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Friday, September 24, 2010

San Francisco Alcohol Fee Vetoed

Every year cities around the country pay quite a lot for indigent alcoholics who need medical services, such as ambulance trips, hospital care, prevention programs, and a sobering center. The city of San Francisco had proposed a tax on alcohol distribution companies, while they are making millions of dollars on the suffering of others taxpayers' money is going to helping alcoholics when they need medical help. It makes sense that alcohol wholesalers and distributor companies should pay for the people who they helped on the road to sickness. Alcohol is a destructive substance that people get rich from while others are dying and it should not fall on taxpayers to take care of. However, San Francisco's Mayor, Gavin Newsom, vetoed the proposed fee on alcohol distribution, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sept. 22.

The city’s Board of Supervisors had approved the proposal, but unfortunately, there just were not enough votes to overturn the Mayor's veto. The proposed fee could have brought the city estimated $16 million annually for: emergency services, treatment programs, and arrests related to alcohol consumption. The fee made sense, alcohol distribution companies would have hardly been affected - alcohol is a billion dollar industry.

The mayor opposed the alcohol fee because he thought that it would stifle jobs, interfere with the state’s authority to regulate alcohol, and cost the city money in lawsuits he said he didn’t think it would win. "You don't help the city's general fund by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a lawsuit we're going to lose", Newsom claimed. Fortunately, this may go to the voters to decide according to Supervisor John Avalos, who wrote the legislation, "There's a lot of people who think this a good idea". More money to help people free themselves from addiction is always a good thing and in the long run it would help cities clean up the streets raising the quality of life for citizens.

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Research Center to Help Parents with Kids' Substance Use

Overcoming drug and alcohol addiction is the hardest challenge an addict will have to face in their entire life, but with recovery comes a new freedom and happiness. There are many aspects to recovery and there are challenges that arise from one addict to another; age and brain chemistry can affect one's ability to get sober, making treatment and other programs of recovery challenging to address by professionals in the field of recovery. There are many things that we still don't understand about addiction and the more research that is done on the subject the better addiction can be treated, thus allowing addicts the best shot possible at success. Child and Teen addiction is especially hard to address considering their brains are not fully developed which is why there has been a call for more research to be done so that the best treatment can be provided.

On September 14, The Treatment Research Institute (TRI) in Philadelphia announced that they will be opening a new facility in order to better aid parents in addressing substance abuse with their kids. The new center will be called the Parents Translational Research Center and they will be working with the Partnership at DrugFree.org (formerly the Partnership for a Drug-Free America) backed by a five year grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The PTRC will conduct studies to help counselors and parents work with kids towards recovery.

"Two million youth ages 12 to 17 meet diagnostic criteria for substance dependence or abuse and yet only 10% of them receive treatment," said TRI, citing recent research. "The new Center reflects belief that a stronger continuum of care for adolescents is needed and that parents or other caretakers often can provide what's missing if properly equipped with science-based tools and services."

Three areas of that the PTRC will focus on are:
  • preventing children from using drugs and alcohol
  • finding appropriate treatment when it's needed
  • working with children who refuse to go to treatment

The director of the Parents Translational Research Center, Kimberly C. Kirby, Ph.D., stated that they will, "direct parents needing immediate help to already available tools and resources informed by the existing state of science."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Smoking to Self Medicate

People who smoke cigarettes do it for different reasons, some smoke to relieve stress in their life, others smoke for social purposes, and others are just simply addicted. The teenage years are usually when the habit of smoking is picked up, generally while in social gatherings with one's friends. Some teens end up becoming addicted and smoking makes them feel better so they continue smoking. Teenagers who smoke tobacco to “feel better” may actually be at increased risk for depressive symptoms, Science Daily reported.

662 high-school students were asked to fill out questionnaires over a five-year period about their smoking in order to improve mood ("self-medication"). They were also asked about depressive symptoms that showed up: excessive worry, feelings of hopelessness, and sleep problems. Canadian researchers found that those who smoked more cigarettes also had more depressive symptoms; those who smoke less had less depressive symptoms. That shows us that people who smoke to feel better are actually making life harder for themselves, which is usually the case with addiction and self-medicating.

"Although cigarettes may appear to have self-medicating effects or to improve mood, in the long term we found teens who started to smoke reported higher depressive symptoms," said Michael Chaiton, researcher at the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit of the University of Toronto and lead author of the study. The depressive symptoms that develop may actually lead teenagers to experimenting with other drugs to try and feel better, thus the cycle of addiction begins. Parents should really encourage their children to stay away from cigarettes, explain to them that science has proven that cigarettes are not only addictive; they also have the power to kill.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Smoking and Drinking are Hard to Quit

It is quite common for people who drink alcohol to smoke cigarettes in conjunction with drinking, they seem linked it many ways; when some people drink alcohol they crave a cigarette even if they are non-smokers. It wasn't that long ago that people could smoke cigarettes in just about any bar in America. People who try to quit smoking often relapse when they drink alcohol, which makes one think that there is a connection worth looking into. Alcoholics who are in recovery generally have a difficult time quitting cigarettes once the alcohol is out of the picture.

Researchers conducted "A post-mortem analysis of gene expression in the brains of smokers, alcoholics and those who had done both during their lives", according to the New Scientist. They found that a group of genes in the nucleus accumbens - the pleasure center of the brain - were expressed most strongly in their group of alcoholic smokers (Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2010.01207.x). The study was conducted by Traute Flatscher-Bader at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. They believe that drinking and smoking is not purely a social activity, rather, when people drink and smoke they are rewarding the nucleus accumbens more. "These genes play a role in rewiring the neurons in the nucleus accumbens. That means people who both smoke and drink might get a greater reward, making it harder for them to quit", says Flatscher-Bader.

Understanding the link between cigarettes and alcohol may help professionals provide more effective treatment plans. At the end of the day, any substance that tricks the nucleus accumbens into releasing pleasurable feelings is harmful to the brain. Introducing substances like drugs and alcohol into the blood stream will affect the brain and often times addictions form. There are some experts who believe that cigarettes are responsible for addicts in recovery relapsing, even though most treatment facilities allow clients to smoke.
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