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Friday, November 28, 2014

Teenage TBI Reported Drug Use

English: A CT of the head years after a trauma...
Students in Canada, between grades 9 and 12, who had experienced traumatic brain injury (TBI), reported drug use rates two to four times higher than peers with no history of TBI, reports Science Daily.

"Overall, a teen with a history of TBI is at least twice as likely as a classmate who hasn't suffered a brain injury to drink alcohol, use cannabis or abuse other drugs," said Dr. Michael Cusimano, co-principal investigator of the study and a neurosurgeon at St. Michael's Hospital. "But when you look at specific drugs, those rates are often higher."

A TBI was defined by researchers as any hit or blow to the head that resulted in the teenager being knocked out for at least five minutes or being hospitalized for at least one night due to symptoms associated with the head injury.

The research showed that, in the past 12 months, teens with a history of TBI said they were:
  • 3.8 times more likely to have used crystal meth.
  • 3.8 times more likely to have used non-prescribed tranquilizers or sedatives.
  • 2.8 times more likely to have used Ecstasy.
  • 2.7 times more likely to have used non-prescribed opioid pain relievers.
  • 2.6 times more likely to have used hallucinogens.
  • 2.5 times more likely to have used cocaine.
  • 2.5 times more likely to have used LSD.
  • 2.1 times more likely to have used non-prescribed ADHD drugs.
"On top of the other health consequences, substance abuse increases the odds of suffering an injury that could result in a TBI," said Dr. Cusimano, who is also a researcher with the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science. "And using some of these substances may also impair recovery after injury."

The findings were published in The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.

Friday, November 21, 2014

MRI's May Predict Future Alcohol Abuse

In the near future it may be possible to predict substance abuse through genetic testing; researchers are tirelessly working to find genetic markers they could indicate an increased likelihood of addiction. What’s more, new research suggests that conducting brain scans on preteens may give scientists the ability to detect changes in the brain, allowing them to predict future alcohol abuse, Medical Daily reports.

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine worked with neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center to study 135 preteen boys and girls who were an average of 12.6 years old. None of the participants had ever tried alcohol in their lives.

“What this study is attempting to do is identify the differences in the brains of adolescents who go on to misuse alcohol and other drugs. If we know what is different, we may be able to develop strategies that can prevent the behavior,” project director Dr. John VanMeter said.

The preteens underwent MRI scans to evaluate their brain connections, specifically focusing on the brain’s executive control network (ECN). The ECN is comprised of areas in the brain that process emotion, impulsivity and self-control, according to the article. The preteen’s parents were asked to fill out questionnaires about their children’s behavior and exposure to drugs or alcohol. The researchers then compared the MRI scans with the findings from the questionnaires.

“We know impaired functioning in the ECN is linked to an earlier age of drinking onset and higher frequency of drinking, but it was unclear whether this dysfunction occurred before drinking or was a consequence of alcohol use,” project researcher Tomas Clarke of Georgetown University Medical Center said in a news release. The findings indicated that children who were at high risk for alcohol abuse had significantly fewer connections in the ECN. “Our findings suggest reduced prefrontal cortex development predates alcohol use and may be related to future alcohol use disorders,” Clarke noted.

"Less connectivity predicted higher levels of impulsivity," said Benson Stevens, a research student at Georgetown University, in the release. "Importantly, these effects were observed before the onset of alcohol use. The reduced connectivity between these brain regions could be an important factor in adolescent alcohol use given that reduced inhibitory control has been found to be a factor in alcohol use disorders."

The research was presented this week at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Drinking Alcohol Leads to the Emergency Room

Consuming alcohol often comes with unpredictable outcomes; many cases involve a trip to an emergency room. Alcohol disrupts the decision making process and lowers people’s inhibitions, which can lead to dangerous choices. New research indicates that a person who consumes three drinks in six hours is about 4.6 times more likely to end up in the emergency room than someone who had nothing to drink.


Supported by a grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, researchers analyzed surveys filled out by 13,000 people, in 18 different countries, that had injured themselves while drinking and needed to go to the ER, according to The Washington Post. The researchers found that even one drink roughly doubles the odds of going to the hospital.

"Patients were asked about the cause of injury bringing them to the emergency department (categorized as falls, traffic, violence, other), drinking within six hours prior to the injury event, and drinking during the same six-hour period the previous week," explained author Cheryl Cherpitel, a researcher with the Alcohol Research Group.

Violence was more commonly the cause of injury from increased drinking than traffic accidents or falls, in fact researchers determined that just one drink almost quadruples a person’s odds of getting into a fight and having to go to the hospital. The more alcohol that one consumes the greater the chance of ending up in the emergency room due to violence.

The study found that women who consumed alcohol had a higher risk of injury than men. The reason for this, explains Duke University's Philip Cook, is that "generally speaking the effects of ingesting X ounces of ethanol in 6 hours depends on weight but also gender (and other factors). Women tend to be more reactive to alcohol, achieving a higher BAC for given level of drinking and body weight."

The findings appear in the journal Addiction.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Alcohol and Tobacco Sold at Pharmacies

In an attempt to promote healthier choices CVS no longer sells tobacco, a move that will cost the company an estimated $2 billion in revenues, according to The Wall Street Journal. In order to compensate for the loss, Caremark, the pharmacies benefits manager, announced it will require some customers to make a $15 co-payment on prescriptions filled at non-CVS pharmacies that sell tobacco. CVS owns Caremark so they have to find some way to make up for the losses.

It is not difficult to see that the CVS anti-tobacco move is not without complications, considering that many of those covered by Caremark do not smoke. Charging such customers an extra co-pay fee when filling their prescriptions at non-CVS pharmacies could be seen as unfair.

Following the lead of CVS, Express Scripts, the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits manager, is surveying pharmacy owners about developing a network of pharmacies that do not sell tobacco products or alcohol, the article reports. This move to create, what is called a “no-sin network,” may end up canceling out any competitive benefit for CVS and may exclude CVS pharmacies from the “no-sin network” because the pharmacy continues to sell alcohol in states that allow it.

“Some clients have inquired about creating networks that include pharmacies that do not sell tobacco or alcohol,” the Express Scripts spokesman told The Wall Street Journal. “We regularly survey our retail pharmacy partners on many topics and we are doing so now. At this point, we are gathering information.”

If Express Scripts moves forward with creating a network of vice free pharmacies, it may force CVS’ hand to stop selling alcohol. While removing products like tobacco and alcohol from pharmacies may promote healthier choices, in a way it is somewhat counter-intuitive. When you consider that many of the drugs found behind the counter are as equally addictive and self-destructive, drugs that continue to disrupt countless lives.
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