Monday, June 16, 2008

High Impulsivity Predicts The Switch To Compulsive Cocaine-taking

ScienceDaily (June 16, 2008) — Scientists at the University of Cambridge have found impulsivity, a trait often associated with addicts’ behaviour, predicts whether casual drug use will lead to compulsive drug use. Their findings were recently reported in Science.

Many individuals take addictive drugs at some point in their lives – not just illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin, but also legal and commonly available substances such as alcohol and nicotine. But only a sub-group of those who take drugs eventually lose control over their drug use and become ‘addicted’.

These individuals take more drugs than intended, seek and take drugs compulsively and persist in doing so despite the many adverse consequences, such as compromising their health, family relationships, friendships and work. Many resort to criminal behaviour to obtain the funds necessary to sustain their compulsive drug use.

Why are some individuals vulnerable to this transition from casual to compulsive drug use? Scientists have concluded that there is a genetic vulnerability to addiction, which is best known for alcoholism. However, the precise relationship between vulnerability genes and addictive behaviour remains to be established.

Click here to read entire article at Science

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pivotal Breakthrough Made In Alcohol Addiction Treatment

ScienceDaily (June 12, 2008) — Alcoholism is a devastating disease in part because of the 'symptom' of heavy drinking but more so due to the extensive harm it causes physical organs, such as the heart and liver, as well as damage to an individual's psychosocial well-being that decreases quality of life.

Remarkably, and for the first time, addiction experts led by a University of Virginia Health System team report the results of a clinical trial whereby an effective therapeutic medication, topiramate, not only decreases heavy drinking but also diminishes the physical and psychosocial harm caused by alcohol dependence.

"What we've found is that topiramate treats the alcohol addiction, not just the 'symptom' of drinking," says lead author Professor Bankole Johnson, D.Sc., M.D., Ph.D., M.Phil., FRCPsych., chairman of the UVa Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, of the nationwide 14-week trial involving 371 male and female diagnosed alcoholics.

Click here to read entire article at Science

Excessive Drinking And Relapse Rapidly Cut In New Approach

ScienceDaily (June 12, 2008) — Boosting the level of a specific brain protein quickly cut excessive drinkingof alcohol in a new animal study, and also prevented relapse -- the common tendency found in sober alcoholics to easily return to heavy drinking after just one glass.

In addition, the treatment did not block other "pleasure-seeking behaviors" -- in this case, craving sweets. Interference with these normal behaviors has been a problem with drugs developed for alcoholism treatment. Nor did the brain chemical boost appear to carry any side effects, the study researchers report.

The research by scientists at theUCSF-affiliatedErnest Gallo Clinic and Research Center builds on their earlier work. In 2005, they reported the first hints that increased levels of this brain protein, known as GDNF, cut down alcohol consumption. The new study established how quickly the effect kicks in, and shows for the first time that the chemical blocks relapse and does not interfere with normal cravings. The research also pinpointed the brain site where GDNF acts to control drinking.

Click here to read entire article at Science

Stress Increases Cocaine Addiction

ScienceDaily (Nov. 6, 2007) — According to the Trimbos Institute, anyone who sniffs cocaine once has a 15 to 20% likelihood of becoming addicted to this hard drug. Why does the recreational user only try it once whereas another person becomes physically and mentally dependent on the drug? Behavioural Pharmacologist Inge de Jong, attached to the LUMC (Leiden University Medical Center) and the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, sought an explanation in the effect of stress hormones.

The nervous smoker

‘Experience has shown that stress can lead to addiction,’ de Jong says. ‘Take the example of a smoker: he will light a cigarette immediately when he gets nervous. We still don’t understand the physical mechanisms by which stress contributes to the development of an addiction. Certainly for such a highly addictive substance as cocaine, which has adverse effects on health, on the ability to function in society and on criminal behaviour, it is especially important to gain a better understanding of how these mechanisms work. This may enable us to cure people of their addiction,or even better, to intervene preventively.’


How does a person become addicted to cocaine? The more frequently an individual uses the drug, the greater the desire for it becomes, and certain physical reactions also become increasingly stronger. This effect is called sensitisation. De Jong examined how sensitisation is affected by two hormones which are produced by the adrenal glands: adrenaline and corticosterone. She also investigated whether this relation is dependent on the individual’s genetic code. ‘Certain people are by nature more sensitive than others to developing an addiction,’ according to De Jong.

Click here to read entire article at Science

More research planned into whether exercise can help prevent addiction

Associated Press - June 9, 2008 10:33 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) - Studies in both humans and animals suggest that exercise may help prevent drug or alcohol addiction.

The government is pumping more money into research to find out.

The underlying question is whether regular physical activity spurs changes in the brain involving neurochemicals that sense and reinforce pleasure. In a Brown University study, women in a smoking-cessation program were twice as likely to kick the habit if they also exercised three times a week. They also gained only half as much weight.

Similar results were found in a study of teens and tweens. Those who said they exercise daily were half as likely to smoke, and 40% less likely to experiment with marijuana.

The possible connection between exercise and less addiction becomes important as kids become more sedentary.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Genes May Determine Which Smoking Cessation Treatment Works Best

ScienceDaily (June 8, 2008) — Kicking the habit may soon become easier for the nation's 45 million smokers. For the first time, researchers have identified patterns of genes that appear to influence how well individuals respond to specific smoking cessation treatments.

Scientists at Duke University Medical Center, the National Institute of Drug Abuse, University of Pennsylvania and Brown University scanned the entire human genome in a comprehensive search for genes that could determine treatment outcome. They identified several genetic variations that seem to indicate the likelihood of success or failure of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and bupropion (Zyban).

"This takes us a big step forward in being able to tailor treatment to individual smokers to provide the therapies that are most likely to benefit them," explains Jed Rose, Ph.D., director of Duke's Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research and one of the study's authors. "In a few years, a simple blood test may provide physicians with enough information to recommend one treatment over another."

Click here to read entire article at Science

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Increased Risk Of Smoking, Substance Abuse In Bipolar Adolescents Confirmed

ScienceDaily (June 4, 2008) — A study from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) supports previous reports that adolescents with bipolar disorder are at increased risk for smoking and substance abuse. The article appearing in the June Drug and Alcohol Dependence -- describing the largest such investigation to date and the first to include a control group -- also indicates that bipolar-associated risk is independent of the risk conferred by other disorders affecting study participants.

"This work confirms that bipolar disorder (BPD) in adolescents is a huge risk factor for smoking and substance abuse, as big a risk factor as is juvenile delinquency," says Timothy Wilens, MD, director of Substance Abuse Services in MGH Pediatric Psychopharmacology, who led the study. "It indicates both that young people with BPD need to carefully be screened for smoking and for substance use and abuse and that adolescents known to abuse drugs and alcohol -- especially those who binge use -- should also be assessed for BPD."

Click here to read entire article at Science

Monday, June 2, 2008

Not All University Students Will 'Mature Out' Of Heavy Drinking Habits

ScienceDaily (June 2, 2008) — Not all university students will "mature out" of their heavy-drinking habits. A new study examines the density of college students' family history of alcoholism. This type of measure -- looking at first-, second- and third-degree relatives -- identified a significant number of at-risk individuals who would have been missed using regular family-history measures.

While many university students tend to "mature out" of heavy-drinking behavior by the time they become young adults, some go on to develop alcohol-use disorders (AUDs). Most genetic research on an individual's family history of alcoholism (FHA) has looked at the parents' -- usually paternal -- alcohol use. New findings indicate that looking at the density of FHA -- including first-, second- and third-degree relatives -- is much more telling.

"Using a density measure of FHA can identify a greater number of individuals who may be at risk for developing an alcohol problem," said Christy Capone, a postdoctoral research fellow at Brown University's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies and the study's first author. "The greater number of affected relatives ... the greater the potential risk of developing an AUD. Ours is the first published study to examine this measure among college students."

Click here to read entire article at Science