New target to prevent, treat alcoholism identified

New research conducted at OHSU in Portland, Oregon, identifies a gene that could provide a new target for developing medication to prevent and treat alcoholism.

Scientists at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at OHSU discovered a gene that had lower expression in the brains of nonhuman primates that voluntarily consumed heavy amounts of alcohol compared with those that drank less.

Furthermore, the research team unraveled a link between alcohol and how it modulates the levels of activity of this particular gene. Researchers discovered that when they increased the levels of the gene encoded protein in mice, they reduced alcohol consumption by almost 50 percent without affecting the total amount of fluid consumed or their overall well-being.

Full story at Science Daily

What to know about marijuana withdrawal

Whether they use marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes, people can develop withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it.

Marijuana, or cannabis, is the “most commonly used illicit drug in the United States,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In recent years, more states have legalized the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana. However, based on a 2018 survey from Washington State, legalization does not seem to have significantly increased marijuana use. That said, marijuana use has been gaining a lot of attention.

Full story at Medical News Today

Through my eyes: Addiction and recovery

Growing up, I had the picture-perfect family. I lived in a beautiful home in the suburbs of Detroit with my parents and younger brother. I had every opportunity in the world, attended private schools, and even made it onto the honor roll. I was involved in dance, theater, and many of the school sports teams.

Beneath the surface, however, I always felt a lot of pressure to be perfect.

I was the first of 12 grandchildren, and this led to me feeling that I had to be the best at everything I did, which gave me terrible anxiety from the early age of 5.

Full story at Medical News Today

Should Childhood Trauma Be Treated As A Public Health Crisis?

When public health officials get wind of an outbreak of Hepatitis A or influenza, they spring into action with public awareness campaigns, monitoring and outreach. But should they be acting with equal urgency when it comes to childhood trauma?

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests the answer should be yes. It shows how the effects of childhood trauma persist and are linked to mental illness and addiction in adulthood. And, researchers say, it suggests that it might be more effective to approach trauma as a public health crisis than to limit treatment to individuals.

The study drew on the experiences of participants from the Great Smoky Mountains Study, which followed 1,420 children from mostly rural parts of western North Carolina, over a period of 22 years. They were interviewed annually during their childhood, then four additional times during adulthood.

Full story at NPR

Chronic pot use may have serious effects on the brain, experts say

As marijuana legalization builds momentum across the United States — with Michigan becoming the latest state to allow recreational use by adults — researchers are warning that more studies are needed on the long-term effects of chronic pot smoking on the human brain.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, but little is known about its effect on health or how addictive it is.

According to a 2017 poll conducted by Marist College and Yahoo News, more than half of American adults have tried marijuana at least once in their lives, and nearly 55 million of them, or 22 percent, say they use it currently. Close to 35 million are what the survey calls “regular users,” people who say they use marijuana at least once or twice a month.

Full story at NBC News

Getting Honest About Mental Health In The World Of Tech Startups

The tech sector is built on bright minds developing new solutions to create economic or social impact. This fast-paced industry has high stakes, which require people to meet even higher expectations. Many individuals within the sector — especially startup founders — have small teams (meaning each person serves in multiple roles), work long hours, second jobs or are still in school and constantly worry about “making it.”

At the DMZ, we see that many entrepreneurs are still not talking openly about their mental well-being. And these challenges aren’t special to our organization. Mental health concerns in tech entrepreneurship are often referred to as “founder’s blues.” Between 2011 and 2017, founder’s blues has contributed to a number of high-profile suicides in the startup world, including Aaron Swartz, co-founder of Reddit.

Researchers from the University of California found that 72% of entrepreneurs surveyed self-reported mental health concerns. And about 49% disclosed they deal with ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, addiction, depression or anxiety. These figures were described as “significantly higher” than non-entrepreneurs.

Full story at Forbes

WHO to classify ‘gaming disorder’ as mental health condition

Watching as a video game ensnares their child, many a parent has grumbled about “digital heroin,” likening the flashing images to one of the world’s most addictive substances.

Now, they may have backup: The World Health Organization is set to announce “gaming disorder” as a new mental health condition to be included in the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases, set to release Monday.
“I’m not creating a precedent,” said Dr. Vladimir Poznyak, a member of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, which proposed the new diagnosis to WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly. Instead, he said, WHO has followed “the trends, the developments, which have taken place in populations and in the professional field.”

Brain abnormality indicates general risk for mental illness

A new study by researchers at Duke University reports an abnormality in visual regions of the brain that is associated with a person’s general risk for mental illness. The findings, published in Biological Psychiatry, indicate a signature abnormality shared between common forms of mental illness, which could help clinicians assess a patient’s general risk for developing a mental illness. The signature abnormality was present in participants involved in the study who already had a higher risk of mental illness. This was characterized by a reduced efficiency between visual areas and brain networks important for integrating sensory information and suppressing distracting information.

Researchers have long thought that some aspects of the biology of the risk for psychiatric disorders were specific to particular disorders, and by studying specific groups of patients, may have mistaken general risk factors as specific risk factors. Newer research suggests that a person’s risk for developing mental illness is not specific to one form of disorder, but is instead shared across many different disorders. “In other words, there may be a single risk factor that predicts whether an individual develops any form of psychiatric disorder, be it depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, or even schizophrenia,” said first author Maxwell Elliott, a doctoral student in the laboratory of Ahmad Hariri, PhD.

Full story at Science Daily

Lay interventions for depression and drinking

Brief psychological interventions delivered by lay counsellors in primary care were effective and cost-effective for patients with depression and harmful drinking in India, according to two studies in PLOS Medicine by Vikram Patel of Harvard Medical School, USA, and colleagues from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK and Sangath, India. The authors have previously reported the effectiveness of the two interventions, Healthy Activity Programme (HAP) and Counselling for Alcohol Problems (CAP), at 3 months; however, the longer-term benefits of the interventions were previously unknown.

In the first trial, 493 adult primary health care attendees with moderately severe or severe depression were randomly assigned to either the HAP treatment plus enhanced usual care (EUC), or enhanced usual care (EUC) alone. The researchers found that HAP participants maintained the benefits they showed at the end of treatment through the 12-month period, with significantly lower symptom severity scores (adjusted mean difference in BDI-II: ?4.45) and higher rates of remission (PHQ-9 score < 5: 63% versus 48%) than participants who received EUC alone.

Full story at Science Daily

ADHD medication tied to lower risk for alcohol, drug abuse in teens and adults

The use of medication to treat attention deficient hyperactivity disorder is linked to significantly lower risk for substance use problems in adolescents and adults with ADHD, according to a study led by researchers at Indiana University.

The risk of substance use problems during periods of medication use was 35 percent lower in men and 31 percent lower in women in the study. The results, based upon nearly 3 million people with ADHD in the United States, are reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

“This study contributes to growing evidence that ADHD medication is linked to lower risk for many types of harmful behavior, including substance abuse,” said Patrick D. Quinn, a postdoctoral researcher in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, who led the study. “The results also highlight the importance of careful diagnosis and compliance with treatment.”

Full story of ADHD medication and teen substance abuse risk at Science Daily