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Friday, August 29, 2014

Lower Nicotine May Reduce Addiction

Many people hold that if cigarettes had less nicotine people would simply smoke more. In fact, reducing nicotine in cigarettes does not lead to increased smoking habits and may actually reduce addiction, according to a new study conducted by the University of Waterloo.

The smoking behaviors of 72 adults were monitored by researchers; the study participants switched to three types of cigarettes with reduced nicotine levels. Researchers observed no change in participants' smoking behavior, number of cigarettes consumed or levels of toxic chemicals in their systems.

"One of the primary barriers to reducing nicotine levels is the belief that individuals who continue to smoke will smoke more cigarettes in an effort to extract the same nicotine levels, thereby exposing themselves to greater amounts of toxic chemicals. Our findings suggest this is not the case," said study lead author Professor David Hammond, of the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Waterloo. "The smokers were unable or unwilling to compensate when there was markedly less nicotine in the cigarette and when the experience of smoking is far less rewarding."

The average cigarette smoked everyday contain 12mg of nicotine, the cigarettes used in the study - Quest 1, Quest 2 and Quest 3 - had a nicotine content of 8.9, 8.4 and 0.6 mg of nicotine. At the time of the study, Quest cigarettes were the only cigarettes with reduced nicotine in the world available for commercial use.

"There is ample evidence from inside and outside the tobacco industry that major reductions in the nicotine content of cigarettes would result in a less-addictive product," said Professor Hammond. "Overall, the impact of a less-addictive cigarette on reducing smoking uptake and cancer prevention is potentially massive."

The study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Nasal Spray Naloxone Final Testing

The opioid overdose antidote naloxone has become more readily available over the years and the drug has proven itself crucial when it comes to saving lives. A number of states allow addicts to purchase the drug at pharmacies as a preemptive measure; if an emergency does arise the chance of surviving an overdose is that much greater. One of the problems with naloxone in its current available form is that it is an injection; people without medical training may struggle to provide their friend or loved one with the injection. Fortunately, a new nasal spray form of the drug is in its final stage of testing and has received a Fast Track designation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to Science Daily.

The naloxone nasal spray was developed by Daniel Wermeling, a professor at the University of Kentucky's College of Pharmacy Practice and Science, through his start-up company AntiOp Inc. Even if a patient has stopped breathing, the spray delivers a consistent dose, absorbed across the nasal membranes.

"The goal is to make the medication available to patients at high risk of opioid overdose, and to caregivers, including family members, who may lack specialized medical training," Wermeling said. "The treatment could be given in anticipation of EMS arrival, advancing the continuum of care and ultimately saving lives."

Kentucky has been hit hard by prescription drug and heroin overdoses, with 230 heroin overdose deaths in 2013 - up 60 percent from the year before. The need for greater naloxone access, as well as a more user friendly method of implementation, is important.

"Too many Kentucky families have experienced the tragedy of seeing a loved one's life cut short by a drug overdose," said University of Kentucky president, Eli Capilouto. "The epidemic of opioid abuse in our state presents an enormous and urgent challenge, not only for health care providers and law enforcement, but also for us here at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Wermeling's project is putting a powerful new tool into the hands of those on the front line of the fight against heroin, both here in Kentucky and beyond. This type of innovation embodies the three main components of the university's mission -- education, research and, above all, service."

You can watch a short video on how the device works:




If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Increased Suicide Rates Amongst Middle Aged

Many Americans and people around the world are at a loss concerning the recent death of famed comedian/actor Robin Williams. The apparent suicide of Williams has prompted a number of people to look at what could cause someone who appears to have the world in their hands, take their own life. Robin Williams’ death highlights the increasing rate of suicide among American adults ages 45 to 64 according to U.S. health officials, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Williams struggled with drug addiction, alcoholism, and depression for years, according to The New York Times. Williams cleaned up from drugs in the mid-80s, but then sought treatment for alcohol abuse in 2006. Williams had been treated for severe depression recently. However, the risk of suicide increases in people who are struggling with drug and alcohol use and depression. And just yesterday his wife indicated that Williams was also in the early stages of Parkinson's disease.

Suicide rates for adults ages 45 to 64 increased 40 percent from 1999 to 2011, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The suicide rate for people in middle age to late middle age is higher than any other group, according to Jill Harkavy-Friedman, Vice President of Research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “We don’t hear about middle-age or older people who kill themselves unless they’re a star like Robin Williams,” she said. “Because it’s so shocking when a younger person dies, there’s a tendency of re-reporting and romanticizing.”

According to Julie Phillips, Associate Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, the increased suicide rate in this age group could be caused by:
  • Economic Pressures
  • Health Problems
  • Abuse of Prescription Drugs
  • Social Isolation
Most suicide prevention efforts have been mostly geared towards young and elderly people, according to Alex Crosby of the CDC. “Middle-aged adults got kind of left out in the thinking of where to focus to resources for suicide prevention,” he said. “It’s important for us to examine more closely and put more resources into that population.”

Friday, August 8, 2014

Civilian Life Leads Veterans to Drink

Drinking problems among veterans returning from foreign conflicts are quite common. Dealing with the post-traumatic stresses after war often results in self-medicating, which can easily lead to a substance use disorder. However, new research indicates that drinking problems in returning U.S. National Guard soldiers are more likely caused by civilian life, as opposed to their experience overseas, according to HealthDay.

Data was collected by researchers over a three year period on about 1,000 Ohio National Guard soldiers who returned from Iraq or Afghanistan. Researchers asked about their alcohol use and about stress in their lives since they returned. They were also asked about their exposure to traumatic events such as:
  • Injuries
  • Land Mines
  • Vehicle Crashes
  • Enemy Fire
  • Deaths of Fellow Soldiers

Researchers found that sixty percent had experienced combat-related trauma, and 36 percent had experienced life problems since they returned. In the first interview, researchers found that 13 percent of veterans reported alcohol abuse or dependence. In the second interview 7 percent and 5 percent in their third interview. Researchers determined that combat-related events were only marginally associated with alcohol problems.

Researchers found that 17 percent of the veterans said they were sexually harassed during their most recent deployment. An increased risk for alcohol problems was most associated with having at least one civilian point of stress or an incident of sexual harassment during deployment, the article notes.

“Exposure to the traumatic event itself has an important effect on mental health in the short-term, but what defines long-term mental health problems is having to deal with a lot of daily life difficulties that arise in the aftermath—when soldiers come home,” lead researcher Magdalena Cerdá of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health said in a news release.

The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Bipartisan REDEEM Act to Help Low-Level Drug Offenders Re-Enter Society

The REDEEM Act is a bipartisan bill designed to make it easier for low-level drug offenders to re-enter society, according to MSNBC. The bill follows in the wake of the U.S. Sentencing Commission voting to reduce terms for low-level drug traffickers who are already incarcerated.

In April, the Sentencing Commission voted to reduce the base offense for those charged with being in possession of various amounts of drugs. The vote not only affects those yet to be charged, but also those already incarcerated. The REDEEM Act could not come at a better time when you consider that there are more than 46,000 drug offenders who are eligible for early release from prison by more than two years.

All cases will have to go before a judge to be considered for early release and no one will be eligible for release before Nov. 1, 2015. However, Congress has the power to put a stop to the plan by Nov. 1, 2014.

The REDEEM Act is sponsored by New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a Republican. The act, if passed, would limit the length of time a person must answer employer questions about past convictions, greatly increasing one’s ability to find a job out of prison, according to the article. Another element of the bill focuses on federal welfare. Currently, there is ban on federal welfare benefits for people convicted of non-violent drug violations, under the bill the ban would be repealed for those who complete substance abuse treatment.

Please take a moment to watch a short video of Senators Booker and Paul discussing the REDEEM Act:



If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.
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