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Archive for the ‘Alcohol and Drugs’ Category

BBC News (2/10, http://tinyurl.com/sweetteeth) reports that certain children are especially drawn to very sweet tastes.  These were children who had a close relative with an alcohol problem or who themselves had symptoms of depression.  But it is unclear if the preference for the very sweet is down to genuine chemical differences or environmental effects.  The researchers say sweet taste and alcohol trigger many of the same reward circuits in the brain.  Certain groups of children may be especially attracted to the intense sweetness due to their underlying biology.  In the latest study, the scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center asked 300 children aged five to 12, of whom half had a family member with alcohol dependency, to taste five sweet water drinks containing different amounts of sugar.  The children were asked to say which tasted the best and were also asked questions to check for depressive symptoms.  A quarter had symptoms that the researchers believed suggested they might be depressed.  Liking for intense sweetness was greatest in the 37 children who had both a family history of alcoholism and reported depressive symptoms.

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According to HealthDay (1/28, Dotinga, http://tinyurl.com/crf-EtOH), researchers are reporting that blocking a stress hormone could become a strategy to help treat alcoholism.  Lead researcher Marisa Roberto, an associate professor at the Scripps Research Institute, said in a Scripps news release:  “Our study explored  the compulsion to drink, not because it is pleasurable — which has been the focus of much previous research — but because it relieves the anxiety generated by abstinence and the stressful effects of withdrawal.  “The hormone, known as corticotropin-releasing factor, plays a role in the body’s response to stress and is found in the brain.  Romero said it’s possible that blocking the hormone “may prevent excessive alcohol consumption under a variety of behavioral and physiological conditions.”  The researchers also found that rats exposed to the hormone-suppressing chemical didn’t become immune to the chemical’s effects over time.  That suggests that people might be able to take it repeatedly without facing a loss of effectiveness.

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ccMedWire (7/21, Grasmo) reports that, according to a study published online July 10 in the journal Bipolar Disorders, there may be “an association between suicidal acts and smoking and coffee consumption in bipolar disorder (BPD) patients.” For the study, researchers from Germany’s University of Cologne “conducted a retrospective analysis of demographic and clinical factors among 352 patients with BPD I and II, comparing results in patients who did and did not (19 percent) consume nicotine or caffeine.” The team found that “current smoking and coffee drinking were common in BPD patients (46 percent and 74 percent, respectively) and were significantly and independently associated with suicidal acts following multivariate analysis, with corresponding odds ratios (ORs) of 1.79 and 2.42.” In addition, “patients who used either substance had a 2.66 relative risk for suicide compared with patients who neither smoked nor drank coffee (23.9 percent vs. 9.0 percent, respectively).”

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bdnfHealthDay (5/28, Preidt) reported that, according to a study published online May 28 in the journal Science, “a naturally occurring protein” called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) “plays a role in the disrupted functioning of the brain’s reward circuitry seen in people with drug and alcohol dependence.” In the study, researchers from the University of Toronto and Brigham Young University “found that a single injection of BDNF made rats behave as if they were dependent on opiates, even though they’d never been given the drugs.” The team “also found that the BDNF injections in the rats caused certain chemicals that normally inhibit neurons in the brain’s reward circuitry to excite neurons, which is what happens when people become dependent on drugs.” The authors suggested that “BDNF plays a major role in inducing drug dependency.”

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oxy-all-mgHealthDay (5/18, Preidt) reported that Swiss researchers say their new research suggests that “oxytocin may help make it easier for couples to discuss difficult issues.” After being given oxytocin or a placebo intranasally, couples in the study “had a conflict discussion in the laboratory. Compared to participants who received the placebo, those who were given oxytocin communicated more positively and had lower stress levels.” Researchers noted in the journal Biological Psychiatry that oxytocin “might help us to pronounce the effects of standard treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, by possibly making the benefits of social interaction more accessible to the individual. But it probably will not replace these standard treatments.”

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HealthDay (4/30, Preidt) reported that, according to a study “released this week” by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly “12 percent of children in the United States live with a parent who has a substance abuse problem.” The study, which analyzed “national data from 2002 to 2007,” was “based on responses from 87,656 parents, aged 18 and older, who were asked about their substance dependence and abuse.” Among the study’s key findings were that nearly “7.3 million youths lived with a parent who was dependent on or abused alcohol,” and approximately “2.1 million children lived with a parent who was dependent on or abused illicit drugs.” The study also revealed that “living in this type of home environment can cause long-lasting mental and physical health problems.”

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MedWire (4/20, Cowen) reported that, according to a study published in the journal European Psychiatry, “cannabis use is significantly associated with earlier age at schizophrenia development, with a higher frequency of use linked to a younger age at onset.” For the study, researchers from Spain’s Hospital Clínic i Universitari examined “data on 116 patients, aged less than 35 years, who were treated for a first episode of psychosis in Barcelona between 2002 and 2006, and who were subsequently diagnosed with schizophrenia.” The team obtained “information on the patients’ use of cannabis and other drugs, as well as on the development of psychosis symptoms…from the patients’ medical records and their doctors.” The group found that, “overall, cannabis users developed psychosis an average 1.93 years earlier than those who did not use the drug.” Moreover, “average age at first treatment decreased as the degree and frequency of cannabis use increased.”

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HealthDay (3/27, McKeever) reported that, according to a study published in the March issue of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, college women may not “need to drink to excess to impress college men.” For the study, researchers from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles “surveyed 3,616 college students about women’s drinking habits and men’s views of drinking by women.” The team found that the majority “of the women overestimated, by an average of a drink-and-a-half, how much men would like them to drink at any given event.” Specifically, nearly “26 percent said they thought men would most likely want to be friends with a woman who drinks five or more drinks, and 16 percent said women who drank the most attracted men sexually.” In reality, “both estimates were twice what the men said they actually preferred.” The authors are now undertaking a follow-up study “to determine how men think women view male drinking habits.”

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Time (3/8, Cloud) reported that, according to a study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, Chantix (varenicline) “has…helped a group of regular drinkers consume less alcohol.” For the study, conducted by researchers at Yale University, “twenty regular drinkers (defined as those who consume at least one drink per day and, at least once a week, three or more drinks in a single sitting) took varenicline or a placebo daily for a week before showing up for the experiment.” None of the subjects “was dependent on alcohol, and none had tested positive for illicit drugs.” At approximately “3 p.m. on the day of the experiment, all were asked to drink a cocktail of their choosing. Afterward, if they wanted, they could have more cocktails.” The researchers found that “the 10 who had taken varenicline drank an average of just .5 drinks after their first cocktail. By contrast, the 10 who were taking placebos consumed 2.6 drinks.”

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The U.K.’s Telegraph (1/14, Devlin) reports that, according to a study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, “drinking just three cups of brewed coffee a day can triple the chances of suffering from hallucinations,” and “even moderate amounts of the stimulant” caffeine “can lead people to hear voices and see things that are not there.” Researchers from the U.K.’s Durham University “warn that ‘high caffeine users'” may be at “increased risk.”
        For the study, the investigators “asked 219 students to document their caffeine intake, working on the principle that a cup of instant coffee contains 45 mg of caffeine,” the U.K.’s Daily Mail (1/14) adds. “Healthy young men and women who had more than seven cups of instant coffee a day were three times more likely to hear or see things that were not there than those who limited their intake to less than a cup.” In fact, “large amounts of caffeine also made people more likely to think they could sense the presence of ghosts.” The team theorized that “caffeine boosts levels of cortisol, a stress hormone,” and suggested that “confirming the link could lead to new treatments for those who suffer severe hallucinations, including” people with schizophrenia, “some victims of child abuse, and the recently bereaved.” Bloomberg News (1/14, Kresge), Canada’s CTV (1/14), and the U.K.’s Press Association (1/14) also cover the story.

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