Teens abusing painkillers are more likely to later use heroin

A USC study in the July 8 issue of JAMA Pediatrics shows that teens who use prescription opioids to get high are more likely to start using heroin by high school graduation.

“Prescription opioids and heroin activate the brain’s pleasure circuit in similar ways,” said senior author Adam Leventhal, a professor of preventive medicine and psychology and director of the USC Institute for Addiction Science at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Teens who enjoy the ‘high’ from prescription opioids could be more inclined to seek out other drugs that produce euphoria, including heroin.”

Leventhal said the study, conducted from 2013-2017, is the first to track prescription opioid and heroin use in a group of teens over time. In 2017, 9% of the nation’s 47,600 opioid overdose deaths occurred in people under the age of 25, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to overdose, health risks of heroin use are devastating and include severe addiction, hepatitis C, HIV and other infections.

Full story at Science Daily

Increased risk of harm from cannabis across Europe

Cannabis resin and herbal cannabis have significantly increased in potency and in price, according to the first study to investigate changes in cannabis across Europe.

The study, published today (Sunday 30 December) in the journal Addiction by researchers from the University of Bath and King’s College London, draws on data collected from across 28 EU Member states, as well as Norway and Turkey by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

The findings show that for herbal cannabis, concentrations of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (‘THC’ — the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis) increased by a similar amount each year, from 5% in 2006 to 10% in 2016.

Full story at Science Daily

How exercise could help fight drug addiction

The siren call of addictive drugs can be hard to resist, and returning to the environment where drugs were previously taken can make resistance that much harder. However, addicts who exercise appear to be less vulnerable to the impact of these environmental cues. Now, research with mice suggests that exercise might strengthen a drug user’s resolve by altering the production of peptides in the brain, according to a study in the journal ACS Omega.

Re-exposure to drug-related cues, such as the location where drugs were taken, the people with whom they were taken or drug paraphernalia, can cause even recovered drug abusers to relapse. Prior studies have shown that exercise can reduce craving and relapse in addicts, as well as mice. Although the mechanism was unknown, exercise was thought to alter the learned association between drug-related cues and the rewarding sensations of taking a drug, possibly by changing the levels of peptides in the brain. Jonathan Sweedler, Justin Rhodes and colleagues at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign decided to explore this theory by quantifying these peptide changes in mice.

Full story at Science Daily

Non-psychoactive cannabinoid may enable drug addiction recovery

An animal study finds that cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive chemical found in marijuana, may help reduce the risk of drug and alcohol relapse. The research, conducted by the Scripps Research Institute, was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, both part of the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers applied a gel containing CBD every day for a week to the skin of the rats with a history of daily alcohol or cocaine self-administration. The CBD appeared to be effective in reducing reinstatement of drug-taking — considered a model of drug and alcohol relapse.  It also reduced anxiety and impulsivity often associated with drug dependence. Notably, the reduced reinstatement, which was induced by stress or drug-related environmental cues, lasted for five months after the initial treatment was discontinued, when CBD was no longer detectable in either blood or brain.

Full story at drugabuse.org

‘Alarmingly high’ risk of death for people with opioid use disorder in general medical care

Almost one-fifth of patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) in a large healthcare system died during a four-year follow-up period, reports a study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, the official journal of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.

The results suggest very high rates of serious illness and death among patients with OUD in general medical care settings — much higher than for those in addiction specialty clinics, according to by Yih-Ing Hser, PhD, of University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues. They write, “The alarmingly high morbidity and mortality among OUD patients revealed in the present study challenge healthcare systems to find new and innovative ways to expand evidence-based strategies for OUD in a variety of settings.”

Full story of death risk for opioid users in general medical care at Science Daily