Brain scans could predict teens’ problem drug use before it starts

There’s an idea out there of what a drug-addled teen is supposed to look like: impulsive, unconscientious, smart, perhaps — but not the most engaged. While personality traits like that could signal danger, not every adolescent who fits that description becomes a problem drug user. So how do you tell who’s who?

There’s no perfect answer, but researchers report February 21 in Nature Communications that they’ve found a way to improve our predictions — using brain scans that can tell, in a manner of speaking, who’s bored by the promise of easy money, even when the kids themselves might not realize it.

That conclusion grew out of a collaboration between Brian Knutson, a professor of psychology at Stanford, and Christian Büchel, a professor of medicine at Universitätsklinikum Hamburg Eppendorf. With support from the Stanford Neurosciences Institute’s NeuroChoice program, which Knutson co-directs, the pair started sorting through an intriguing dataset covering, among other things, 144 European adolescents who scored high on a test of what’s called novelty seeking — roughly, the sorts of personality traits that might indicate a kid is at risk for drug or alcohol abuse.

Full story on predicting teen drug use with brain scans at Science Daily

Variability in local costs of substance abuse across california

The average news consumer might be surprised to learn that the economic costs of alcohol abuse far exceed those related to illegal drug use. In California, alcohol abuse cost $129 billion in 2010, $3,450 per California resident. That was almost three times the $44 billion bill for illicit drug use. The largest cost contributors were mortality, impaired driving, and violence. The costs varied greatly from city to city and county to county.

Researchers examined data from all 58 California counties, as well as a sample of 50 cities with populations between 50,000 and 500,000 persons. Using data from archives and public-use survey collected at state, county, and city levels during the years of 2009 to 2010, they also estimated the costs in 2010 dollars of the incidence and prevalence of AOD use, abuse, and related problems. The estimates include costs related to medical consequences, property damage, criminal justice involvement, and work loss, as well as lost quality of life.

Full story of local costs of substance abuse across California at Science Daily

Strong alcohol policies protect against drunk driving deaths among young people

Stronger alcohol policies protect young people from dying in crashes caused by drunk driving according to researchers at Boston Medical Center. The study, which is published online in the journal Pediatrics, supports the importance of comprehensive alcohol control policies to reduce the number of young people who die in alcohol-related crashes.

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among young people in the United States. Forty percent of deadly car crashes involve a drunk driver in Massachusetts, and the state falls within the top twenty-five percent for rates of young people killed in a drunk driving crash.

“Half of all young people who die in crashes are driven by someone who has been drinking,” says lead author Scott Hadland, MD, a pediatrician at BMC and the study’s corresponding author. “But with stronger alcohol policies at the state level, we saw a significantly lower likelihood of alcohol-related deaths.”

Full story of stronger alcohol policies and deadly crashes at Science Daily

Link Between Alcohol Marketing and Youth Drinking Grows Stronger

A new review of studies from around the world finds young people who have greater exposure to alcohol marketing appear to be more likely subsequently to initiate alcohol use and engage in binge and hazardous drinking.

The researchers reviewed 12 studies involving a total of more than 35,000 participants from Europe, Asia and North America. All 12 found evidence of a positive association between level of marketing exposure and level of youth alcohol consumption. “The last time there was a review of the literature on alcohol marketing and youth was in 2008,” said lead researcher David Jernigan, Ph.D., Director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  “There have been many new studies since 2008, and what this review does is allow us to document that similar findings are being replicated over and over again in multiple countries and across multiple cohorts.”

Full story of youth drinking and line between alcohol marketing at drugfree.org

Fewer Americans Say They Drive Under the Influence of Alcohol

Fewer Americans said they drove under the influence of alcohol In 2014 compared with 2002, according to a new government report.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found 11 percent of those surveyed said they drove under the influence of alcohol in 2014, down from 15 percent in 2002, HealthDay reports.

An estimated 28 million Americans admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol in 2014.

Full story of fewer Americans driving under the influence of alcohol at drugfree.org