Addiction News & Policy Update

ATOD and Advocacy Update - Week-Ending July 19, 2013



Young Children’s Personality Traits Linked to Teen Alcohol Use
A child’s personality traits before age 5 may help predict whether they will use alcohol in adolescence, a new study suggests. The researchers followed about 12,600 children from the time they were born. Parents were asked about their children’s personalities in the first five years of life; after that, the researchers interviewed both the children and their parents, Fox News reports. By age 15 ½, 4,600 teens were still participating. The researchers were able to statistically extrapolate results from the teens who had dropped out of the study. They found the personality traits in toddlers most closely associated with teen alcohol use fell into two categories: emotional instability and relatively low sociability, and high sociability, which may lead to “sensation seeking” later in life. The findings appear in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. “This underscores the fact that drinking during adolescence is largely a social phenomenon,” study co-author Danielle Dick of Virginia Commonwealth University said in a journal news release. “However, this doesn’t mean it’s less problematic; we know from other studies that most adolescent drinking is high risk — for example, binge drinking — and can lead to numerous negative consequences.” She added, “People don’t enter adolescence as blank slates; they have a history of life experiences that they bring with them, dating back to early childhood. This is one of the most comprehensive attempts to understand very early childhood predictors of adolescent alcohol use in a large epidemiological cohort.” She noted the study indicates that troubled children are not the only ones who start to use alcohol. “It’s also the highly sociable kids as well. Parents should be aware of this.”




U.S. Government Announces Major Drop in Worldwide Cocaine Production
The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced there has been at 41 percent decrease in worldwide cocaine production since 2001, and a 10 percent drop from the previous year. The 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found the number of Americans aged 12 or older who are current users of cocaine has dropped by 44 percent since 2006, The Christian Science Monitor reports. “I’ve never seen such a rapid decline for such an addictive drug,” Peter Reuter, a public policy professor and drug economy expert at the University of Maryland in College Park, told the newspaper. ONDCP says a U.S.-Columbian partnership has contributed to the drop in worldwide cocaine production. Interceptions by the Coast Guard and Defense Department along drug trafficking routes have also led to a decrease in the amount of cocaine entering the United States. The government survey on cocaine use found in 2011, an estimated 1.4 million Americans used cocaine, down from 2.4 million in 2006.  The number of people who first tried cocaine in the previous year decreased from 1 million in 2002, to 670,000 in 2011. In addition, the number of people who abused or were dependent on cocaine dropped from 1.7 million in 2006, to 0.8 million in 2011. The number of people who tested positive for cocaine in the workplace dropped 65 percent from 2006 to 2012, while there was a 44 percent decrease in cocaine-related overdose deaths from 2006 to 2010. Some experts say the drop in cocaine use in the United States is largely due to rising prices and shifts in the global cocaine market, with a greater share of the drug going to Europe and other parts of the world.



Aggression Caused by Family Violence May Lead to Substance Abuse, Study Suggests
Boys who are exposed to family violence become more aggressive toward their classmates, and this behavior is linked with greater levels of substance abuse over time, according to a new study. The study looked at the effects of family violence, including verbal and physical aggression between siblings, Medical Xpress reports. Most previous studies of family violence and its effects have focused on parents’ behavior, the article notes. The University of Illinois researchers studied more than 1,200 students at four middle schools, who completed questionnaires about their levels of substance abuse, and whether they engaged in fighting and bullying. They were asked about conflicts in their homes, including arguing, teasing and physical aggression between siblings. They found bullying and fighting are linked to family violence and substance abuse in boys. Girls exposed to family violence reported higher levels of substance abuse over time, which was not associated with bullying and fighting. The study appears in the Journal of Research on Adolescence. “There’s been a growing consensus that family violence is a training ground for peer aggression and associated risk behaviors such as substance abuse,” lead researcher Dorothy Espelage said in a news release. “However, awareness of the impact of sibling aggression on bullying has lagged behind other types of family violence. It is imperative that researchers investigating the family context of bullying and substance abuse examine not only violence involving parents but also that involving siblings.”



Samuel T. Wilkinson: Pot-Smoking And the Schizophrenia Connection

Medical research shows a clear link between marijuana use and mental illness.

Recent legislation has permitted the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington state. Those who support legalization often tout the lack of serious medical consequences associated with the drug. Most of us know people who used marijuana in high school or college and seem to have suffered no significant medical consequences. As the medical and scientific literature continues to accumulate, however, it is becoming clearer that the claim that marijuana is medically harmless is false.Continue reading here.



“Doctor Shoppers” Bought 4.3 Million Prescriptions for Opioids in 2008

People who “doctor shop” bought an estimated 4.3 million prescriptions for opioids such as Vicodin and OxyContin in 2008, a new study finds. Doctor shoppers, who visit multiple health care providers to obtain prescriptions, represented almost 1 percent of all buyers of addictive pain medications in the United States that year. The study, conducted by the think tank Abt Associates, is the first national estimate of doctor shopping in the country, the researchers said. “There’s a hole in our prescription control system in the United States,” study co-author Douglas McDonald told HealthDay. “Lacking a universal health record, doctors have to rely on what patients tell them about what they’ve been prescribed by other doctors.”  This means “doctor shoppers can get multiple prescriptions for the same drug if they lie to their physician,” he said. The researchers analyzed a national sample of more than 146 prescriptions for opioids dispensed in 2008. They found one out of every 143 patients who purchased the drugs received an unusually large number of prescriptions from multiple health care providers. These patients obtained an average of 32 prescriptions from 10 different doctors. The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE. Although many states have prescription drug monitoring programs designed to detect doctor shopping, some people are able to get around the system, McDonald said. “There are patients who have doctored MRI results, they go from doctor to doctor and show this falsified MRI record that shows they have a bone spur in their neck and they are in intense pain.” Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org, said because the monitoring programs function at the state level, doctor shoppers can avoid detection by crossing state lines. “I could have gotten a prescription in Portland yesterday, and then come to Connecticut and get another prescription,” he said.



Most Women Who Drink Before Pregnancy Continue While Pregnant

Most women who drink before becoming pregnant continue consuming alcohol throughout their pregnancy, Australian researchers have found. A study of 1,969 women found 82 percent consumed some alcohol during pregnancy, HealthCanal.com reports. Of these women, 77 percent consumed one or two drinks on the days they drank, and 90 percent drank no more than once or twice a week. Women who drank weekly before pregnancy were 50 percent more likely to continue drinking during pregnancy, compared with women who drank less than weekly. Those who reported binge drinking before becoming pregnant were more than twice as likely to continue to drink during pregnancy. Women who had fertility problems were 36 percent less likely to drink, compared with women who did not have difficulty becoming pregnant. The study appears in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. A study published last year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found almost 8 percent of pregnant women report alcohol use. The study analyzed data from almost 14,000 pregnant women and more than 330,000 non-pregnant women ages 18 to 44. About one in 13 pregnant women, or 7.6 percent, said they drank alcohol within the past month, compared with 51.5 percent of non-pregnant women. The researchers found 1.4 percent of pregnant women reported binge drinking. Among pregnant women who said they engaged in binge drinking, those with a high school education or less reported binge drinking an average of 3.4 times a month, and having 6.4 drinks per occasion. In contrast, college graduates reported binge drinking 2.5 times per month, with 5.4 drinks per occasion. Binge drinking was more common among unmarried women.



Epilepsy Drug May Help Curb Cocaine and Alcohol Addiction

A team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania tested the effects of topiramate on a group of individuals struggling with both cocaine and alcohol addiction. Past studies have shown that topiramate could be used to curb cocaine as well as alcohol dependency, but this is the first time it's been used to treat people who struggle with both cocaine and alcohol addictions at the same time. Because cocaine and alcohol addiction frequently comes hand in hand, in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy, treatments "targeting both may be the best strategy to treat individuals," the study states.Please click here to continue reading.





Alcohol deaths in young women show 'worrying rise', warns study

The number of deaths of women born in the 1970s has "disproportionately increased" since the middle of the last decade.  Cheap drink has led to a “worrying” increase in alcohol-related deaths among young women in England and Scotland, according to a new study. Since the mid-2000s, there has been an overall fall in alcohol-related deaths across all sexes and age groups except women born in the 1970s, according to the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. The researchers urged health officials use the figures as a "warning signal". Click here to continue reading.





Commentary: Getting Past the Stigma and Treating Addiction as a Chronic Disease

I recently received a call from a very senior level executive at a prestigious medical school, asking for advice on how to help his 26-year-old son who has a serious heroin addiction. The son had been through five residential treatment programs over the past several years, at a cost to the family of over $150,000. The troubling thing about this call was the reason this man reached out to me. He called me because I have been public about my own son’s drug overdose – he was calling me as another affected father and had no idea that I had any familiarity with the field other than my family experience. Let’s just stop there. Consider if this high-level executive’s son had been suffering from a rare tropical disease, he would have unhesitatingly sought and received guidance from a leading medical expert – not a father who had lost his child to that disease. In this case, he was literally too ashamed to contact one of his own organization’s physicians. This extraordinary degree of stigma and sense of isolation that families still experience is unjustified and incapacitating. Continue reading here.





History of Severe Childhood Abuse May Increase Drug Users’ Risk of Suicide Attempts

Drug users who have been victims of severe childhood abuse are at increased risk for suicide attempts, a new study concludes. Less severe abuse, or physical or emotional neglect, does not appear to increase the risk. HealthDay reports the Canadian study included 1,600 people who used drugs. They found extreme childhood abuse, especially emotional or sexual abuse, was associated with a significantly increased risk of attempting suicide. During the course of the study, 80 participants reported a total of 97 suicide attempts—a rate that is five times higher than in the general population, the article notes. Participants who suffered severe to extreme emotional abuse were 2.9 to 3.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than those who did not suffer such abuse. Those who suffered extreme sexual abuse were 2.5 to 2.8 times more likely to attempt suicide, while such attempts were 1.6 to 2 times more likely in those who had suffered extreme physical abuse. The findings appear in the American Journal of Public Health. They show “how detrimental childhood trauma can be,” lead author Brandon Marshall of the Brown University School of Public Health, said in a university news release. “We saw extremely strong associations, which suggest that abuse has lasting mental health impacts well into adulthood.”  He advised care providers to screen for these types of abuse and intervene whenever they see a situation of severe abuse, regardless of what type it was.



Myths About Addiction: “They Could Stop If They Wanted To”

Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have our own ideas of what an addict looks like. We have our beliefs about why they engage in the behaviors they engage in and why they just won’t quit. This is also true for addicts themselves. Often it is difficult to overcome addiction because of the perception of what addiction really is. But the truth of addiction is sometimes hidden behind common, long-standing myths. So here are some of those common myths — and the real truth — about addicts and addiction.Please click here to read the rest of the story.
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