Tom Marino Withdraws Nomination as Head of White House Drug Control Office

Representative Tom Marino of Pennsylvania announced this week he is withdrawing his name from consideration as head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. His decision comes in the wake of a Washington Post and 60 Minutes joint report that concluded legislation Marino sponsored hampered efforts by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to fight the opioid epidemic.

The legislation, the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act, was opposed by the DEA, and supported by drug companies, NPR reports. It changed the standard for identifying dangers of opioids to local communities from “imminent” threats to “immediate” threats. This impeded the DEA’s authority to freeze suspicious shipments of opioids in order to reduce the flow of painkillers to the black market, the article notes.

Full story at drugfree.org

Survey Finds 29% of College Students Think ADHD Drugs Help School Performance

A survey of college students finds 29 percent mistakenly think drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) increase school performance.

An additional 38 percent are unsure of the drugs’ effects on school performance, HealthDay reports.

There is no evidence that stimulant medications such as Ritalin and Adderall are effective study aids, the article notes. The survey included almost 7,300 students, none of whom had been diagnosed with ADHD.

Full story at drugfree.org

A new target for marijuana

Cellular-level changes to a part of the brain’s reward system induced by chronic exposure to the psychoactive component of marijuana may contribute to the drug’s pleasurable and potentially addictive qualities, suggests a study in young mice published in JNeurosci. The results could advance our understanding of marijuana’s effects on the developing brain as the drug’s rapidly changing legal status increases its recreational and medical use in the United States.

Drugs of abuse impact the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain, which is rich in dopamine neurons. Using juvenile and adolescent mice, Jeffrey Edwards and colleagues investigated the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical in marijuana responsible for its effects on cognition and behavior, on VTA GABA cells, an understudied inhibitory cell type in the reward system that regulates dopamine levels.

Full story at Science Daily

How many opioid painkillers do surgery patients need? New prescribing recommendations unveiled

How many prescription pain pills should a patient receive after breast cancer surgery? Or a hernia repair? Or a gallbladder removal?

With the country facing an epidemic of opioid pain medication abuse, the answer should be simple: Just enough to ease patients’ immediate post-surgery pain.

But surgical teams have lacked an evidence-based guide, or even rules of thumb, to help them prescribe powerful opioid pain medications wisely.

Until now.

A new tool developed at the University of Michigan is now available online for free use by any team that performs 11 common operations. It’s based on data and surveys from surgery patients across the state of Michigan, and on research by U-M researchers who study pain control and surgical quality.

Full story at Science Daily

How dopamine tells you it isn’t worth the wait

How do we know if it was worth the wait in line to get a meal at the new restaurant in town? To do this our brain must be able to signal how good the meal tastes and associate this feeling with the restaurant. This is done by a small group of cells deep in the brain that release the chemical dopamine. The amount of dopamine released by these cells can influence our decisions by telling us how good a reward will be in the future. For example, more dopamine is released to the smell of a cake baking relative to the smell of leftovers. But does waiting change how dopamine is released?

A new study in Cell Reports by Matthew Wanat, assistant professor of biology at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), sheds light on how dopamine cells in the brain signal the passage of time. Wanat’s study used a technique called voltammetry to record dopamine release in rodents trained using Pavlovian conditioning. This task used two different tones that both predicted the delivery of a food reward. One tone was presented only after a short wait while the other tone was presented only after a long wait. Wanat and colleagues found that more dopamine was released to the short wait tone. These results highlight that when dopamine neurons respond to cues, faster is better.

Full story at Science Daily