Binge Drinking Has Lasting Effects

addictionThe effort to understand the effects drug and alcohol use has on the brain during developmental years continues. When teenage drinking is talked about, the words “binge drinking” often arise, that is, consuming five or more alcoholic beverages (male), or four or more drinks (female), over a 2-hour period. The practice is quite common among teenagers who are trying to consume as much alcohol as they can - in the limited time they have. Binge drinking has been associated with a number of health problems, including alcohol poisonings and the potential for addictive behaviors to develop. New research suggests that teens that binge drink may experience changes in the brain that last into adulthood, The Los Angeles Times reports. Researchers found that repeated exposure to alcohol throughout one’s formative years may cause long-lasting changes in the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning. “In the eyes of the law, once people reach the age of 18, they are considered adult, but the brain continues to mature and refine all the way into the mid-20s,” lead author Mary-Louise Risher of Duke University said in a news release. “It’s important for young people to know that when they drink heavily during this period of development, there could be changes occurring that have a lasting impact on memory and other cognitive functions.” The brains of teenagers and young adults are still developing, according to researchers, and are uniquely sensitive to levels of alcohol consistent with binge drinking, the article reports. Using rats, the researchers found that those who regularly consumed alcohol while their brain was developing had problems with:
  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Judgment
  • Learning Ability
"It's quite possible that alcohol disrupts the maturation process, which can affect these cognitive function later on," said Risher. The findings appear in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

OxyContin Overdoses Drop – Heroin Overdoses Rise

needle-exchangeIn the United States, prescription drug overdoses are responsible for taking thousands of lives each year. While efforts to promote abuse-deterrent drugs and the implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs has had some promising results, the drop in prescription drug overdoses and prescribing rates has led to a surge in heroin overdoses, HealthDay reports. In 2010, the makers of OxyContin released a new version of the drug which incorporated abuse-deterrent properties. New research indicates that in the two years following the drug’s new formulation OxyContin related overdoses dropped 19 percent and prescriptions of the drug decreased 19 percent, according to the article. "This is the first time in the last two decades that narcotic prescribing had dropped, rather than continued to increase," said lead researcher Dr. Marc Larochelle, an instructor at Boston University School of Medicine. "With the pill, you used to be able to crush it up and either snort it or dissolve it and inject it. Now if you try and crush it, it doesn't turn into a powder -- it just kind of balls up, and if you try and dissolve it, it turns into a goo," Larochelle explained. Unfortunately, the opioid epidemic exhibits the properties of a hydra, cut off one head only to be faced with another. In the same time period, the researchers found that the rate of heroin overdoses increased 23 percent. "Reducing supply may have led some people who are abusing these drugs to substitute an illicit narcotic like heroin, and it may partially explain why we have seen an explosion in heroin use across the country," Larochelle said. Larochelle points out that simply altering drug formulations will not, in and of itself solve the drug abuse problem. "But it shows supply could be one part of the issue. Abuse-resistant formulations will not cure people who are addicted to narcotics. It could, however, prevent or slow down the number of new people who become addicted, because many people who use heroin may have started with pills," he said. The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

A Brief History of Synthetic Drugs

spiceIn the United States, there have been a number of horror stories in the news related to designer drugs, such as synthetic marijuana and bath salts. These types of drugs are sprayed with chemicals that when consumed mimic the effects of popular illegal drugs. Governments around the world have had a hard time keeping up with what has quickly become a billion dollar industry; and banning these types of drugs has proven difficult because chemists are constantly altering the drugs chemical composition. The history of this emerging industry is actually quite interesting and is probably a different story then you may have guessed. In New Zealand, where cocaine distribution is minimal, people started cooking crystal methamphetamine which led to a national crisis. In an attempt to curb methamphetamine use and create drugs safer for consumers, a New Zealander set out to find a drug that mimicked meth but didn't have those terrible side effects, VICE News reports. Over the last 15 years, Matt Bowden, a recovering methamphetamine abuser, has created a synthetic drug empire that started with a drug called BZP (Benzylpiperazine). Bowden petitioned the parliament and was able to get BZP legalized. Over an eight year period, 26M BZP pills were used by 400,000 people without injury, according to the report. After a public outcry, the New Zealand government banned BZP, to which Bowden responded by formulating an unregulated derivative of ecstasy (MDMA) - Methylone. However, it did not take long for that to be banned as well, so Bowden pivoted again creating different synthetic drugs. Seeing the market value of these types of drugs, synthetic drug labs popped up in countries with little standards for production. The majority of synthetic drugs sold across the United States, the ones associated with the terrible news stories and spikes in emergency room visits were probably formulated in Chinese super labs, the article reports. Synthetic compounds are produced by the kiloton in Shanghai, China. The chemicals are sold to aftermarket companies and placed in packaging marketed as synthetic marijuana and bath salts not for human consumption.

Concerns Mounting Over Powdered Alcohol

powdered-alcoholMinimizing underage drinking is a priority in the United States. This is why many are concerned over the recent approval of Palcohol (powdered alcohol), all it takes is a little bit of water and you have an alcoholic beverage. Lawmakers across the country have made efforts to ban Palcohol before it hits the shelves and gets into the wrong hands. The producer of Palcohol, Mark Phillips, claims that his product is no more dangerous than traditional alcohol, The New York Times reports. While in essence the product will have the same effect on the human body as liquid alcohol, the reality is that Palcohol will be attractive to underage drinkers for its ability to be concealed. Phillips says that the idea for powdered alcohol came from his love for hiking, and the hassle of having to carry bottles uphill, according to the article. The product may be practical, but not everyone is on board, six states have already banned the powdered alcohol and Senator Charles Schumer of New York introduced a bill last month that would ban the product nationwide. “I am in total disbelief that our federal government has approved such an obviously dangerous product, and so, Congress must take matters into its own hands and make powdered alcohol illegal,” said Schumer in a statement. “Underage alcohol abuse is a growing epidemic with tragic consequences and powdered alcohol could exacerbate this.” Other concerns include the risk of people snorting the product for a quicker fix, but Phillips claims that snorting Palcohol would not be a fun experience. “It would take you an hour of pain to ingest the equivalent of one drink,” Phillips said in an interview. “It really burns.” However, in 2012, on the company's website Phillips wrote that you could sprinkle powdered alcohol on guacamole, “although snorting it would get you drunk quickly and was probably not a good idea.” Now, Palcohol’s website says that snorting would be impractical and unpleasant.

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