Wearable sensor helps people keep tabs on drinking

Electrical engineers are creating a wearable sensor to help people manage their alcohol intake.

Activity trackers monitor your steps; this innovative sensor measures your blood alcohol level. Worn like a watch, this sensor picks up vapors from the skin and sends the data to a server. If the alcohol reading is high, via an app, a designated loved one gets an alert to check in on the user. This easy-to-wear gadget will help address issues with social drinking and addiction.

“We wanted to create an unobtrusive sensor that would be easy to wear, and help people struggling with alcohol,” said the inventor, Shekhar Bhansali, an Alcatel Lucent professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “This is one step toward active intervention that only requires the user wear the sensor.”

Full story of wearable sensors to manage alcohol intake at Science Daily

Republican Proposed Medicaid Cuts Endanger Addiction Treatment: Experts

Cuts to Medicaid proposed by Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate jeopardize addiction treatment, NPR reports.

In Pennsylvania, more than 124,000 residents depend on Medicaid for addiction treatment. The state’s Medicaid program currently pays for addiction treatment with Vivitrol, a monthly injection that costs about $1,000 a dose. A person receiving the shots also has weekly therapy sessions and visits with a recovery coach, also paid for by Medicaid. Pennsylvania, which expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, pays no more than 10 percent of costs for patients who gained coverage under the expansion. The federal government funds the rest.

Full story of proposed Medicaid cuts and addiction treatment at drugfree.org

The cost of opioid use during pregnancy

A new study published today by the scientific journal Addiction reveals that the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome — often caused by mothers using opioids during pregnancy — is increasing in the United States, and carries an enormous burden in terms of hospital days and costs. The number of US hospital admissions involving neonatal abstinence syndrome increased more than fourfold between the years 2003 and 2012. In 2012, neonatal abstinence syndrome cost nearly $316 million in the United States.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a constellation of symptoms that occur in newborn infants exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs in utero. Infants affected by NAS typically show a number of neurological symptoms and behaviors (e.g., tremors, seizures) as well as poor feeding and gastrointestinal dysfunction. Standard management of NAS involves the administration of opioids for opioid withdrawal, with additional medications for stubborn cases or instances of multi-drug exposure. This drug administration has been performed traditionally in the hospital setting, consuming valuable and finite hospital resources.

Full story of opioid use during pregnancy at Science Daily

Naltrexone: Injectable or oral?

Medications can help people who drink excessive amounts of alcohol. One medication that can reduce alcohol craving and help promote recovery is naltrexone, which is approved for treatment of alcohol dependence by the Food and Drug Administration. It is available in two forms — injectable and oral. This pilot study evaluated the feasibility of injectable versus oral naltrexone, administered in a hospital setting to enhance treatment compliance when patients leave the hospital.

Fifty-four veterans diagnosed with alcohol use disorder were recruited from a larger population of 113 veterans hospitalized for an acute medical or psychiatric illness. Participants were randomly divided into two groups: one received either 50-mg oral naltrexone for daily use plus a 30-day prescription; the other received a 380-mg intramuscular 30-day sustained release naltrexone injection prior to discharge, with a second injection one month later. Researchers followed up with both groups at 14 and 45 days following discharge.

Full story of injectable versus oral naltrexone at Science Daily

Why the marijuana and tobacco policy camps are on very different paths

The regulatory approaches to marijuana and tobacco in the United States are on decidedly different paths and, according to researchers from the U.S. and Australia, neither side appears interested in learning from the other.

“The two policy communities have shown very little interest in each other’s policy debates,” Wayne Hall and Lynn Kozlowski write in a new paper published in the journal Addiction.

Hall, the lead author, is a professor at the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research at the University of Queensland, Australia, and is an expert on marijuana and other drug use issues. Kozlowski is professor of community health and health behavior in the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions and an expert on tobacco use and control.

Full story of marijuana and tobacco policy camps at Science Daily