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By Susan Dominus About a year ago, a friend of mine started evading my invitations to grab a drink. It was only when we caught up for a walk that she explained she wasn’t putting me off for any personal reason — it was just that she had stopped drinking. She wasn’t a heavy drinker — she had a glass of wine with dinner, the occasional Aperol spritz — but she’d been hearing on podcasts and reading in the news that even a small amount of alcohol was much worse for her health than had previously been understood. Listen to this article, read by Kirsten Potter My friend was picking up on a swing in the public-health messaging around alcohol. For many years, she might have felt that she was making a healthy choice in having a glass of wine or a beer with dinner. Right around the time when she came of legal age to drink, the early 1990s, some prominent researchers were promoting, and the media helped popularize, the idea that moderate drinking — for women, a drink a night; for men, two — was linked to greater longevity. The cause of that association was not clear, but red wine, researchers theorized, might have anti-inflammatory properties that extended life and protected cardiovascular health. Major health organizations and some doctors always warned that alcohol consumption was linked to higher cancer risk, but the dominant message moderate drinkers heard was one of not just reassurance but encouragement. More recently, though, research has piled up debunking the idea that moderate drinking is good for you. Last year, a major meta-analysis that re-examined 107 studies over 40 years came to the conclusion that no amount of alcohol improves health; and in 2022, a well-designed study found that consuming even a small amount brought some risk to heart health. That same year, Nature published research stating that consuming as little as one or two drinks a day (even less for women) was associated with shrinkage in the brain — a phenomenon normally associated with aging. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29359 - Posted: 06.15.2024

By Andrew Jacobs and Christina Jewett The Food and Drug Administration on Friday raised concerns about the health effects of MDMA as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, citing flaws in a company’s studies that could pose major obstacles to approval of a treatment anticipated to help people struggling with the condition. The agency said that bias had seeped into the studies because participants and therapists were readily able to figure out who got MDMA versus a placebo. It also flagged “significant increases” in blood pressure and pulse rates that could “trigger cardiovascular events.” The staff analysis was conducted for an independent advisory panel that will meet Tuesday to consider an application by Lykos Therapeutics for the use of MDMA-assisted therapy. The agency’s concerns highlight the unique and complex issues facing regulators as they weigh the therapeutic value of an illegal drug commonly known as Ecstasy that has long been associated with all-night raves and cuddle puddles. Approval would mark a seismic change in the nation’s tortuous relationship with psychedelic compounds, most of which the Drug Enforcement Administration classifies as illegal substances that have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Research like the current studies on MDMA therapy have corralled the support of various groups and lawmakers from both parties for treatment of PTSD, a condition affecting millions of Americans, especially military veterans who face an outsize risk of suicide. No new therapy has been approved for PTSD in more than 20 years. “What’s happening is truly a paradigm shift for psychiatry,” said David Olson, director of the U.C. Davis Institute for Psychedelics and Neurotherapeutics. “MDMA is an important step for the field because we really lack effective treatments, period, and people need help now.” © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 29332 - Posted: 06.02.2024

By Jennifer Hassan More people in the United States say they are using marijuana daily or near daily, compared with people who say they are drinking alcohol that often, according to a new study. In 2022, about 17.7 million people reported daily or near-daily marijuana use, compared with 14.7 million people who reported drinking at the same frequency, said the report, which was based on more than four decades of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. It was the first time the survey recorded more frequent users of cannabis than alcohol, the report added. The research was published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Addiction. The research window spans the years 1979 to 2022, and the 27 surveys that were analyzed involved more than 1.6 million participants during that time frame. The study described the growth in daily or near-daily cannabis use as “striking.” While “far more people drink” than use marijuana, high-frequency drinking among Americans is less common, the report said. The 2022 survey found that the median drinker reported drinking on four to five days in a month, compared with 15 to 16 days in a month for cannabis. The study noted that changing trends in cannabis use “parallel corresponding changes in cannabis policy, with declines during periods of greater restriction and growth during periods of policy liberalization.” It stressed, however, that this did not mean there was a causal link, as “both could have been manifestations of changes in underlying culture and attitudes.” Thirty-eight states and D.C. have legalized medical marijuana programs, and 24 states have approved recreational cannabis use.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29323 - Posted: 05.25.2024

By Claudia López Lloreda Fentanyl’s powerful pull comes from both the potent, rapid euphoria people feel while on the drug and the devastating symptoms of withdrawal. Researchers have now zeroed in on brain circuits responsible for these two forces of fentanyl addiction. The study in mice, reported May 22 in Nature, suggests two distinct brain pathways are in play. “Addiction is not a simple disorder — it’s very complex and dynamic,” says Mary Kay Lobo, a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore who was not involved with the new research. She appreciates that the study looks not only at reward in the brain, but also at the withdrawal symptoms, which are “this dark side of addiction.” Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are highly addictive (SN: 4/28/23). About one of every four fentanyl users becomes addicted. And in 2022 in the United States alone, there were more than 70,000 deaths from synthetic opioid overdoses, primarily fentanyl. Researchers have known that dopamine-releasing neurons in an area of the midbrain called the ventral tegmental area, or VTA, mediate feelings like euphoria. But the circuits driving withdrawal symptoms were less clear. Such symptoms include nausea, pain, irritability and an inability to feel pleasure. To find out more, neuroscientist Christian Lüscher of the University of Geneva and colleagues injected mice with fentanyl for three consecutive days then stopped, inducing withdrawal by giving the mice naloxone. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2024.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29319 - Posted: 05.23.2024

By Matt Richtel With weed these days, it’s a Willy Wonka world: chocolate bars, lollipops, exotic-flavored gummies — to say nothing of joints, vapes, drinks and the rest. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia have now legalized the sale of marijuana for recreational use, prompting innovation, lowering prices and making the drug — more potent than ever — more widely available. The Biden administration this week recommended easing the federal regulations on cannabis. What does all of this mean for adolescents? Studies have demonstrated that marijuana use can harm the developing brain. Some new strains have been linked to psychosis. Many health experts have worried that relaxing the laws around cannabis will lead to more use of the drug among minors. But Rebekah Levine Coley, a developmental psychologist at Boston College, is less certain. In April, she and colleagues published a study in JAMA that examined drug use patterns among 900,000 high school students from 2011 to 2021, using self-reported data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. They found that fewer minors reported having used cannabis in the previous month in states where the drug had been legalized. But they also found that in the 18 states that had both legalized cannabis and allowed retail sales of the drug, some adolescents who were users of the drug used it more frequently. The net effect was a flat or slight decline in cannabis use among adolescents. Dr. Coley spoke to The New York Times about the study, and its implications for state and federal drug policy. This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity. It seems sensible to assume that legalizing marijuana would lead to more use by young people. Yes, common sense might argue that as cannabis becomes legalized, it will be more accessible. There will be fewer potential legal repercussions, hence availability would increase and use would increase. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29314 - Posted: 05.21.2024

By Darren Incorvaia Wouldn’t it be nice if you could stave off the miserable effects from a night out drinking by simply popping a pill? Researchers are now one step closer to that reality, developing a gel that helped mice quickly and safely break down alcohol. The gel is a combination of iron atoms and the milk protein beta-lactoglobulin. When it encounters alcohol in the digestive system, this combo mimics the behavior of an enzyme that converts ethanol into acetate, food scientist Jiaqi Su of ETH Zurich and colleagues report May 13 in Nature Nanotechnology. As the body naturally breaks down alcohol, it produces the by-product acetaldehyde, which causes hangovers and can damage the liver. “One really nice feature of [the new gel] is they’re able to convert alcohol directly to acetate, which means there’s no accumulation of the toxic intermediate,” says biochemist Duo Xu of Stanford University. “It’s like a hydrogel-based nano-liver that does the work for us.” If the gel works in humans, Su and colleagues say, it could be used to prevent hangovers and potentially the harms of chronic drinking (SN: 3/22/23). Over time, excessive alcohol use can damage vital organs such as the heart, liver and brain. A 2023 study found that about 5 percent of the global population suffers from liver diseases related to drinking too much alcohol. To test the gel, Su’s team fed it to eight mice and then waited 20 minutes before plying the rodents with booze. Eight other mice received gel without iron and eight more were given a saline solution and force-fed alcohol 20 minutes later. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2024.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29301 - Posted: 05.14.2024

By Lauren Schenkman Repeated exposure to cocaine and morphine subverts the reward-system neurons that underlie hunger and thirst, according to a new study in mice. “The nerve cells get scrambled at the neural level in terms of their responses to food and water,” says lead investigator Eric Nestler, professor of neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “So the ability of the brain, in a way, to compute that the individual is hungry or thirsty becomes lost.” In addiction research, there has been a “long-appreciated hypothesis that drugs of abuse hijack the natural reward circuitry of the brain,” says Marcelo Wood, professor of neurobiology and behavior at the University of California, Irvine, who was not involved in the new work. “It’s something that everyone talks about and writes about,” he says, but the exact physiology behind it “remained rather unknown.” In the new work, mice injected daily with morphine or cocaine for up to five days showed progressively increased activity in neurons in the nucleus accumbens that also respond to food and water, according to measures of FOS protein, a marker of neuronal activation. The drugs also elicited a stronger response than the natural rewards, two-photon calcium images showed, confirming what scientists have thought based on behavioral evidence, Nestler says. These alterations ultimately curbed the animals’ urge for sustenance, the study also shows: The mice ate less food and drank less water than mice given a saline solution, and lost weight—even after withdrawing from the drugs for three days. That confirms the hijacking hypothesis “pretty convincingly,” Wood says. “I thought that was brilliant.” © 2024 Simons Foundation

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29299 - Posted: 05.09.2024

By Eileen Sullivan, Glenn Thrush and Zolan Kanno-Youngs The Justice Department said on Tuesday that it had recommended easing restrictions on marijuana in what could amount to a major change in federal policy. Even though the move, which kicks off a lengthy rule-making process, does not end the criminalization of the drug, it is a significant shift in how the government views the safety and use of marijuana for medical purposes. It also reflects the Biden administration’s effort to liberalize marijuana policy in a way that puts it more in line with the public as increasingly more Americans favor legalizing the drug. The decision comes at an opportune time for President Biden, who is trailing the presumptive Republican nominee, former President Donald J. Trump, as they approach the November election, according to a recent CNN poll. It could also lead to the softening of other laws and regulations that account for the use or possession of cannabis, including sentencing guidelines, banking and access to public housing. People familiar with the recommendation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland planned to tell the White House Office of Management and Budget that the government should change the drug’s categorization. After the office assesses the recommendation, it will still face a long road before taking effect, including being subject to public comment. The Associated Press earlier reported the Justice Department decision. For more than half a century, marijuana has been considered a Schedule I drug, classified on the same level as highly addictive substances like heroin that the Drug Enforcement Administration describes as having no currently accepted medical use. Moving marijuana to Schedule III, as the Department of Health and Human Services recommended in August, would put it alongside less addictive substances like Tylenol with codeine, ketamine and testosterone, meaning that it would be subject to fewer restrictions on production and research, and that eventually it could be prescribed by a doctor. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29283 - Posted: 05.02.2024

By Helen Bradshaw Walk into a gas station in the United States, and you may see more than just boxes of cigarettes lining the back wall. Colorful containers containing delta-8, a form of the substance THC, are sold in gas stations and shops across the country, and teens are buying them. A recent survey of more than 2,000 U.S. high school seniors found that more than 11 percent of them had used delta-8 in the past year, researchers report March 12 in JAMA. This is the first year the Monitoring the Future study, one of the leading nationally representative surveys of drug use trends among adolescents in the United States, looked at delta-8 use. Because more than 1 in 10 senior students said they used the drug, the survey team plans to monitor delta-8 use every year going forward. “We don’t really want to see any kids being exposed to cannabis, because it potentially increases their risk for developmental harms … and some psychiatric reactions” such as suicidal thoughts, says Alyssa Harlow, a researcher on the survey and an epidemiologist at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles. Despite its prevalence, especially in the South and the Midwest, delta-8 is still new to consumers and research. Science News talked with Harlow and addiction researcher Jessica Kruger of the University of Buffalo in New York to help explain the delta-8 craze and its effects on kids. What is delta-8-THC? Cannabis plants contain over 100 compounds known as cannabinoids. Delta-8 is one of them. The most well-known is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-9-THC. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2024.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain; Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 29248 - Posted: 04.11.2024

By Matt Richtel Historically speaking, it’s not a bad time to be the liver of a teenager. Or the lungs. Regular use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs among high school students has been on a long downward trend. In 2023, 46 percent of seniors said that they’d had a drink in the year before being interviewed; that is a precipitous drop from 88 percent in 1979, when the behavior peaked, according to the annual Monitoring the Future survey, a closely watched national poll of youth substance use. A similar downward trend was observed among eighth and 10th graders, and for those three age groups when it came to cigarette smoking. In 2023, just 15 percent of seniors said that they had smoked a cigarette in their life, down from a peak of 76 percent in 1977. Illicit drug use among teens has remained low and fairly steady for the past three decades, with some notable declines during the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2023, 29 percent of high school seniors reported using marijuana in the previous year — down from 37 percent in 2017, and from a peak of 51 percent in 1979. There are some sobering caveats to the good news. One is that teen overdose deaths have sharply risen, with fentanyl-involved deaths among adolescents doubling from 2019 to 2020 and remaining at that level in the subsequent years. Dr. Nora Volkow has devoted her career to studying use of drugs and alcohol. She has been the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse since 2003. She sat down with The New York Times to discuss changing patterns and the reasons behind shifting drug-use trends. What’s the big picture on teens and drug use? People don’t really realize that among young people, particularly teenagers, the rate of drug use is at the lowest risk that we have seen in decades. And that’s worth saying, too, for legal alcohol and tobacco. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29243 - Posted: 04.06.2024

By Paula Span The phone awakened Doug Nordman at 3 a.m. A surgeon was calling from a hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., where Mr. Nordman’s father had arrived at the emergency room, incoherent and in pain, and then lost consciousness. At first, the staff had thought he was suffering a heart attack, but a CT scan found that part of his small intestine had been perforated. A surgical team repaired the hole, saving his life, but the surgeon had some questions. “Was your father an alcoholic?” he asked. The doctors had found Dean Nordman malnourished, his peritoneal cavity “awash with alcohol.” The younger Mr. Nordman, a military personal finance author living in Oahu, Hawaii, explained that his 77-year-old dad had long been a classic social drinker: a Scotch and water with his wife before dinner, which got topped off during dinner, then another after dinner, and perhaps a nightcap. Having three to four drinks daily exceeds current dietary guidelines, which define moderate consumption as two drinks a day for men and one for women, or less. But “that was the normal drinking culture of the time,” said Doug Nordman, now 63. At the time of his 2011 hospitalization, though, Dean Nordman, a retired electrical engineer, was widowed, living alone and developing symptoms of dementia. He got lost while driving, struggled with household chores and complained of a “slipping memory.” He had waved off his two sons’ offers of help, saying he was fine. During that hospitalization, however, Doug Nordman found hardly any food in his father’s apartment. Worse, reviewing his father’s credit card statements, “I saw recurring charges from the Liquor Barn and realized he was drinking a pint of Scotch a day,” he said. Public health officials are increasingly alarmed by older Americans’ drinking. The annual number of alcohol-related deaths from 2020 through 2021 exceeded 178,000, according to recently released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: more deaths than from all drug overdoses combined. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain; Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 29234 - Posted: 04.02.2024

By Rachel Nuwer In 2011, archaeologists in the Netherlands discovered an ancient pit filled with 86,000 animal bones at a Roman-Era farmstead near the city of Utrecht. It fell to Martijn van Haasteren, an archaeozoologist at the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, to sort through them. Deep into the cataloging process, Mr. van Haasteren was cleaning the mud from yet another bone when something unexpected happened: Hundreds of black specks the size of poppy seeds came pouring out from one end. The specks turned out to be seeds of black henbane, a potently poisonous member of the nightshade family that can be medicinal or hallucinogenic depending on the dosage. The bone — hollowed-out and sealed with a tar plug — was an ancient stash pouch that had kept the seeds safe for some 1,900 years. Researchers determined that the bone was deposited in the pit somewhere between A.D. 70 and 100 — a time when the Netherlands represented the Roman Empire’s northern border. Parts of the container were smooth, suggesting frequent handling. This “very special” discovery provides the first definitive evidence that Indigenous people living in such a far-flung Roman province had knowledge of black henbane’s powerful properties, said Maaike Groot, an archaeozoologist at the Free University of Berlin and a co-author of a paper published in the journal Antiquity last month describing the finding. At the time that the original owner stuffed the container full of seeds, the properties of black henbane were already well known in Rome. Writings by Pliny the Elder and others testify to the medicinal use of black henbane seeds and leaves, but warn that an overindulgence will result in mind-altering effects. The plant was mostly used during Roman times as an ointment for pain relief, although some sources also reference smoking its seeds or adding its leaves to wine. It seems its psychedelic effects came to the fore in the Middle Ages, when black henbane became associated “with witches and summoning demons,” said Mr. van Haasteren, who is a co-author of the paper. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29204 - Posted: 03.21.2024

By Jan Hoffman The death certificate for Ryan Bagwell, a 19-year-old from Mission, Texas, states that he died from a fentanyl overdose. His mother, Sandra Bagwell, says that is wrong. On an April night in 2022, he swallowed one pill from a bottle of Percocet, a prescription painkiller that he and a friend bought earlier that day at a Mexican pharmacy just over the border. The next morning, his mother found him dead in his bedroom. A federal law enforcement lab found that none of the pills from the bottle tested positive for Percocet. But they all tested positive for lethal quantities of fentanyl. “Ryan was poisoned,” Mrs. Bagwell, an elementary-school reading specialist, said. As millions of fentanyl-tainted pills inundate the United States masquerading as common medications, grief-scarred families have been pressing for a change in the language used to describe drug deaths. They want public health leaders, prosecutors and politicians to use “poisoning” instead of “overdose.” In their view, “overdose” suggests that their loved ones were addicted and responsible for their own deaths, whereas “poisoning” shows they were victims. “If I tell someone that my child overdosed, they assume he was a junkie strung out on drugs,” said Stefanie Turner, a co-founder of Texas Against Fentanyl, a nonprofit organization that successfully lobbied Gov. Greg Abbott to authorize statewide awareness campaigns about so-called fentanyl poisoning. “If I tell you my child was poisoned by fentanyl, you’re like, ‘What happened?’” she continued. “It keeps the door open. But ‘overdose’ is a closed door.” © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29191 - Posted: 03.16.2024

By Andrew Jacobs Ibogaine, a formidable hallucinogen made from the root of a shrub native to Central Africa, is not for the timid. It unleashes a harrowing psychedelic trip that can last more than 24 hours, and the drug can cause sudden cardiac arrest and death. But scientists who have studied ibogaine have reported startling findings. According to a number of small studies, between a third and two-thirds of the people who were addicted to opioids or crack cocaine and were treated with the compound in a therapeutic setting were effectively cured of their habits, many after just a single session. Ibogaine appears to provide two seemingly distinct benefits. It quells the agony of opioid withdrawal and cravings and then gives patients a born-again-style zeal for sobriety. Now, after decades in the shadows, and with opioid overdose deaths exceeding 100,000 a year, ibogaine is drawing a surge of fresh interest from researchers who believe it has the potential to treat opioid use disorder. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that ibogaine saved my life, allowed me to make amends with the people I hurt and helped me learn to love myself again,” said Jessica Blackburn, 37, who is recovering from heroin addiction and has been sober for eight years. “My biggest frustration is that more people don’t have access to it.” That’s because ibogaine is illegal in the United States. Patients have to go abroad for ibogaine therapy, often at unregulated clinics that provide little medical oversight. Kentucky and Ohio are considering proposals to spend millions of dollars of opioid settlement money on clinical trials for ibogaine therapy. And federal drug researchers have signaled a willingness to allow the drug to be studied again — more than 40 years after regulators pulled the plug on research over concerns about the drug’s cardiac risks. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29179 - Posted: 03.05.2024

By Benjamin Ryan People who frequently smoke marijuana have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, according to a study published on Wednesday. The article, published in The Journal of the American Heart Association, is an analysis of responses to the U.S. government’s annual survey on behavioral risk from 2016 to 2020. The respondents answered health questions, including reporting their own health problems related to heart disease. About 4 percent of the respondents reported daily marijuana use, which the researchers suggested raised the chance of a heart attack by 25 percent and of a stroke by 42 percent. Among those who never smoked tobacco, daily use was tied to a 49 percent higher risk of heart attack and a more than doubled risk of stroke, the study indicated. About three-quarters of the respondents said that smoking was their main method of using weed. The other quarter consumed it by vaping, through edibles or drinking it. “Cannabis smoke releases the same toxins and particulate matter that tobacco does,” said the study’s first author, Abra M. Jeffers, a data analyst at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She conducted the analysis during her post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco. The study is merely observational in its review of survey responses; it does not provide conclusive evidence that regular marijuana use causes heart disease. Even so, researchers and experts said they were concerned about its implications, especially as cannabis use has increased in recent years. Thirty-eight states have legalized medical use of marijuana, and 24 have begun allowing recreational use. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29168 - Posted: 02.29.2024

By David Ovalle Keifer Geers was born with a hole in his diaphragm that led to painful surgeries in adulthood. Despite physical challenges that included deafness, Geers graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in biomedical engineering. He hoped to one day create medical devices for disabled children and wounded veterans. On a spring day as Geers walked with his mother through an airport in Midland, Tex., he stumbled, then collapsed into a seizure, his face contorted in shock. Geers, 33, was pronounced dead at a hospital. His mother later found inside his suitcase several packages of powder kratom, an herbal product he consumed to manage pain from surgeries. Patricia Geers said she was stunned when an autopsy concluded that her son died from the toxic effects of kratom — levels in his blood were more than nine times what some experts believe can prove lethal. The death of Keifer Geers was hardly an isolated episode. A Washington Post review of federal and state statistics shows that medical examiners and coroners are increasingly blaming deaths on kratom — it was listed as contributing to or causing at least 4,100 deaths in 44 states and D.C. between 2020 and 2022. The vast majority of those cases involved other drugs in addition to kratom, which is made from the leaves of tropical trees. Still, the kratom-involved deaths account for a small fraction of the more than 300,000 U.S. overdose deaths recorded in those three years. Dozens of wrongful death lawsuits involving kratom have been filed nationwide — including by Geers’s mother, who in February sued a Nevada retailer. The suits illustrate increased scrutiny of deaths involving products made from kratom, which is banned in six states but remains widely available online and in vape and convenience stores despite health warnings from federal authorities.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29155 - Posted: 02.22.2024

By Erin Garcia de Jesús DENVER — A weight-loss drug used to treat obesity and diabetes has shown promise to treat another disorder: opioid addiction. Early results from a small clinical trial, presented February 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, suggest that a close relative of the weight-loss drugs Wegovy and Ozempic significantly lessened cravings for opioids in people with opioid use disorder. “For them to have any time when they might be free of that craving seems to be very hopeful,” Patricia “Sue” Grigson, a behavioral neuroscientist at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey said at the conference. The vast majority of drug overdose deaths in the United States are due to opioids (SN: 2/14/24). The drug, called liraglutide, mimics a hormone called GLP-1 that the body releases after people eat. Wegovy and Ozempic — brand names for semaglutide, a molecule that induces weight loss more effectively than liraglutide — also imitate the hormone. It’s unclear exactly how the drugs work when it comes to weight loss, but researchers think such GLP-1 dupes prompt the body and brain to make people feel full (SN: 12/13/23). There are hints that such drugs could work for addiction, too. People taking Wegovy or Ozempic have reported lessened desire for not just food but also alcohol and nicotine. What’s more, Grigson and colleagues showed in a previous study in rats that liraglutide can cut down on heroin-seeking behavior, perhaps by changing the animals’ brain activity (SN: 8/30/23). © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2024.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment; Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29150 - Posted: 02.20.2024

By Benjamin Breen When I began researching Tripping on Utopia in 2018, I was aware that many midcentury scientists and psychiatrists had shown a keen interest in the promise of psychedelics. But what I didn’t realize was how remarkably broad-based this interest was. As I dug deeper into the archival record, I was struck by the public enthusiasm for the use of substances like LSD and mescaline in therapy—as manifested not just in scientific studies, but in newspaper articles and even television specials. (My favorite is this remarkable 1957 broadcast which shows a woman taking LSD on camera, then uttering memorable lines like “I’ve never seen such infinite beauty in my life” and “I wish I could talk in Technicolor.”) Above all, I was surprised by the public response to the Hollywood actor Cary Grant’s reveal that he was regularly using LSD in psychedelic therapy sessions. In a series of interviews starting in 1959—the same year he starred in North by Northwest—Grant went public as an unlikely advocate for psychedelic therapy. It was the surprisingly positive reaction to Grant’s endorsement that most struck me. As recounted in my book, the journalist who broke the story was overwhelmed by phone calls and letters. “Psychiatrists called, complaining that their patients were now begging them for LSD,” he remembered. “Every actor in town under analysis wanted it.” Nor was this first wave of legal psychedelic therapy restricted to Hollywood. Two other very prominent advocates of psychedelic therapy in the late 1950s were former Congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce and her husband Henry Luce, the founder of Time and Life magazines. It is not an exaggeration to say that this married couple dominated the media landscape of the 20th century. Nor is it an exaggeration to say that psychedelics profoundly influenced Clare Boothe Luce’s life in the late 1950s. She credited LSD with transformative insights that helped her to overcome lasting trauma associated with her abusive childhood and the death of her only daughter in a car accident. © 2024 NautilusNext Inc.,

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain; Chapter 14: Attention and Higher Cognition
Link ID: 29142 - Posted: 02.10.2024

Rhitu Chatterjee In recent years, there's been growing interest in psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in "magic mushrooms" or "shrooms" as a potentially beneficial therapy for mental health conditions. At the same time, drug busts of mushrooms went way up between 2017 and 2022, and the amount of the psychedelic substance seized by law enforcement more than tripled, according to a new study. "What I think the results indicate is that shroom availability has likely been increasing," says Joseph Palamar, an epidemiologist at NYU Langone Health and the main author of the new study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Sponsor Message The findings come at a time when there's a "psychedelic renaissance" happening in the country, says Dr. Joshua Siegel of Washington University in St. Louis, who wasn't involved in the new study. There's growing public and scientific interest in psychedelics' potential therapeutic effects on various mental and behavioral health issues, says Siegel, who also studies how psychedelics affect the human brain. At the same time, a small number of states have already decriminalized psychedelic drugs, and many more are looking into doing the same. The new study is "an important part of the bigger picture of where we are headed as a nation" with psychedelics, says Siegel. "It's important to understand what's happening in terms of the health care side of things. It's important to understand what's happening recreationally and legally." The new study found that the total amount of mushrooms seized by law enforcement across the country went from nearly 500 pounds in 2017 to more than 1,800 pounds in 2022. The largest amount (42.6% of total) seized was in the West, followed closely by the Midwest (41.8%). © 2024 npr

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 29141 - Posted: 02.08.2024

By Ernesto Londoño Seizures of psychedelic mushrooms across the nation by law enforcement officials have increased significantly in recent years as attitudes regarding their use have grown more permissive, according to a government-funded study released Tuesday. Researchers found that law enforcement officials confiscated 844 kilos of mushrooms containing psilocybin in 2022, an increase of 273 percent from 2017. Psilocybin is the psychoactive component in the fungi commonly known as magic mushrooms. Officials at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which commissioned the study, said that the increase in seizures of magic mushroom reflected rising use of the drugs, rather than an indication that counternarcotics officials were pursuing the substances more aggressively than before. The marketplace for magic mushrooms, which are illegal under federal law, has boomed in recent years as several clinical studies have shown that they may be effective as therapies to treat depression and other serious conditions. But many medical professionals say they worry that the hype surrounding psychedelics has moved faster than the science. Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the N.I.D.A, said that preliminary clinical studies had shown that psychedelics might one day become an important tool for the treatment of psychiatric disorders, including addiction to other drugs. But she said she worried that many people were self-medicating with psychedelics. “Psychedelic drugs have been promoted as a potential cure for many health conditions without adequate research to support these claims,” Dr. Volkow said. “There are people who are very desperate for mental health care, and there are businesses that are very eager to make money by marketing substances as treatments or cures.” © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 29130 - Posted: 02.06.2024