Federal Grants Restricted To Fighting Opioids Miss The Mark, States Say

In his 40 years of working with people who struggle with addiction, David Crowe has seen various drugs fade in and out of popularity in Pennsylvania’s Crawford County.

Methamphetamine use and distribution is a major challenge for the rural area, says Crowe, the executive director of Crawford County Drug and Alcohol Executive Commission. And opioid-related overdoses have killed at least 83 people in the county since 2015, he says.

Crowe says his organization has received just over $327,300 from key federal grants designed to curb the opioid epidemic. While the money was a godsend for his county, he says methamphetamine remains a major problem.

Full story at npr.org

Insomnia: ‘Long-distance’ CBT as effective as in-person therapy

Thousands of people around the world experience insomnia, which affects their quality of life, health, and productivity. One effective way of managing insomnia is cognitive behavioral therapy, but many individuals may not have the time or money to visit a therapist’s office. So, what is the solution?

Studies have shown that at least 10–30% of the world’s population, if not more, deal with insomnia, a sleep disorder in which people frequently have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting good quality sleep.

Chronic insomnia can also increase a person’s sense of fatigue and their risk of experiencing poor mental health. People with insomnia also report having other health conditions more often than people who do not experience this sleep disturbance.

Full story at Medical News Today

What is learned helplessness?

Learned helplessness is a state that occurs after a person has experienced a stressful situation repeatedly. They come to believe that they are unable to control or change the situation, so they do not try — even when opportunities for change become available.

Psychologists first described learned helplessness in 1967 after a series of experiments in animals, and they suggested that their findings could apply to humans.

Learned helplessness leads to increased feelings of stress and depression. For some people, it is linked with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Full story at Medical News Today

Simple test can tell if you’re stressed out

Stress is often called “the silent killer” because of its stealthy and mysterious effects on everything from heart disease to mental health.

Now researchers at the University of Cincinnati have developed a new test that can easily and simply measure common stress hormones using sweat, blood, urine or saliva. Eventually, they hope to turn their ideas into a simple device that patients can use at home to monitor their health.

The results were published this month in the journal American Chemical Society Sensors.

“I wanted something that’s simple and easy to interpret,” said Andrew Steckl, an Ohio Eminent Scholar and professor of electrical engineering in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Full story at Science Daily

How The Brain Shapes Pain And Links Ouch With Emotion

When Sterling Witt was a teenager in Missouri, he was diagnosed with scoliosis. Before long, the curvature of his spine started causing chronic pain.

It was “this low-grade kind of menacing pain that ran through my spine and mostly my lower back and my upper right shoulder blade and then even into my neck a little bit,” Witt says.

The pain was bad. But the feeling of helplessness it produced in him was even worse.

“I felt like I was being attacked by this invisible enemy,” Witt says. “It was nothing that I asked for, and I didn’t even know how to battle it.”

Full story at npr.org

A moody gut often accompanies depression: New study helps explain why

For people with depression, gastrointestinal distress is a common additional burden, and a new study suggests that for some, the two conditions arise from the same glitch in neuron chemistry — low serotonin.

The study, conducted in mice, shows that a shortage of serotonin in the neurons of the gut can cause constipation, just as a serotonin shortage in the brain can lead to depression.

The study also found that a treatment that raises serotonin in the gut and the brain may alleviate both conditions.

Up to a third of people with depression have chronic constipation, and a few studies report that people with depression rate their accompanying bowel difficulties as one of the biggest factors reducing their quality of life.

Full story at Science Daily

What is dermatophagia?

Dermatophagia is a psychological condition in which a person compulsively bites, chews, gnaws, or eats their skin. It often affects the skin around people’s fingers.

Dermatophagia is an emerging concept in mental health research. For this reason, there have been few studies into precisely what it is and how it differs from other conditions.

According to the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, mental health specialists sometimes classify dermatophagia as an “obsessive-compulsive and related disorder.”

This means that it is related to or part of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). With this condition, a person has ongoing, uncontrollable, and recurring thoughts and behaviors.

Full story at Medical News Today

Researchers identify 20 novel gene associations with bipolar disorder

In the largest study of its kind, involving more than 50,000 subjects in 14 countries, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and more than 200 collaborating institutions have identified 20 new genetic associations with one of the most prevalent and elusive mental illnesses of our time — bipolar disorder. The study is reported in the May 2019 issue of Nature Genetics.

The elevated morbidity and mortality associated with bipolar disorder make it a major public health problem and leading contributor to the global burden of disease. The identification of genes associated with it can help identify therapeutic targets for treatment and prevention.

Bipolar disorder, a neuropsychiatric condition characterized by dramatic shifts in a person’s mood, affects approximately 60 million people globally, 10 million of them in the United States. Unlike other illnesses, bipolar disorder has been found to affect men, women, and people of all ethnic groups equally. While genetic and environmental factors have been demonstrated to play a role in the illness, the exact cause of bipolar disorder remains unknown.

Full story at Science Daily

Crisis and Suicide Prevention Services Struggle with Demand after Celebrity Suicides

The United States may lack the resources needed to meet increases in demand for suicide prevention services that occur after celebrity suicides, according to a recent study of crisis mental health services. The study, conducted by a team of researchers, which included scientists from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health, highlights the need for suicide prevention hotlines to procure additional funds, allocate existing funds more efficiently, and develop contingency plans to accommodate increases in call volumes, particularly for the first two days after a celebrity suicide. The findings appear in the journal Psychiatric Services.

“Suicide prevention is a significant public health concern and a top priority for NIMH,” said Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of NIMH. “This study highlights the importance of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and other crisis mental health services, and the need to build surge capacity of these services that could help save lives.”

Full story at NIMH

NIH BRAIN Initiative Tool May Transform How Scientists Study Brain Structure and Function

Researchers have developed a high-tech support system that can keep a large mammalian brain from rapidly decomposing in the hours after death, enabling study of certain molecular and cellular functions. With funding through the National Institutes of Health BRAIN Initiative, researchers developed a way to deliver an artificial blood supply to the isolated postmortem brain of a pig, preventing the degradation that would otherwise destroy many cellular and molecular functions and render it unsuitable for study. Importantly, although the researchers saw some preservation of flow through blood vessels and energy use, there was no higher level functional activity in the brain circuits. The scientific team, led by Nenad Sestan, M.D., Ph.D., of Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, reports on their findings in the journal Nature.

“This line of research could lead to a whole new way of studying the postmortem brain,” explained Andrea Beckel-Mitchener, Ph.D., BRAIN Initiative Team Lead at the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health, which co-funded the research. “The new technology opens up opportunities to examine complex cell and circuit connections and functions that are lost when specimens are preserved in other ways. It also could stimulate research to develop interventions that promote brain recovery after loss of brain blood flow, such as during a heart attack.”

Full story at NIMH