Health and Fitness

Switching Off Hunger Hormone Affects Desire To Drink

A Faculty of 1000 evaluation examines how a stomach-produced hormone that influences the desire to eat and consume alcohol could be switched off to control drinking problems. The study, carried out by Jerlhag et al. at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, showed that the hormone ghrelin, typically released by the stomach and known to promote appetite and therefore the intake of food, also influences the consumption of alcohol. The results, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, showed that mice injected with ghrelin and then given the choice of alcohol or water to drink, were more likely to choose alcohol. At the same time, mice treated with ghrelin antagonists, as well as knockout mice (mice with the hormone's receptor removed), proved resistant to the effects of alcohol. Faculty of 1000 Biology reviewer Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan says the ghrelin-injected mice showed more than a typical appetite for calories in choosing alcohol and the findings might influence treatment strategies for alcoholism.

UB Neurobiologist Studying The Addictive Effects Of Caffeine On Children

Caffeine is a stimulant drug, although legal, and adults use it widely to perk themselves up: Being "addicted" to caffeine is considered perfectly normal. But how strong is caffeine's appeal in young people who consume an abundance of soft drinks? What impact does acute and chronic caffeine consumption have on their blood pressure, heart rate and hand tremor? Furthermore, does consuming caffeinated drinks during adolescence contribute to later use of legal or illicit drugs? Jennifer L. Temple, PhD, a neurobiologist, assistant professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the University at Buffalo and director of its Nutrition and Health Research Laboratory, is looking for answers to these three questions through a 4-year, $800, 000 study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Her paper addressing the first question appears in the December 2009 issue of Behavioural Pharmacology, and is thought to be the first study to show a gender effect in the appeal of caffeinated soda in young people.

New Mechanism Underlying Cocaine Addiction Discovered

Researchers have identified a key epigenetic mechanism in the brain that helps explain cocaine's addictiveness, according to research funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study, published in the January issue of the journal Science, shows how cocaine affects an epigenetic process (a process capable of influencing gene expression without changing a gene's sequence) called histone methylation. These epigenetic changes in the brain's pleasure circuits, which are also the first impacted by chronic cocaine exposure, likely contribute to an acquired preference for cocaine. "This fundamental discovery advances our understanding of how cocaine addiction works, " said NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. "Although more research will be required, these findings have identified a key new player in the molecular cascade triggered by repeated cocaine exposure, and thus a potential novel target for the development of addiction medications.

Medical Marijuana Incorporated Applauds The State Of New Jersey For Passing The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act

Medical Marijuana Inc (PINKSHEETS: MJNA) applauds the New Jersey State Assembly and Senate for having approved "The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" on Monday, January 11, 2010. A804/S119 removes state-wide penalties for possession of up to two ounces of marijuana when a New Jersey licensed Physician recommends it for one of the qualified medical conditions including Aids, Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis and Crohn's disease among others. Patients will be issued ID cards by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services and may designate a registered caregiver to assist in obtaining marijuana. Uniquely among the 14 Medical Marijuana States, New Jersey will prohibit home cultivation of marijuana. Medical Marijuana Inc further applauds California for passing Assembly Bill AB390. The Assembly Safety Committee voted 4-3 in favor of AB390, marking the first time that State Lawmakers were forced to seriously consider replacing probation with regulation. AB390 would remove penalties for Adult Marijuana use, a ground breaking reform.

Words Used To Describe Substance-Use Patients Can Alter Attitudes, Contribute To Stigma

Changing the words used to describe someone struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction may significantly alter the attitudes of health care professionals, even those who specialize in addiction treatment. Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers have found that health professionals' answers to survey questions about a hypothetical patient varied depending on whether he was described as a "substance abuser" or as "having a substance use disorder." Their study will appear in the International Journal of Drug Policy and has been released online. "We found that referring to someone with the 'abuser' terminology evokes more punitive attitudes than does describing that person's situation in exactly the same words except for using 'disorder' terminology, " says John F. Kelly, PhD, associate director of the MGH Center for Addiction Medicine, who led the study. "Reducing the use of such stigmatizing terms could help diminish the shame, guilt and embarrassment that act as barriers, keeping people from seeking help.

Study Reveals The Role Played By Cocaine In Sudden Death

Forensic pathologists have shown that over three per cent of all sudden deaths in south-west Spain are related to the use of cocaine. They believe their findings can be extrapolated to much of the rest of Europe, indicating that cocaine use is a growing public health problem in Europe and that there is no such thing as "safe" recreational use of small amounts of the drug. The study published in Europe's leading cardiology journal, the European Heart Journal [1] on 13 January 2010, carefully investigated all the circumstances surrounding a consecutive series of sudden deaths between 2003 and 2006. During post-mortems the pathologists tested blood and urine for traces of toxic substances, and studied the organs, focusing on the cardiovascular system and toxicological analysis; they also gathered information on substance abuse prior to death, the circumstances of the death and death scene investigations. Out of 668 sudden deaths during the study period, 21 (3.1%) were related to cocaine use;

Also In Global Health News: Poverty In W. Africa; USAID Grants In Zimbabwe; TB Control; Pakistan's Drug Users

ECOWAS, UEMOA Release Strategy For Reducing Poverty In W. Africa The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA) on Monday released a 204-page strategy paper aimed at reducing poverty in West Africa, the Guardian reports. "The regional strategy paper was developed in response to a directive of Heads of State and Government for a regional instrument that would provide a coordinated mechanism for overcoming the limitations of existing national strategies by member states to enable them [to] meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) в, " the newspaper writes (Obayuwana, 1/12). USAID Awards $14M Grants To Farmers, Ag Businesses In Zimbabwe USAID has awarded approximately $14 million in grants to support over 52, 000 famers and agricultural businesses in Zimbabwe, the Herald reports. "Grant activities include vouchers for agricultural inputs, provision of extension services to farmers, training in conservation farming, strengthening agro-dealers and processors, development of local commodity associations, re-establishment of market linkages, business training, seed retention, creation of internal savings and lending groups, and small-scale irrigation, " according to the newspaper (1/11).

New Jersey To Legalize Medical Marijuana

The New York Times : "The New Jersey Legislature approved a measure on Monday that would make the state the 14th in the nation, but one of the few on the East Coast, to legalize the use of marijuana to help patients with chronic illnesses. The measure - which would allow patients diagnosed with severe illnesses like cancer, AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis to have access to marijuana grown and distributed through state-monitored dispensaries - was passed by the General Assembly and State Senate on the final day of the legislative session" (Kocieniewski, 1/11). The Philadelphia Inquirer : "Last February, the state Senate approved a medical-marijuana bill with bipartisan support. But after critics raised concerns that the bill could allow marijuana to become too readily available, sponsors tightened restrictions" (Lu, 1/12). The Star-Ledger : "Gov. Jon Corzine has said he would sign the bill into law before he leaves office Jan. 19. ... The law would forbid people from growing their own marijuana, license 'alternate treatment centers' to dispense the drug, and require designated caretakers who retrieve the drug on behalf of a severely ill person to undergo criminal background checks" (1/11).

Drinkaware Response To Health Select Committee Report On Alcohol Policy, UK

Reacting to a report from the Health Select Committee on Alcohol, which calls for an overhaul of the Government's alcohol policy, Chris Sorek, Chief Executive of alcohol awareness charity Drinkaware, says: "Binge drinking is one of the biggest blights on today's society and it's imperative that action is taken to minimise the grim effects of alcohol misuse. The financial and social impact of alcohol misuse affects everyone, whether they drink alcohol or not. "No one solution on its own will tackle the British drinking culture - a range of measures are needed to combat the harm caused by alcohol misuse. Education plays a critical role - all too often people are drinking without knowing about units, health risks or sometimes even the strength of their favourite drink. "Changing the drinking culture in Britain won't happen overnight, but with the right support, information and advice, people can assess their drinking habits and the role alcohol plays in their lives and start to change their attitudes and behaviour for the better.

Alcohol Metabolism Enzyme Repaired By Molecule

An experimental compound repaired a defective alcohol metabolism enzyme that affects an estimated 1 billion people worldwide, according to research supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The findings, published Jan. 10, 2010 in the advance online edition of Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, suggest the possibility of a treatment to reduce the health problems associated with the enzyme defect. "This intriguing finding could have broad public health implications, " said NIAAA Acting Director Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D. "We look forward to further research aimed at translating these laboratory discoveries into possible treatments for people." "We recently identified a molecule called Alda-1 that activates the defective enzyme, and in the current study, we determined how this activation is achieved, " said the study's senior author, Thomas D. Hurley, Ph.D., professor and associate chairman of biochemistry and molecular biology at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

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