cause difficulties in relation to eating and nutrition. Poor eating habits in patients have been associated with poor quality of life and can lead to pressure ulcers and infections. The study used two different step-by-step training programmes to help older people with dementia regain eating skills which are commonly lost. The methods were then compared with no intervention. Patients were tested using a range of measures including their feeding difficulty score and nutritional assessment. Results showed that both methods of intervention reduced their difficulty feeding score and improved their nutritional assessment when compared with no intervention. The study was led by Professor Li-Chan Lin, a former Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Sheffield, from the National Yang-Min University in Taipei, Taiwan.
Older teenagers and young adults who are out of work face poorer health and lower happiness, with one in 10 claiming that unemployment drove them to drugs or alcohol, according to new research. A Princes Trust study, based on interviews with over 2, 000 unemployed 16 to 25 year olds, also found out-of-work young people were more likely to feel ashamed, rejected and unloved. If the current economic downturn mirrors previous recessions these could become 'permanent psychological scars', the charity warned. The survey also showed that one in four unemployed young people believed their joblessness had caused arguments with their parents or other family members and one in three felt down or depressed. Leading economist Professor David Blanchflower said in the report:"Unemployment has a knock-on effect on a young person's self-esteem, their emotional stability and overall wellbeing. The longer the period a young person is unemployed for, the more likely they are to experience this psychological scarring.