Archive for May, 2015

Drugs That Influence Genetic Switches Could Address Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction has always been a difficult issue to address, but a recent study sheds light on a possible relationship between genetic makeup and the use of epigenetic drugs to stop cocaine addiction.

cocaineA joint study by the McGill University and Bar Ilan University investigated the effect of using epigenetic drugs to stop addiction to cocaine. The research team conducted lab experiments on mice, which were trained to crave for cocaine using a visual or auditory cue. The rats were then observed for evidence of cocaine withdrawal for up to 30 days. Results showed that changes in the mice’s genetic switches were at their highest as the withdrawal became longer.

The researchers injected RG108, an inhibiting agent for DNA methylation, to the mice during the lengthy withdrawal just before the triggering light or sound could cause them to crave for cocaine. “We discovered that injecting the drug RG108 just before the animals were exposed to the light cue after the long withdrawal not only stopped the addictive behavior of the animals, it also lasted for a longer period. This suggests that a single treatment with RG108 could reverse or perhaps cure drug addiction,” said study co-author Moshe Szyf in a news report.

The effect of the epigenetic drug was most evident during the withdrawal phase, according to co-author Gal Yadid. “During this period of withdrawal, hundreds of genes changed their state of DNA methylation including genes that were known before to be involved in addiction,” Yadid added.

Details of the study were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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Michigan Senate Unanimous Against E-Cigarette Use By Minors

The state of Michigan is only one of seven U.S. states to allow sale of e-cigarettes to minors, but the state senate plans to change that.

e-cigaretteMichigan Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge sponsored the proposed law to stop the sale of electronic cigarettes to underage buyers. “I don’t believe children should be able to buy this in gas stations and grocery stores,” Jones said in a news release. He fears that when the ban is not set into motion, Michigan will be in a unique bind. “We will soon be the only state that allows stores to sell electronic cigarettes to minors… This has got to stop. We don’t want kids to get addicted to nicotine,” Jones said.

State Gov. Rick Snyder issued a veto against the initial draft by legislators, saying that e-cigarettes must be regulated in the same manner as traditional tobacco products. “Electronic cigarettes are nicotine-delivery devices that resemble traditional tobacco cigarettes and share a common ingredient, which is the highly addictive chemical nicotine that is derived from tobacco,” the Michigan governor said the veto statement.

The 37-0 vote by the Senate pushes the legislation to the House for deliberation.

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Study: Brain Structure Can Predict Likelihood of Drug Addiction

A new study discovered how a person’s likelihood to be addicted to drugs may be predicted by analyzing the brain structure. Dr. Benjamin Becker led a team of researchers whose paper published in Brain: A Journal of Neurology looked into a connection between distinctions in brain regions and a possible addiction to amphetamines and MDMA.

drug addiction brain headAfter analyzing the brains of 66 individuals who occasionally used the identified amphetamine-type stimulant drugs, it was discovered that those who used amphetamines more frequently within two years from the start of the assessment had smaller front-striato-limbic regions. “These findings indicate that individual differences in fronto-stiato-limbic regions implicated in impulsivity and decision making could render individuals vulnerable for the transition from occasional to escalating stimulant use,” Becker said in a news release.

Becker emphasized the importance of their study and oter future researchers on the matter. “Prospective longitudinal studies in occasional users are of great importance to determine biological vulnerability markers, which can help to identify individuals at greatest risk of developing an addiction,” Becker added.

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Fun Educational Video Shows How Adderall Works

A light but highly informative video released by the American Chemical Society (ACS) discussed the famous study drug Adderall and how it works to treat narcolepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and loss of concentration.

Highlights of the video posted in the ACS YouTube channel “Reactions” are as follows:

  • More than 25 million people in the U.S. are using amphetamine, the active ingredient in Adderall.
  • The drug was first released in the market in 1933 under the name “benzedrine”.
  • Military troops across many countries have used amphetamine to boost morale and concentration of personnel. Hitler was even rumored to have taken daily shots of the drug!
  • Adderall is a study drug that stimulates the central nervous system by increasing the level of dopamine (or the reward hormone) in the body.
  • Amphetamine is the safer and much more useful cousin of methamphetamine, or meth for short.

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School Policies Against Competitive Food Choices Decrease Risk of Childhood Obesity

Vending machines and other competitive food and beverage products have been regulated by several school districts in the U.S. as part of the nationwide drive against childhood obesity. Now, a recent study confirms that the policies seem to be working.

school cafeteria lunch foodA research team led by Emma V. Sanchez-Vaznaugh of San Francisco State University assessed the impact of competitive food and beverage policies in schools across the state of California on the rate of obesity in students. More than 2.7 million students enrolled in close to 5,400 public elementary schools between 2001 and 2010 were evaluated as part of the research, according to a news item.

Results showed that student obesity rates before the implementation of the food policies were at a steady increase, from 43.5 percent in 2001 to 46.6 percent by 2005. However, after implementing competitive food policies in the schools starting in 2006, the numbers plateaued.

One peculiar finding was the significant difference in obesity rates for varying socio-economic situations. Low-income communities registered 52.8 percent obesity rate, which was higher that the 36.2 percent figure in high-income areas. “These findings suggest that [competitive food and beverage] policies may be crucial interventions to prevent child obesity, but the degree of their effectiveness is also likely to depend on influences of socioeconomic resources and other contextual factors within school neighborhoods,” said the authors.

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