By Sara Schapmann
There’s no “cure” for drug addiction because it’s a chronic disease and recovery is a lifelong process. But recent research suggests CRISPR gene editing (i.e. clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) could help scientists hone in on the genes behind substance use disorders. The hope is that these insights might spawn future research that could lower the chances of addictive behaviors in people who are genetically predisposed to substance abuse.
New research finds that playing the throwback game Tetris can ease cravings for a number of substances. But a prominent neurologist casts doubt on the study, comparing it to the now-debunked “Mozart effect” phenomenon.
Stress is a common fact of everyday life. However, in addition to unavoidable daily stress, some people get exposed to major stressful events that can have a lasting impact on their mental health and well-being. In a study slated for publication in 2014 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, a team of New Zealand researchers tracked the impact that exposure to seriously stressful events has on a young adult’s chances of developing alcohol use disorder. The researchers concluded that major stress can substantially increase the odds of experiencing the symptoms of this condition.
Job loss is stressful, and the recent recession has caused a substantial increase in unemployment across the country. Anyone who has been fired or laid off understands how the strain and uncertainty can throw a wrench into one’s emotional well-being. Periods of unemployment – particularly lengthy ones – often elicit feelings of anxiety, frustration and depression. They can also leave some individuals with a sense of failure, worthlessness and shame. Being without a much-needed job can be very difficult situation – one that’s overwhelming enough to trigger unhealthy coping mechanisms. It’s not uncommon for jobless individuals to turn to alcohol or drugs to ease the anxiety and seek a temporary escape from their challenging situation.
There was a world before traveling soccer teams, competitive year-round swimming and intensive musical training during childhood. It can be hard to remember that world because the family norm has become a frenzied shuttle from activity to activity, eating burgers in the car on the way from one place to the next. But some are asking “Is this what childhood is supposed to look like?” Rather than jump into the frenetic flow, parents should give some thought to their children’s after-school schedule.
Pressure from busy college class schedules and work schedules are stressing out the Millennials (those aged 18 to 33). Combine this with the anxiety of wondering if there will be a job after all this hard work and these are just a few of the reasons that researchers speculate the Millennials suffer the most stress and anxiety in the country.
Even before man had a name for the bodily chemical known as adrenaline, we have trusted it to help us take action in stressful situations. The “fight or flight” mechanism spurred by adrenaline and used by primitive man for survival is still part of modern life, helping people at sports, social situations or interviews. However, for some children and adults, too much adrenaline is produced and stored in the body, potentially causing health problems, premature aging and the life-disrupting conditions of hyperactivity and Attention Deficit Disorder.
Meant to help us survive in a potential emergency, adrenaline (medically known as epinephrine) is a hormone released into the blood during a time of stress, anger or fear. It is produced by the adrenal gland and sometimes given medically as an injection for cases of extreme allergic reaction.
Today, people rarely experience the extreme physical threats that would have warranted a surge of adrenaline for early man. Instead, most people regularly produce adrenaline in response to stress at home and work – situations that typically are not life-threatening. Therefore, higher than needed amounts of adrenaline can be stored in the body. Because the stress hormones are often underutilized and the stress can continue over a period of time, the child or adult remains on a state of high alert.
Adrenaline surges are meant to upset the normal body balance, but also to be used up in the bloodstream quickly. When a person is threatened, either from real or perceived threats, adrenaline causes dilation of the blood vessels and airways, a faster heart rate and higher blood pressure. Bursts of energy and more oxygen in the body allow for quick and efficient reactions. Along with adrenalin, norepinephrine and cortisol are also released to help the body function in reactive mode.
Adrenaline stored up in the bloodstream becomes more harmful than helpful. Insomnia, nervousness and lowered immunity toward illness are all connected to high levels of stress in the body. Children and adults with over-production of adrenaline often exhibit traits of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Kids may show a high level of reaction to every noise, fidgeting, excessive talking and erratic sleep patterns. Classroom learning abilities are affected. It is believed some children have higher than normal amounts of adrenaline if early reflexes such as the Moro (startle reflex) don’t fade away soon after 12 months of age.
For adults, ADD symptoms include over-reaction in social situations, higher than normal levels of anxiety or perfectionist and workaholic tendencies. The chemicals produced by stress also speed up aging. People with high stress responses live in hormonal imbalance, and therefore have damaged collagen production and a reduced ability to repair cells. These signals may be written in facial lines or the look of a “hard life.”
Still, adrenaline can provide a healthy surge of energy for sports or exercise, which helps aid in the release of stress and tension. Deep breathing and regular exercise can help regulate hormone levels and keep them at healthy levels. Indoor lighting that doesn’t flicker and careful selection of television and computer screens can also help minimize a person’s stress response. Effective stress management tools may be the key to coping with higher than needed levels of adrenaline and reducing illnesses related to stress.
As the baby boomer generation moves into older age, substance abuse among adults 50 and older has been on the rise, according to a new study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Based on data gathered in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2006 to 2008, an estimated 4.3 million American adults ages 50 and older (or 4.7 percent of this population) have abused an illicit substance in the past year. The most widely abused substance in this age group was marijuana/hashish at 44.9 percent of older adults who use illicit substances, followed by nonmedical use of prescription drugs at 33.4 percent. SAMHSA predicts that this rise in substance abuse among older adults will require the doubling of substance abuse treatment services for older adults by the year 2020 to accommodate this generation.
As evidenced by data gathered from state-licensed substance abuse treatment facilities across the country, five substances represent 96 percent of treatment admissions ages 12 and older. These substances were alcohol (41%), opiates (20%), marijuana (17%), cocaine (11%), and methamphetamine/amphetamines (6%). The survey report also presented significant changes in trends concerning ethnic groups, concurrent abuse of alcohol and drugs, and single substance abuse.
The consumption of alcohol can have an impact on an individual, although that impact can vary according to the individual and the amount of alcohol consumed. In a recent Science Daily release, research was highlighted that examines the relationship between alcohol consumption and the risk of prostate cancer.
The National Drug Threat Assessment 2010 report shows that illegal drugs are becoming more readily available in the United States, mainly due to the expanding of Mexican drug cartels, and that prescription drug abuse is worsening.
There are some that have argued that ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, has been grossly over-diagnosed and excessively medicated to take the place of good old fashioned parenting. While it can be true that medication is the quick answer in too many situations, the reality is that ADHD is real and for some – a nightmare.
Eight to 12 percent of marijuana users are considered dependent and, just like alcohol, the severity of symptoms increases with heavier use. A new study has found that use and misuse of alcohol and marijuana are influenced by a common set of genes. Science Daily reports that results will be published in the March 2010 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.
New research shows that instead of sobering people up, drinking coffee may make it harder for people to realize they’re drunk. In addition, the findings show that popular caffeinated “alcohol-energy” drinks don’t neutralize alcohol intoxication. The animal study was published in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, which is published by the American Psychological Association.
In a new Portuguese and American study, when exposed to daily chronic stress, rats quickly started making poor decisions, relying on habit instead of actively thinking about whether to press a lever to get a food pellet. This finding could help us understand more about the relationship between stress and behavior patterns in humans, including why some people turn to alcohol and drugs when their stress levels rise.