Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Virtual World Therapeautic For Addicts: Study Shows Impact Of Environment To Addiction Cravings

ScienceDaily (Apr. 30, 2008) — Patients in therapy to overcome addictions have a new arena to test their coping skills--the virtual world. A new study by University of Houston Associate Professor Patrick Bordnick found that a virtual reality (VR) environment can provide the climate necessary to spark an alcohol craving so that patients can practice how to say "no" in a realistic and safe setting.

"As a therapist, I can tell you to pretend my office is a bar, and I can ask you to close your eyes and imagine the environment, but you'll know that it's not real," Bordnick said. "In this virtual environment you are at a bar or at a party or in a real-life situation. What we found was that participants had real-life responses."

Bordnick, of the UH Graduate College of Social Work, investigates VR as a tool for assessing and treating addictions. He studied 40 alcohol-dependent people who were not receiving treatment (32 men and eight women). Wearing a VR helmet, each was guided through 18 minutes of virtual social environments that included drinking. The participant's drink of choice was included in each scene. Using a game pad, each rated his or her cravings and attention to the alcohol details in each room. Each then was interviewed following the experience.

Click here to read entire article at Science

Friday, April 25, 2008

In the News: Legislative changes can cut overdose deaths

Chris Farley. Heath Ledger. Anna Nicole Smith and her son, Daniel. Each died of accidental drug overdoses.

But celebrities are not the only ones dying that way. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 23,000 people died of accidental drug overdoses in 2005, the last year for which we have comprehensive data. This tops the number of homicides that year (18,000). Overdose deaths have been on the rise. Nearly 1,000 people died of accidental drug overdose in 2006, making it the fourth-leading cause of death among adults in New York City, after heart disease, cancer and AIDS.

The state Legislature can take three immediate steps to reduce accidental overdose deaths.

*Make naloxone more widely available. Naloxone is a short-acting opiate antagonist that reverses the effects of an opiate overdose, including heroin and prescription opiates such as oxycodone. A few years ago, New York legislators made naloxone widely available for prescription and distribution by medical providers to active drug users. Extending medical standing orders to naloxone prescription could further expand access, and FDA approval of intranasal naloxone and over-the-counter sales of the near-harmless drug (which has a low potential for abuse) could assure wider accessibility across the country.

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In the News: Report finds that Connecticut Prisoners have Serious Addictions

STAMFORD - Two-thirds of Connecticut's nearly 20,000 prisoners have serious addictions, and many need to be placed into treatment to avoid an overcrowding crisis, according to a report released Thursday by two non-profit organizations.

The report, commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance, a non-profit that seeks reform of tough drug laws, urges the state to invest in drug treatment and programs to help former prisoners re-enter society successfully.

It recommends abolishing drug laws that carry mandatory minimum sentences and deal harsher punishments to offenders caught with drugs near a school, public housing project or day care center.

The report, co-sponsored by the A Better Way Foundation, a Connecticut non-profit that has pushed for changes in drug laws, also warns against enacting a three-strikes law in the wake of last year's Cheshire triple-murder.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Methamphetamine Addiction Mechanism Discovered, Explains Why Cravings Last So Long

ScienceDaily (Apr. 10, 2008) — Repeatedly stimulating the mouse brain with methamphetamine depresses important areas of the brain, and those changes can only be undone by re-introducing the drug, according to research at the University of Washington and other institutions. The study, which appears in the April 10 issue of the journal Neuron, provides one of the most in-depth views of the mechanisms of methamphetamine addiction, and suggests that withdrawal from the drug may not undo the changes the stimulant can cause in the brain.

The researchers set out to determine what sort of changes happen in the brain because of repeated use of the stimulant methamphetamine, and to better understand addiction-related behaviors like drug craving and relapse. Methamphetamine, also known as simply meth, is one of the most popular illegal drugs in the United States, and abuse of the drug can cause severe addiction.

Scientists have believed that abuse of drugs like meth can cause changes to the neurons in the brain and the synapses and terminals that control transmission of information in the brain. In this project, researchers focused on the mouse brain, and how it was affected by methamphetamine over 10 days, which is the mouse equivalent of chronic use in humans.

Click here to read entire article at Science

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

New Strategy For Treating Cocaine Addiction, Animal Research Suggests

ScienceDaily (Apr. 8, 2008) — New research in monkeys suggests the feasibility of treating cocaine addiction with a "replacement" drug that mimics the effects of cocaine but has less potential for abuse -- similar to the way nicotine and heroin addictions are treated.

Reporting at the annual meeting of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics in San Diego, Calif., scientists from Wake Forest University School of Medicine said treating monkeys with amphetamine significantly reduced their self-administration of cocaine for up to a month.

"This suggests the possibility of developing an amphetamine-like drug for treating cocaine addiction," said Paul Czoty, Ph.D., lead author and assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology. "The research also demonstrates the usefulness for conducting studies in monkeys to test potential treatments."

Click here to read entire article at Science

Monday, April 7, 2008

Environmental Enrichment Can Reduce Cocaine Use, Researchers Find

ScienceDaily (Apr. 7, 2008) — Simple environmental enrichment and increased social stress can both affect the level of individual drug use, according to new monkey research at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

Previous research has shown that social rank -- whether animals are dominant or subordinate within their social groups -- can affect the amount of cocaine that monkeys will self-administer. Housed in groups of four, male cynomolgus monkeys will invariably stratify by social rank from the most dominant to the most subordinate.

Once exposed to cocaine and taught to self-administer the drug, the more subordinate animals are far more inclined to engage in the human equivalent of serious drug abuse than are the dominant animals. Research has shown differences in certain neurochemicals in the brains of the animals, both as predictors and results of the social ranking, and therefore as predictors of drug abuse.

Click here to read entire article at Science