Scientists are getting closer to understanding what factors put people at greater risk for things like addiction and other compulsive behaviors - Cambridge University researchers make a breakthrough in understanding cocaine addiction.
Three executives with Purdue, the company that markets Oxycontin, were found guilty today of intentionally misleading doctors as to the abuse potential of the medication.
Cocaine and meth are powerfully addictive, and the treatment for an addiction to either can be very difficult. Newly developed anti drug vaccines may make things just a little bit easier. These vaccines, administered while the addict is still using, gradually reduce the amount of cocaine or meth that make it to the brain, and as a result gradually reduce the level of dependency and addiction.
Italian researchers testing the efficacy of Chinese sage for the treatment of alcohol abuse have revealed some very exciting and promising results. The researchers gave some pretty hard drinking mice this Chinese sage, and it caused a significant reduction in their alcohol consumption. Human trials are to follow, and I for one am very hopeful on the promise that may be offered by this common herb.
European researchers, in a multi year study involving thousands of participants; have conclusively linked alcohol consumption with an increased risk for often fatal colon cancer. Even the consumption of small amounts daily increases the likelihood of cancer, and when only 2 drinks are consumed each day, the increased probability of cancer is almost 25% higher than for non drinkers.Alcoholics tend to drink huge amounts of alcohol daily, and as such they are at incredible risk for this and other cancers, and this is yet another reason to stop drinking...before it's too late.
Smoking in alcohol recovery can reduce cognitive performance, and may increase the risk of relapse. Should alcoholics try to quit smoking at the same time as they try to quit drinking?
Clinical research studies of drinking alcoholics that compared smoking drinkers and non smoking drinkers had previously revealed that those heavy drinkers that also smoked performed more poorly on a host of cognitive tests. Smoking seems to co join with alcohol in the brain in some way and exacerbates the damage done by the alcohol, and as such if you are a heavy drinker you would do well to at least quit smoking, if not quit drinking as well. But no one had ever studied the effects of cigarette smoking on mental recovery during initial sobriety.
Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco decided to change that and did a clinical study comparing mental recovery in both non smoking recovering alcoholics and smoking recovering alcoholics; and they found that the cognitive deficits associated with smoking while drinking seem to continue during recovery, with smokers in recovery performing significantly worse on a battery of cognitive tests during the initial 6 to 9 months of sobriety.
Testing done on higher processing, on spatial performance, on short range memory, and problem solving skills all showed a much slower rate of recovery for the smoking abstinent alcoholics when compared to the non smoking groups.
The study results are especially pertinent to alcohol abuse recovery as estimates put the percentage of heavy drinkers that also smoke at 300% to 500% the national average for tobacco use, and as a result a significant percentage of recovering alcoholics are also smokers, and a significant percentage of these people are having their recovery delayed by their tobacco usage.
The study leaders as a result have called for more testing to be done, and since the mortality rates associated with smoking far exceed the mortality rates of drinking, the leaders of the study propose that smoking cessation should possibly be encouraged as a part of the treatment for an alcohol addiction.
The study leaders stop short of saying that smoking increases the probability of relapse, but the when considering deficits in problem solving and higher order processing; it seems likely that smoking may play a role in the recidivism amongst recovering alcoholics. One of the best ways to minimize the risk of relapse is through cognitive strategies leading away from abuse, and good healthy problem solving skills designed to minimize life stresses that also make abuse more likely. Since the study researchers claim that the mental processing required for the enactment of these strategies is impaired by tobacco usage, it seems probable that smoking reduces the effectiveness of cognitive modification therapy, and leads to a higher percentage of relapse.
Additionally, scientists have discovered that there is in fact a co addiction to nicotine and alcohol together and they suggest that by continuing to use nicotine, you are in fact increasing the mental cravings for the co joined addiction to alcohol.
So it seems pretty clear that drinkers trying to get sober should also quit smoking at the same time… which when you think about it may be a pretty tall order. I mean quitting drinking is really hard, and for most people recovery is the most challenging thing they've ever attempted; and since quitting smoking is also no picnic, then isn't combining these two programs of cessation at the same time asking a bit too much out of the recovering addict?
I am no longer a smoker, but I was a smoker while drinking, and I remained a smoker through the first two years of sobriety, and I guess that my tobacco usage was limiting my cognitive recovery, but I'm not sure if I could have quit these two very addictive habits at the same time. I'm neither a scientist nor an addictions professional, I'm just an addict with a bit of experience on recovery, but it would seem to me that by asking too much you increase the odds of failure.
I would say quit smoking if you can, but worry about the drinking more, and even though quitting smoking seems to improve your recovery, if the stress of the smoking cessation drives you back to alcohol, it seems a pretty pointless exercise.
I'm sorry for the somewhat conflicting information and opinion of this post, but this…like so much else about addiction and recovery, seems to be less than crystal clear. If you can quit smoking, you should do it, and you'll feel better, and recent clinical data indicates that you may even think better; but if you can't and you’re just barely holding on in your battle against alcohol, I'd think you might want to wait a few months before taking on another stressor, and another battle against addiction.
Just my 2 cents worth!
Liquor companies have been quietly targeting alcopops at young drinkers, and teen aged girls have been huge buyers of the drinks. It is estimated that almost half of all the alcopops sold are drank by under age drinkers, and the State of California hopes that by increasing the price, and decreasing the availability, the harm of this insidious liquor company practice can be reduced.
Alcopops, the name sort of says it all, these are not drinks marketed towards adults; and in an effort to lessen the appeal of these alcoholic "pops", California is voting on a bill that will increases the taxation level on these drinks, and by raising the price a couple of dollars on a 6 pack, make them far les appealing to underage drinkers.
Liquor industry lobbyists have been working hard to scuttle the bill that looks set to pass, and it's not surprising that liquor company executives would be concerned by a move set to take away an estimated 49% of sales that are currently coming from underage drinkers.
Alcopops, through massive advertising campaigns in which young and attractive people are shown enjoying the drinks, are perceived to be less harmful and easier to take than other types of alcohol, and the drinks have proven especially appealing to teen aged girls. With research indicating that the younger a person starts drinking, the greater their probability of ultimately developing an addiction to alcohol, the State's move seems to be a great step in the right direction.
Currently taxed under "malted beverages" status, the drinks will soon be taxed more strictly when newly classified as a form of liquor. In addition to the price increases, the drinks will also be on sale at far fewer locations, and supermarkets and convenience stores will no longer be able to carry the drinks.
Addictions experts forecast that the taxation modification will have a huge impact on the alcopop consumption by under aged drinkers, and estimate that the move will save 21 teen aged lives per year, and save the state hundreds of millions of dollars in costs associated with under aged drinking.
I seethe quietly (OK not so quietly!) when I think about alcoholic drinks being target marketed at our kids, and when I consider all the destruction that an addiction to alcohol has cost me, and so many others, I applaud the State of California for taking some steps to regulate the disturbing practice of making alcohol appealing to under aged drinkers.
Nothing frustrates the friends and family of an addict like continued substance abuse even in the face of obviously detrimental consequences. University of Melbourne researchers say that the reason for this behavior is not a lack of willpower...but rather the result of brain changes in the frontal cortex that make it a whole lot harder to just say no.
Will power isn’t enough…anyone who has really struggled with addiction can tell you this; and it's hard to explain to people who have never endured the trials of addiction why we can’t simply just choose not to use.
Some new research coming out of the University of Melbourne in Australia is helping somewhat to better explain why this is so.
The university researchers wanted to better understand why drug addicted people, even those in recovery, have such a difficult time controlling drug taking impulses even in the face of adverse consequences to continuing use. The area of the brain that we use to control impulsive behaviors is the frontal cortex, and this is also the area of higher order thinking and problem solving; and this is the area of the brain that Melbourne researchers investigated for its relationship to drug taking behaviors.
The researchers looked at two groups of people, both opiate using and non opiate using participants, and had both groups perform a task in which they had to control an impulsive or instinctive response to a stimulus, and instead perform an alternative response. During the performance of this task the researchers monitored the brain activity within the frontal cortex using brain imaging equipment.
What they found helps to explain why drug addicts have such a tough time resisting the temptations and impulses towards continuing usage behaviors. They found that those people who had been using opiates (heroin in this study) had a much harder time ignoring the impulsive reaction in the test, and had to exert much greater mental effort to override this normal impulsive response. They also found that the brain cells within the frontal cortex of the drug users were working inefficiently, and not performing as well as the brains of the non opiate using group of participants.
The researchers concluded that this likely explains why using and recovering addicts have such a difficult time resisting temptation, and speculate that this newfound knowledge could lead to better pharmacological and psychosocial treatments for addiction recovery.
The researchers acknowledge that they do not yet know whether the drug abuse caused the brain damage, or whether the brain cell deficiencies induced the addiction. If the drugs had caused the brain cell inefficiencies, the researchers also wondered whether the brain cells would recover after a period of abstinence from opiate use.
This study really resonates with me, and perhaps explains a mental process (lack of process?) that I experienced during my period of use. I used to have the best of intentions not to take pills or buy that case of beer…but I would invariably just find myself doing it anyways. It always felt afterwards almost as if I had been doing it instinctively, and without truly thinking it through…as if part of my brain was turned off for the duration of the drug seeking behavior.
Whether this occurred due to transient or permanent damage in my frontal cortex I can’t say for sure, but it was a significant factor in my continuing use and abuse.
Hopefully with better a understanding of the bio chemical and cerebral mechanisms of addiction, more effective and targeted treatments will emerge to the benefit of addicts and society as a whole. Existing psychosocial therapies and treatments are beneficial, and can even help people with lowered impulse control resist the temptations of drugs or alcohol; but I think that to really make a breakthrough in addiction treatments, better medications need to be developed that will allow people the strength of resistance to really make better use of these psychosocial therapies and training.