AAP Against Random Drug Testing in Schools

random-drug-testAll would agree the need to prevent substance abuse among teenagers and young adults is of great importance. At every school in the United States, emphasizing to kids the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and identifying those abusing substances is a top concern. Some schools even implement random drug tests to deter and catch those using drugs. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released an update policy statement recommending against “suspicionless” drug testing at schools, Reuters reports. The AAP suggests that there is little evidence to support the efficacy of random drug testing practices at public schools. The new policy statement’s lead author, Dr. Sharon Levy, director of the adolescent substance abuse program at Boston Children’s Hospital, says that there is little evidence that random drug testing identifies kids who use drugs and helps them receive treatment, according to the article. “Evidence on either side is very limited,” said Levy. “It’s possible that you do get some prevention out of these programs, but on the other hand it seems very expensive, very invasive, and has pretty limited results,” added Levy. Levy points out that because teen drug use is usually sporadic, many teen drug users could pass an annual drug test, only to go on and use drugs for the rest of the year. Those who do fail a drug test are more likely to receive punishment, rather than substance use disorder treatment services. “Pediatricians support the development of effective substance abuse services in schools, along with appropriate referral policies in place for adolescents struggling with substance abuse disorders,” the AAP wrote. The AAP noted that the negative consequences associated with random drug testing include:
  • Eroding of the student-school relationship.
  • The potential for confidentiality breaches
  • Mistaken interpretations of drug tests, resulting in false-positives.
The AAP’s recommendation can be found in the journal Pediatrics.

The Best Approach to Combating Binge Drinking

binge-drinkingIn England, just as the United States, binge drinking is a major problem among young adults. The act of drinking as much as you can, as fast as you can, can lead to a number of problems and even result in addiction. Combating the practice of binge drinking has proven difficult, with research indicating that campaigns against binge drinking have bore little fruit. A new research conducted by Royal Holloway, University of London, in conjunction with three other UK universities, has found that official messages about binge drinking are unlikely to work and are often dismissed as irrelevant by young drinkers, Science Daily reports. The findings may be due to the consumption of large quantities of alcohol being part of their sub-cultural social identity, a group driven by the need to subvert rules and norms. "The insight that heavy drinking can be part of a rule-breaking sub-culture may seem obvious, yet huge sums have been spent in the past on Government anti-drinking advertising campaigns that simply fuel the sense that sensible drinking is boring and conformist, while binge drinking is subversive fun," said Professor Chris Hackley, from the School of Management at Royal Holloway. "Government messages that say 'drink sensibly' ignore the ways many young people actually enjoy drinking. This research also has implications for other areas of Government health policy, where compulsive and excessive consumption can sometimes be fuelled by a need to defy and subvert official rules." What’s more, the research showed that high-price tagged ad campaigns may actually have an adverse effect on people most at risk of drinking to excess, according to the report. In the United Kingdom, alcohol related injuries and deaths cost the National Health Service £3.5 billion a year. Clearly, with the price of excessive alcohol consumption being as high as it is, the need for more effective methods is apparent. The researchers contend that a more targeted and practical approach to alcohol intervention may be more effective than multi-million pound anti-drinking campaigns. The findings were published in the Journal of Business Research.

Bipolar Disorder and Marijuana Use

cannabisBipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is one of the more common co-occurring disorders that people living with addiction experience. Those in the field of addiction are acutely aware that those with co-occurring disorders are some of the most difficult to treat, due to the fact that both the substance abuse and the co-occurring disorder need to be addressed, if a successful recovery is to be achieved. Failure to properly diagnose and medicate co-occurring disorders accordingly usually results in relapse. Many living with mental health disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, often use illicit drugs to cope with their illness. Unlike prescription psychotropic medications, illicit drugs often exacerbate the mental illness, and often times lead to substance dependence and/ or addiction. New research has found that those living with bipolar disorder who use marijuana experience increased manic and depressive symptoms, Medical News Today reports. Symptoms including:
  • Shifts in Mood
  • Energy
  • Activity Levels
  • The Ability to Carry Out Day-to-Day Tasks
Researchers involved in the study found that around 2% of the UK population has Bipolar Disorder, and 60% of them have used marijuana at some point in their lives, according to the article. "One theory that is used to explain high levels of drug use is that people use cannabis to self-medicate their symptoms of bipolar disorder," said lead researcher Dr Elizabeth Tyler of the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at Lancaster University. "The findings suggest that cannabis is not being used to self-medicate small changes in symptoms within the context of daily life. However, cannabis use itself may be associated with both positive and negative emotional states. We need to find out whether these relationships play out in the longer term as this may have an impact on a person's course of bipolar disorder." The findings were published in PLOS ONE.

NPY: Not Only a Treatment for Alcohol Abuse – but a Marker

binge-drinking-NPYThe practice of “binge drinking” is a common occurrence among young adults, especially with young men. Drinking as much alcohol as you can, as fast as you can, may be appealing to those trying to catch up with their peers; however, binge drinking can be extremely dangerous - leading to a number of health problems - as well as dependence and addiction. As a result, researchers have long sought ways to curb binge drinking behaviors using science. At the University of North Carolina (UNC), a team of researchers used "a series of genetic and pharmacological approaches" to identify a protein in the brain called neuropeptide Y (NPY), which suppressed binge drinking behavior in a mouse model, Medical News Today reports. "Specifically, we found that NPY acted in a part of the brain known as the extended amygdala (or bed nucleus of the stria terminalis) that we know is linked to both stress and reward,” explained study lead author Thomas L. Kash, PhD, assistant professor in the departments of pharmacology and psychology and a member of UNC's Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. This antidrinking effect was due to increasing inhibition (the brakes) on a specific population of cells that produce a 'pro-drinking' molecule called corticotropin releasing factor (CRF)." "When we then mimicked the actions of NPY using engineered proteins, we were also able to suppress binge alcohol drinking in mice," notes Kash. What’s interesting, in the study the researchers found that the "antidrinking" NPY system may be susceptible to alteration by long-term drinking in multiple species. The researchers’ findings suggest that NPY may not only be a treatment for alcohol abuse - but a marker. "The identification of where in the brain and how NPY blunts binge drinking, and the observation that the NPY system is compromised during early binge drinking prior to the transition to dependence, are novel and important observations," study co-author Todd E. Thiele, PhD, professor of psychology at UNC and a member of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. The findings were published in Nature Neuroscience.

Need for Naloxone Price Reductions

naloxoneIn the fight against the prescription drug epidemic and subsequent opioid overdose deaths affecting every state in America, no other weapon has saved as many lives as naloxone. The life saving drug, if used in a timely manner, can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. In many states, law enforcement officials have begun carrying easy to use naloxone kits, giving first responders the tools to save lives. Sadly, seeing the market value of naloxone has caused the drug’s maker to rapidly increase prices, making it difficult to afford for city and state governments. In the epicenter of the problem New York, Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, the makers of naloxone, made a deal with New York attorney general that would provide $6 rebate per dose to New York state agencies, The Hill reports. This move came in the wake of a New York Times article, which reported that the drug’s price had increased by as much as 50 percent. Now, two state legislators are calling for a nationwide price reduction so that the drug can have a further reaching effect. The high price of naloxone has prevented its widespread use, according to the article. “Over the past several months, police departments, law enforcement agencies, and public health officials across the country have warned about the increasing price of naloxone, which they use to combat the scourge of heroin abuse,” Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland wrote in a letter to Amphastar. “Although we are encouraged by your stated willingness to work with other states, it remains unclear why your company has not already lowered its prices in states other than New York,” the lawmakers wrote. “The rapid increase in the cost of this life-saving medication in such a short time frame is a significant public health concern.” As more states pass laws which increase access to naloxone, the need for price reductions will only grow.

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