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Articles and health studies about addiction and alcoholism, including the most recent scientific and medical findings.

Dirk Hanson
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  • July 2, 2014
  • 10:09 AM

Vitamin C and Pregnant Women Who Smoke

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Improving pulmonary function in newborns. 500 mg of daily vitamin C given to pregnant smoking women “decreased the effects of in-utero nicotine” and “improved measures of pulmonary function” in their newborns, according to a study  by Cindy T. McEvoy and others at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Researchers have long known that smoking during pregnancy can harm the respirator........ Read more »

McEvoy Cindy T., Nakia Clay, Keith Jackson, Mitzi D. Go, Patricia Spitale, Carol Bunten, Maria Leiva, David Gonzales, Julie Hollister-Smith, & Manuel Durand. (2014) Vitamin C Supplementation for Pregnant Smoking Women and Pulmonary Function in Their Newborn Infants. JAMA, 311(20), 2074. DOI:  

  • May 30, 2014
  • 02:18 PM

Single Bout of Binge Drinking Linked to Immune System Effects

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

The hazards of a leaky gut. Biology for $1000, Alex: An integral part of the cell walls of Gram-negative bacteria, these toxic compounds can trigger inflammation and other immunological responses after a single episode of heavy drinking. Answer: What are endotoxins? The outer membranes of gram-negative bacteria contain toxic elements known as endotoxins, or lipopolysaccharides. An endotoxin is released when a bacterial cell wall is breached, allowing virulent proteins to enter the bloodstream. W........ Read more »

  • October 7, 2013
  • 12:05 PM

Spiced: Synthetic Cannabis Keeps Getting Stronger

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Case reports of seizures in Germany from 2008 to 2011.

I wish I could stop writing blog posts about Spice, as the family of synthetic cannabinoids has become known. I wish young people would stop taking these drugs, and stick to genuine marijuana, which is far safer. I wish that politicians and proponents of the Drug War would lean in a bit and help, by knocking off the testing for marijuana in most circumstances, so the difficulty of detecting Spice products isn’t a significant factor........ Read more »

Hermanns-Clausen Maren, Kneisel Stefan, Hutter Melanie, Szabo Bela, & Auwärter Volker. (2013) Acute intoxication by synthetic cannabinoids - Four case reports. Drug Testing and Analysis. DOI: 10.1002/dta.1483  

  • September 22, 2013
  • 07:45 PM

Do Addicts Benefit From Chronic Care Management?

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Controversial JAMA study questions orthodox addiction treatment.

 What is the best way to treat addiction? The conventional wisdom has been to treat it with chronic care management (CCM), the same approach used for various medical and mental illnesses. But a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) purports to demonstrate that “persons with alcohol and other drug dependence who received chronic care management (CCM)” were no more likely to become abstinent ........ Read more »

  • September 3, 2013
  • 11:36 AM

A Chemical Peek at Modern Marijuana

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Researchers ponder whether ditch weed is better for you than sinsemilla.

Australia has one of the highest rates of marijuana use in the world, but until recently, nobody could say for certain what, exactly, Australians were smoking. Researchers at the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales recently analyzed hundreds of cannabis samples seized by Australian police, and put together comprehensive data on street-level marijuana potency across the country. They sampled pol........ Read more »

  • August 12, 2013
  • 11:34 AM

Will Power and Its Limits

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

How to strengthen your self-control.

Reason in man obscured, or not obeyed,
Immediately inordinate desires,
And upstart passions, catch the government
From reason; and to servitude reduce
Man, till then free.
—John Milton, Paradise Lost

What is will power? Is it the same as delayed gratification? Why is will power “far from bulletproof,” as researchers put it in a recent article for Neuron? Why is willpower “less successful during ‘hot’ emotional states”? And why do people ........ Read more »

Crockett Molly J., Braams Barbara R., Clark Luke, Tobler Philippe N., Robbins Trevor W., & Kalenscher Tobias. (2013) Restricting Temptations: Neural Mechanisms of Precommitment. Neuron, 79(2), 391-401. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.05.028  

  • July 21, 2013
  • 05:51 PM

Fruit Fly Larvae Go Cold Turkey and Forget the Car Keys

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Not a pretty sight.

Let’s start with the fruit fly, your basic Drosophila. A fruit fly, like a human, can become addicted to alcohol even at a very young age. The larval age. In other words, even as a maggot. And, just like humans, alcohol degrades a fruit fly maggot’s ability to learn. But adaption is an amazing thing, and drunken larvae eventually learn as well as their teetotaling cousins. That is, until the alcohol is taken away, in which case, the maggots become impaired learners........ Read more »

Robinson Brooks G., Khurana Sukant, Kuperman Anna, & Atkinson Nigel S. (2012) Neural Adaptation Leads to Cognitive Ethanol Dependence. Current Biology, 22(24), 2338-2341. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.10.038  

  • July 14, 2013
  • 07:27 PM

MDPV Turns Lab Rats Into "Window Lickers"

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Popular bath salt drug shown to be highly addictive.

Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, California, appear to have hammered the last nail into the coffin for the common “bath salt” drug known as MDPV. We can now say with a high degree of certainty that, based on animal models, we know that 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone is addictive—perhaps more strongly addictive than methamphetamine, although such comparisons are always perilous. However, principal inves........ Read more »

  • June 22, 2013
  • 07:00 PM

Smoking and Surgery Don’t Mix

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Even routine operations are riskier for smokers.

Smokers who are scheduling a medical operation might want to think seriously about quitting, once they hear the results of a new review of the impact of smoking on surgical outcomes.

A scheduled operation is the perfect incentive for smokers to quit smoking. The fact that smokers have poorer post-surgical outcomes, with longer healing times and more complications, is not a new finding. But the study by researchers from the University of Califo........ Read more »

Lau Darryl, Berger Mitchel S., Khullar Dhruv, & Maa John. (2013) The impact of smoking on neurosurgical outcomes. Journal of Neurosurgery, 1-8. DOI: 10.3171/2013.5.JNS122287  

  • May 22, 2013
  • 02:01 PM

Marijuana and Diabetes: Does Pot Make You Thin?

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Teasing out the insulin effect.

On the face of it, the study seems to come out of left field: A group of researchers claimed that marijuana smokers showed 16 per cent lower fasting insulin levels than non-smokers. The study, called “The Impact of Marijuana Use on Glucose, Insulin, and Insulin Resistance among US Adults,”  is in press for The American Journal of Medicine. The authors are a diverse group of medical researchers from Harvard, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and t........ Read more »

  • May 15, 2013
  • 06:49 PM

Six Arguments For the Elimination of Cigarettes

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Prohibition and the “tobacco control endgame.”

Despite all our efforts in recent years to reduce the percentage of Americans who smoke cigarettes—currently about one in five—the idea of full-blown cigarette prohibition has not gained much traction. That may be changing, as prominent nicotine researchers and public police officials start thinking about what is widely referred to as the “tobacco control endgame.”

Considering the new regulatory powers given the FDA under the terms ........ Read more »

  • May 7, 2013
  • 08:59 PM

Orexin and Insomnia

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

If Valium makes you groggy, and Ambien makes you sleepwalk…

A compound that blocks a brain receptor you probably have never heard of may hold the key to the next generation of sleeping pills—and there is always a next generation of sleeping pills.

A new class of hypnotic compounds that serve as antagonists for the neurotransmitter orexin may combat insomnia without the “confusional arousals” that have come to plague some users of zolpidem, otherwise known as Ambien. Sleepwalking, s........ Read more »

Uslaner J. M., Tye S. J., Eddins D. M., Wang X., Fox S. V., Savitz A. T., Binns J., Cannon C. E., Garson S. L., & Yao L. (2013) Orexin Receptor Antagonists Differ from Standard Sleep Drugs by Promoting Sleep at Doses That Do Not Disrupt Cognition. Science Translational Medicine, 5(179), 179-179. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3005213  

  • April 22, 2013
  • 05:24 PM

Let the Light Shine In: Addiction and Optogenetics

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Study says laser light can turn cocaine addiction on and off in rats.

Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), had one word for it: “Wow.”

Writing in the director’s blog at the online NIH site, Collins said that a team of researchers from NIH and UC San Francisco had succeeded in delivering “harmless pulses of laser light to the brains of cocaine-addicted rats, blocking their desire for the narcotic.”

Wow, indeed. It didn’t take long for the sc........ Read more »

Chen Billy T., Yau Hau-Jie, Hatch Christina, Kusumoto-Yoshida Ikue, Cho Saemi L., Hopf F. Woodward, & Bonci Antonello. (2013) Rescuing cocaine-induced prefrontal cortex hypoactivity prevents compulsive cocaine seeking. Nature, 496(7445), 359-362. DOI: 10.1038/nature12024  

  • April 7, 2013
  • 06:22 PM

Marijuana and Strokes: Medical Reality or Scare Story?

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Heavy tokers may be at higher risk, but alcohol is the hidden confounder.

Young people don’t suffer from strokes, as a rule. And when they do, at least half the time there is no obvious cardiovascular explanation. So it’s not surprising that drugs are often invoked as the culprit.

A New Zealand study earlier this year once again raised the specter of a possible link between stroke and marijuana smoking. As reported by Maia Szalavitz at Time Healthland, the confounding issue, as is typic........ Read more »

Wolff V., Armspach J.-P., Lauer V., Rouyer O., Bataillard M., Marescaux C., & Geny B. (2013) Cannabis-related Stroke: Myth or Reality?. Stroke, 44(2), 558-563. DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.112.671347  

  • March 16, 2013
  • 03:21 PM

Big Tobacco Easily Evades “Light” Cigarette Ban

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Color coding allows smokers to easily identify their former brands.

The tobacco industry has once again made a mockery of the Food and Drug Administration’s attempts to ban ‘light” cigarettes from the marketplace, by simply eliminated the objectionable wording and substituting an easily-decoded color scheme. In a brochure prepared for cigarette retailers marked “For trade use only: not to be shown or distributed to customers,” tobacco giant Philip Morris wrote that “some cigarett........ Read more »

  • March 7, 2013
  • 06:03 PM

Bees Benefit From Caffeine

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Caffeinated plants provide an unforgettable experience.

Honeybees rewarded with caffeine remember the smell of specific flowers longer than bees given only sucrose, according to a study published in Science. “By using a drug to enhance memories of reward,” the study says, “plants secure pollinator fidelity and improve reproductive success.”

Many drugs used by humans come from plants. But what role do the drugs play for the plants themselves? Frequently, they play the role of toxic ave........ Read more »

Wright G. A., Baker D. D., Palmer M. J., Stabler D., Mustard J. A., Power E. F., Borland A. M., & Stevenson P. C. (2013) Caffeine in Floral Nectar Enhances a Pollinator's Memory of Reward. Science, 339(6124), 1202-1204. DOI: 10.1126/science.1228806  

  • January 6, 2013
  • 09:31 PM

Have We Killed Half of our Soldiers with Cigarettes?

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Two long-term studies yield grim stats, and women are no exception.

We know that smoking kills. But until the results of 50 years’ worth of observations on British male smokers was published by Richard Doll and coworkers in the British Journal of Medicine in 2004, we didn’t know how many.  Cigarettes will kill at least half of those who smoke them past the age of 30—possibly more. In older, specific populations, possibly as many as 2/3.

It took a prospective study of more ........ Read more »

  • December 11, 2012
  • 04:27 PM

Strokes Only Happen To Older People—Don’t They?

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Meth is a risk factor for hemorrhagic stroke.

When a stroke happens to anyone under the age of 55, a major suspect is drugs, specifically the stimulants—methamphetamine and cocaine. In a recent issue of the journal Stroke, researcher Brett Kissela and his associates provided additional evidence to support that unpleasant truth.
(Stroke death rates by state)------>

........ Read more »

de los Rios F., Kleindorfer D. O., Khoury J., Broderick J. P., Moomaw C. J., Adeoye O., Flaherty M. L., Khatri P., Woo D., & Alwell K. (2012) Trends in Substance Abuse Preceding Stroke Among Young Adults: A Population-Based Study. Stroke, 43(12), 3179-3183. DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.112.667808  

  • October 19, 2012
  • 02:58 PM

Does Marijuana Withdrawal Matter?

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

What happens to some smokers when they cut out the cannabis.

People who say they are addicted to marijuana tend to exhibit a characteristic withdrawal profile. But is cannabis withdrawal, if it actually exists, significant enough to merit clinical attention? Does it lead to relapse, or continued use despite adverse circumstances? Should it be added to the list of addictive disorders in the rewrite of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) currently in progress?

Ma........ Read more »

Allsop, D., Copeland, J., Norberg, M., Fu, S., Molnar, A., Lewis, J., & Budney, A. (2012) Quantifying the Clinical Significance of Cannabis Withdrawal. PLoS ONE, 7(9). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044864  

  • July 18, 2012
  • 05:57 PM

The Summer Olympics and the “War on Doping”

by Dirk Hanson in Addiction Inbox

Time for a change in strategy?

The Summer Olympics are fast approaching, and that can only mean one thing: drugs. After more than a decade, you might wonder, how goes the so-called “War on Doping?”

Not so good, but thanks for asking. The World Anti-Doping Agency, established in 1999 and backed by the UNESCO anti-doping convention, will be operating 24/7 during the games, protecting the “purity” of Sport, trying to ferret out everything from cannabis and cocaine to steroids and ........ Read more »

Kayser B, & Broers B. (2012) The Olympics and harm reduction?. Harm reduction journal, 9(1), 33. PMID: 22788912  

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