Brain biomarker predicts compulsive drinking

Although alcohol use is ubiquitous in modern society, only a portion of individuals develop alcohol use disorders or addiction. Yet, scientists have not understood why some individuals are prone to develop drinking problems, while others are not. Now, Salk Institute researchers have discovered a brain circuit that controls alcohol drinking behavior in mice, and can be used as a biomarker for predicting the development of compulsive drinking later on. The findings were published in Science on November 21, 2019, and could potentially have implications for understanding human binge drinking and addiction in the future.

“I hope this will be a landmark study, as we’ve found (for the first time) a brain circuit that can accurately predict which mice will develop compulsive alcohol drinking weeks before the behavior starts,” says Kay Tye, a professor in the Systems Neurobiology Laboratory and holder of the Wylie Vale Chair. “This research bridges the gap between circuit analysis and alcohol/addiction research, and provides a first glimpse at how representations of compulsive alcohol drinking develop across time in the brain.”

Full story at Science Daily

Surgeon General’s Marijuana Warning Omits Crucial Context

Speaking about a recent federal advisory on marijuana, Dr. Jerome Adams, the surgeon general, put a new spin on long-standing admonitions about the drug.

“Marijuana has a unique impact on the developing brain. It can prime your brain for addiction to other substances,” Adams said at a Washington, D.C., substance abuse conference held late in August and sponsored by Oxford House, a recovery center network.

This is a reiteration of the old “gateway” argument: the idea that marijuana is frequently an entree to using other, harder drugs. And the surgeon general’s emphasis comes just as many states are loosening restrictions around its medicinal and adult recreational use.

Full story at Kaiser Health News

Targeting one gut bacterium may treat alcoholic liver disease

Precision targeting of bacteria in a different way to antibiotics shows promise as a treatment for alcoholic liver disease, according to new research in mice.

A recent Nature study paper describes how an international team of scientists used bacteriophages, which are viruses that kill bacteria, to eradicate alcoholic liver disease in mice.

They used a particular mixture of phages to selectively eliminate Enterococcus faecalis, a gut bacterium that releases a toxin that kills liver cells.

They found that people with alcoholic liver disease had more E. faecalis in their guts than people without this condition.

Full story at Medical News Today

‘Benzos’ Are Rising in Popularity Among Teens and They’re Getting Them On Social Media

Teen addiction to benzodiazepines, called “benzos” for short, is on the rise, and these drugs are easier for teens to access—and get addicted to—than most parents think. In fact, they can be as easy to order as direct-messaging a dealer on Instagram.

“Benzodiazepines are one of the most commonly prescribed classes of psychoactive drugs,” says Lawrence Weinstein, M.D., chief medical officer at American Addiction Centers. “In the past 20 years, benzodiazepine prescriptions for adolescents have doubled. With the medication being so prevalent, it is not uncommon for a teen to either be prescribed the medication themselves, have a parent who keeps a prescription in the home, or know of someone with that prescription.”

Even if teens do not have direct access to a prescription, finding a supplier can be as simple as logging into their social networks like Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram. “Where teens are getting these drugs from is simple: If they are social and tech-savvy, they can access them,” says Dr. Weinstein.

Full story at Parents.com

Fingerprint test can distinguish between those who have taken or handled heroin

A state-of-the-art fingerprint detection technology can identify traces of heroin on human skin, even after someone has washed their hands — and it is also smart enough to tell whether an individual has used the drug or shaken hands with someone who has handled it.

In a paper published by The Journal of Analytical Toxicology, a team of experts from the University of Surrey detail how they have built on their world-leading fingerprint drug testing technology, based on high resolution mass spectrometry, which is now able to detect heroin, its metabolite, 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-AM) and other analytes associated with the class A drug.

The team took fingerprints from people seeking treatment at drug rehabilitation clinics who had testified to taking heroin or cocaine during the previous 24 hours. A fingerprint was collected from each finger of the right hand, and the participants were then asked to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water and then wear nitrile gloves for a period of time before giving another set of fingerprints. This same process was used to collect samples from 50 drug non-users.

Full story at Science Daily