Gene that influences nicotine dependence identified

A DNA variant — located in the DNMT3B gene and commonly found in people of European and African descent — increases the likelihood of developing nicotine dependence, smoking heavily, and developing lung cancer, according to a new study led by RTI International.

Nearly 1 billion people smoke and 6 million premature deaths occur worldwide each year from cigarette smoking, according to the World Health Organization. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and one person dies approximately every 6 seconds from smoking-related causes, according to the WHO.

The new study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, is the largest genome-wide association study of nicotine dependence. Researchers studied more than 38,600 former and current smokers from the United States, Iceland, Finland, and the Netherlands.

Full story at Science Daily

Hospital Treatment Rates for Heroin Surge While Rates for Prescription Opioids Drop

Hospital treatment rates for heroin rose more than 31 percent between 2008 and 2014, while treatment rates for prescription opioids have declined, according to a new study.

Hospital discharge rates for prescription opioid poisonings decreased each year by about 5 percent between 2010 and 2014, the study found.

Lead researcher Tina Hernandez-Boussard of Stanford University said the results provide evidence that people addicted to prescription opioids are turning to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to get, HealthDay reports.

Full story at drugfree.org

No magic pill to cure alcohol dependence yet

A new study published by the scientific journal Addiction has found no reliable evidence for using nalmefene, naltrexone, acamprosate, baclofen or topiramate to control drinking in patients with alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder. At best, some treatments showed low to medium efficacy in reducing drinking, but those findings were from studies with a high risk of bias. None demonstrated any benefit on health outcomes.

The study pooled the results from 32 double-blind randomised controlled trials representing 6,036 patients, published between 1994 and 2015. The studies compared the effects of oral nalmefene (n=9), naltrexone (n=14), acamprosate (n=1), baclofen (n=4) and topimarate (n=4) against placebo.

Many of the studies provided unreliable results due to risk of bias (potential exaggeration of the effects of the drug). Twenty-six studies (81%) showed an unclear or high risk of incomplete outcome data due to the large number of withdrawals. Seventeen studies (53%) showed an unclear or a high risk of selective outcome reporting, as they did not include a protocol registration number, which would allow another researcher to check whether all outcomes were reported.

Cigna Will Stop Covering OxyContin in Effort to Reduce Inappropriate Use

Health insurer Cigna announced this week it will stop covering the prescription opioid OxyContin in an effort to reduce inappropriate use of the drug. Instead it will cover an equivalent drug less vulnerable to being misused.

The alternate drug is Xtampza ER, made by Collegium Pharmaceutical Inc. Xtampza ER cannot be made more fast-acting through cutting or crushing, Cigna said. The change will go into effect January 1, 2018, Reuters reports.

Full story at drugfree.org

Study pokes holes in fetal alcohol hypothesis

A new study published in the journal Brain Behavior and Immunity appears to challenge the theory that cells in the brain’s immune system are the culprit behind the neurological damage that occurs in children exposed to alcohol while in the womb.

“In order to develop treatments for this condition, we must first understand how alcohol affects the developing brain,” said Ania Majewska, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study. “While the hypothesis that dysfunctional immune cells play a role in fetal alcohol syndrome is logical and enticing, it appears that this idea may be a scientific dead end.”

Exposure to alcohol in the womb can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), a condition that causes lifelong physical and cognitive impairments, and for which there is no available treatment. The symptoms suffered by individuals with FASD can range from poor impulse control and attention, learning disabilities, compromised fine motor skills, and delays in the ability of the brain to process visual and auditory information. FASD is diagnosed in about one out of every 100 babies born in the U.S.

Full story at Science Daily