Chronic cocaine use modifies gene expression

Chronic cocaine use changes gene expression in the hippocampus, according to research in mice recently published in JNeurosci.

Chronic drug users learn to associate the drug-taking environment with the drug itself, reinforcing memories that contribute to addiction. These memories are thought to be created by changes in gene expression in the hippocampus and potentially involve the gene FosB, but the exact mechanism is unknown.

A.J. Robinson and colleagues at Michigan State University examined how cocaine exposure affected expression of the FosB gene in the hippocampus. Mice that were administered cocaine daily showed increased expression of FosB compared to mice that received saline. Chronic cocaine use caused epigenetic modification of the gene, leading it to becoming more active. Additionally, when the scientists blocked the changes made to FosB, the mice were unable to form associations between cocaine and the environment where they received it, implicating epigenetic regulation of the gene in drug memory formation.

Full story at Science Daily

Alternative to ‘revolving door’ of opioid detox and relapse

In a first-ever randomized trial, patients at a short-term inpatient program began long-term outpatient treatment with buprenorphine before discharge, with better outcomes than detox patients.

Three out of four people who complete an inpatient opioid withdrawal management program — commonly known as “detox” — relapse within a month, leading to a “revolving door” effect. Few successfully transition from the inpatient setting to long-term treatment with proven medications such as buprenorphine, methadone, or naltrexone to prevent overdose.

But patients who start long-term buprenorphine treatment at a detox program, instead of going through detox and getting a referral for such treatment at discharge, are less likely to use opioids illicitly over the following six months, and more likely to keep up treatment, according to a first-of-its-kind study led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher and published in the journal Addiction.

Full story at Science Daily

Adults who mix cannabis with opioids for pain report higher anxiety, depression

A researcher from the University of Houston has found that adults who take prescription opioids for severe pain are more likely to have increased anxiety, depression and substance abuse issues if they also use marijuana.

“Given the fact that cannabis potentially has analgesic properties, some people are turning to it to potentially manage their pain,” Andrew Rogers, said in describing the work published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine. Rogers focuses on the intersection of chronic pain and opioid use, and identifying the underlying psychological mechanisms, such as anxiety sensitivity, emotion regulation, pain-related anxiety, of these relationships. Rogers is a doctoral student in clinical psychology who works in the UH Anxiety and Health Research Laboratory and its Substance Use Treatment Clinic.

Under the guidance of advisor Michael Zvolensky, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Professor of psychology and director of the lab and clinic, Rogers surveyed 450 adults throughout the United States who had experienced moderate to severe pain for more than three months. The study revealed not only elevated anxiety and depression symptoms, but also tobacco, alcohol, cocaine and sedative use among those who added the cannabis, compared with those who used opioids alone. No increased pain reduction was reported.

Full story at Science Daily

Telling a ‘white lie’ may affect one’s ability to recognize emotions

If you lie to someone, you may find it more difficult to tell what that other person is thinking or feeling. This is the main takeaway of a new study that examines the ‘unintended consequences of dishonest behavior.’

Whether it is suffering or joy, empathy helps us feel what another person feels, and — a lot of the time — our ability to empathize is the reason why we choose to do good deeds and help one another.

But does this mean that empathy and ethical behavior are one and the same? What is the relationship between dishonest acts and empathetic feelings?

Full story at Medical News Today

False missile alert may have ‘benefited’ people with anxiety

New research from the American Psychological Association has examined the effects of a missile strike alarm — which turned out to be false — on the anxiety levels of Twitter users.

On the morning of January 13, 2018, the residents of Hawaii received an emergency alert urging them to seek shelter.

They received a message stating that a missile strike was headed toward them.

The message quickly became viral; an employee of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (EMA) mistakenly sent the alarm over radio, television, smartphones, and other wireless devices, accompanied by the disclaimer “this is not a drill.”

Full story at Medical News Today