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.

Higher Dose Narcotics Increase Depression Risks

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe use of any kind of mind altering substance can have an effect on a person’s mental health, in turn causing a number of complications. One of the more common side effects of drug use is depression. Over the last decade, the United States has seen a dramatic rise in prescription opioid use, which has led to an epidemic. New research suggests that individuals who use higher doses of narcotic painkillers are at increased risk of depression, HealthDay reports. The study followed 355 patients in Texas, who reported low back pain at an initial doctor’s visit, and at one-year and two-year follow-up visits. Researchers initially concluded that those who used higher doses of opioids to manage their pain were more likely to experience depression, according to the article. However continued research indicated that most of the risk of depression is due to the duration of narcotic painkiller use, not the dose - but, higher doses usually were accompanied by longer durations of use. “A strong potential explanation of our finding that increasing opioid dose increases risk of depression could be that the patients who increase dose were the longer-using patients,” said lead researcher Jeffrey Scherrer, an associate professor for family and community medicine at Saint Louis University. “This is logical as longer use is associated with tolerance and a need to increase opioids to achieve pain relief.” Establishing a link between painkillers and depression, as well as what dosage might put patients at higher risk, “may inform prescribing and pain management” by doctors, the article reports. “We hope to find risk factors such as opioid misuse that could be in the pathway from chronic opioid use to new onset depression,” Scherrer said in a news release. “This would expand the targets for intervention to limit the risk of depression in patients who need long-term opioid therapy.” The study’s findings were published in the journal Pain.

High-Potency Marijuana and Psychosis

high-potency-marijuanaNew research suggests the use of high-potency marijuana may be linked to an increased risk of psychosis, Medical News Today reports. The study was conducted by researchers at the institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London in the UK. Dr. Marta Di Forti and her team observed the effects of high-potency marijuana use among 780 individuals aged 18-65. Between 2005 and 2011, 410 participants reported a first episode of psychosis, according to the article. Psychosis occurs when people experience hallucinations or delusions, often happening in conjunction with particular mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. The research suggests, according to Dr. Di Forti, that the risk of psychosis among marijuana users is dependent on different factors, like frequency of use and drug potency - factors which should be considered by physicians. "When a GP or psychiatrist asks if a patient uses cannabis it's not helpful; it's like asking whether someone drinks," says Dr. Di Forti. "As with alcohol, the relevant questions are how often and what type of cannabis. This gives more information about whether the user is at risk of mental health problems; awareness needs to increase for this to happen." It was determined that around 24% of psychosis cases could be avoided if people were to stop using this high-potency cannabis, the article reports. Although, since the study was conducted over a long period of time, the researchers say they did not have data on how much marijuana was used each day, which could present problems. "However, because we collected information about use over a period of years and not about present use, the reliability of such detailed information would probably have been confounded by recall bias to a greater extent than was the general description of pattern of use that we obtained," the researchers add. The findings were published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Educating Teenagers About Prescription Drugs

prescription-drugsEducating teenagers and young adults as to the dangers of drug use has long been of the utmost importance. While such programs have put up a good fight, the reality is that the young are still losing their lives to overdoses which we all would like to see avoided. The prescription drug epidemic has touched all corners of America, putting high school teenagers at risk and opening the doors to other opioids like heroin. Rather than focus on drug use in general, new programs in Illinois and Pennsylvania designed for middle school and high school students, have set their sights on prescription drug use, Reuters reports. The developers of Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE), say it is more effective to zero-in on prescription opioids, rather than emphasizing a more generalized anti-drug approach. Prescription drugs are fast becoming the drug of choice amongst teenagers. Another new program, Heroin Prevention Education program uses interactive software centered around the life of a recovering teen heroin addict who began abusing opioid painkillers after having his wisdom teeth pulled, according to the article. Like many before, the teen’s addiction to opioids brought him intravenous heroin use. The article points out that these new programs face challenges due to lack of funding. In 2011, funding was cut according to the former Office of the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities. "The whole field is sort of in withdrawal," said William Hansen, who runs All Stars, a school drug-prevention provider out of Greensboro, North Carolina. He says that schools have been pouring more money into academic testing and pulling away from drug prevention. What’s more, there has been increased criticism of anti-drug programs in schools, citing program like Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) - a program which has proven ineffective in deterring drug use amongst teens. However, the new programs argue that they have come up with more effective strategies. "Our program really is looking at adolescent brain development, addiction on a brain level," said Christopher Adzia, the program manager at the Robert Crown Center for Health Education.

2016 Budget Focuses on Prescription Drug Abuse

prescription-drug-epidemicThe prescription drug abuse epidemic in the United States has created a new generation of addicts. Years of over prescribing and poor oversight allowed the problem to grow to epic proportions, ushering in a new wave of heroin addiction in America. While moves have been made to get a handle on the problem, some efforts are more effective than others; the reality is that the problem doesn’t appear to be getting much better. The White House's 2016 budget focuses on prescription drug abuse; it includes new measures aimed at reducing opioid overdoses in America, The Hill reports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) will see increased program funding, as well other agencies working to get control of the problem. Individual states will receive aid to expand their prescription drug monitoring programs, this will allow for better tracking of “doctor shoppers” and “pill mills.” Wider distribution of naloxone is needed, a drug which can save lives by reversing the effects of opioid overdoses. Providing law enforcement with naloxone will strengthen the likelihood of saving a life, due to the fact that they are usually the first to respond. More education is needed regarding the dangers prescription drugs carry with them, many who walk out of the doctor’s office do not understand that these drugs are not only highly addictive - they can be lethal. "Every day, more than 100 people die as a result of drug overdose, and more than 6,700 are treated in emergency departments," a budget summary document stated. "Abuse of prescription and illicit drugs, such as heroin, is an urgent public health concern." Generally the new budget will spend nearly $4 trillion in total, raising the ceiling on the spending limits introduced under the 2011 budget deal, according to the article. It has been estimated that the new budget would cut deficits by $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years.

Daily Drinking and the Risk of Cirrhosis

daily-drinkingThe over consumption of alcohol can be detrimental to the human body, having an adverse affect on number of organs. Prolonged and excessive use can ultimately result in the loss of life. One of the most common ailments associated with alcohol use is cirrhosis of the liver, the result of advanced liver disease. New research has found that alcohol drinking patterns significantly influence the risk of cirrhosis and that daily drinking increases the risk, Science Daily reports. "For the first time, our study points to a risk difference between drinking daily and drinking five or six days a week in the general male population, since earlier studies were conducted on alcohol misusers and patients referred for liver disease and compared daily drinking to 'binge pattern' or 'episodic' drinking," observed lead investigator Gro Askgaard, MD, of the Department of Hepatology, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, and the National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark. "Since the details of alcohol induced liver injury are unknown, we can only speculate that the reason may be that daily alcohol exposure worsens liver damage or inhibits liver regeneration." In Europe, where more alcohol is consumed than anywhere in the world, approximately 170,000 people die from alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver every year, according to the article. Researchers set out to analyze the patterns of drinking associated with alcoholic cirrhosis. Hazard ratios (HRs) for alcoholic cirrhosis were determined by looking at drinking frequency, lifetime alcohol amount, and beverage type among nearly 56,000 participants between 50 and 64 years of age. Of the participants, 257 men developed alcoholic cirrhosis; the researchers found that daily drinking and recent alcohol consumption is the strongest predictor of alcoholic cirrhosis. "Earlier studies regarding lifetime alcohol consumption and risk of alcoholic cirrhosis reached opposite conclusions, for instance, whether a previous high level of alcohol amount predicted future risk, even after having cut down," commented Dr. Askgaard. "From a clinical point of view, this is relevant in order to execute evidence-based counselling, and from a public health perspective, it may guide health interventions for the general population." "This is a timely contribution about one of the most important, if not the most important risk factor for liver cirrhosis globally, because our overall knowledge about drinking patterns and liver cirrhosis is sparse and in part contradictory," said noted expert Jürgen Rehm, PhD, Director of the Social and Epidemiological Research Department of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto. "The work of Askgaard and colleagues not only increases our knowledge, but also raises questions for future research. The question of binge drinking patterns and mortality is far from solved, and there may be genetic differences or other covariates not yet discovered, which play a role and could explain the different empirical findings." The study, “Alcohol drinking pattern and risk of alcoholic liver cirrhosis: A prospective cohort study,” was published in the Journal of Hepatology.

Be Aware Of The Power Of Touch

The Power of Touch
The Power of Touch
When a friend of mine was a waitress in a local restaurant she said she could always tell when she was serving people who had just come from a Twelve Step meeting; "They are the ones that are always hugging each other!" she exclaimed. Those of us who have developed a high comfort level with physical contact, such as an arm around the shoulder or a hug, sometimes forget that we are part of a larger society that provides very complex and contradictory messages about touch. Physical contact between two people can have a powerful effect, positive or negative. There are several dynamics that play a role in a person's view of touch which are worth examining.

The Role Of Culture

The United States is generally considered to be a non-touch culture by most researchers. One study documented a very low rate of physical contact between pairs of Americans in a coffee shop setting, as compared to pairs from three other countries. The researchers observed of pairs of people as they engaged in routine conversations within the setting of a coffee shop. During a one-hour period of time, the average number of touch exchanges between the subjects ranged from 180 in San Juan (Puerto Rico) to 110 in Paris (France) to 2 in Gainesville, FL. (United States). Only the English engaged in less touch than the Americans (0 touches). From these results we can safety assume that many Americans will be uncomfortable with touch coming from a non-family member.

The Role Of Gender

It is common knowledge that males and females differ in their views of touch. The process of learning gender roles starts at a very young age. Studies of parents of infants found that touch was offered to female children with greater frequency than to male children of the same age. Mothers more frequently touched their sons than did fathers. Fathers more frequently touched their daughters than they did their sons. As children get older this trend continues. When 3-to-5-year-old children are dropped off at day care centers fewer expressions of physical affection such as hugging, cuddling, holding, or kissing take place between parents and boys than between girls and their parents. In addition to receiving less touch than girls, as boys grow into men they are socialized to become easily aroused sexually by physical contact and, therefore, they have a diminished capacity than women to view comforting touch as a goal in itself rather than the beginning of a sexual encounter. This view of any form of touch being sexual combined with a fear of being labeled homosexual leads to a high likelihood of males responding negatively to being touched by another man.

The Role Of Physical And Sexual Abuse

A history of physical and/or sexual abuse is commonly found in those who attend mutual-help groups. Both males and females who have experienced childhood abuse often have negative reactions to touch, particularly if it occurs without warning, such as someone coming from behind them. Those persons who have only experienced touch as violence or as sexual may be suspicious of any form of touch, regardless of the other person's good intentions.

The Role Of Addiction

Children who are born physically addicted to alcohol or other drugs commonly exhibit a decreased desire or an actual aversion for touch. Malfunctions in the addicted infant's nervous system frequently cause excessive sleeping or to crying. Many of these children shun physical contact, are non-responsive to being held, and experience difficulties in bonding with their caregivers. Such children can be extremely frustrating for even the most competent and well-intentioned adult, and it is common for caregivers to feel rejected, irritated, or incompetent when such children fail to respond to efforts to soothe or nurture them. Furthermore, if the adult caregiver is also an addict herself, chances are that she is a person who has diminished self-esteem, a low tolerance for stress, and difficulty forming intimate relationships, all of which increase the risk factor that a child in her care may be physically abused leading to even further problems related to touch as an adult.

Guidelines To Consider When Offering Touch To Others

Although even with the best intentions any touch may be misinterpreted, there are several factors to keep in mind when offering touch so that it will likely be viewed by others as both comforting and non-sexual.

Asking First

If at all in doubt, ask the person if a hug or other physical contact would be welcome. Do not merely assume because you would find a hug comforting that everyone shares your comfort with touch.

Having Already Formed A Relationship With The Person

The offer of a hug is more likely to be seen as a helpful gesture if you have already shown compassion for the suffering of another in ways other than the use of touch, for example, saying supportive things or taking time to listen to the person's problems. A hug or other form of physical contact is usually more meaningful from a trusted person than from a stranger. In other words, a hug ought to be the expression of a relationship that already exists rather than an attempt to form a relationship.

An Ability To Keep One's Ego At Bay

An ability to keep one's ego uninvolved in the process, which includes giving up any pre-determined agenda in order to be fully available for the needs of the other person is mandatory if the touch is to be for their benefit. In other words, if you take it personally whether another persons wants a hug or not the touch is more for your benefit than the other person's. This is particularly important for members of Al-anon to remember. New members often have a difficult time allowing others to experience the pain that is a part of the recovery process. They have a difficult time standing by and being present while another person expresses pain. They want to make it all better immediately. The hug is sometimes more about their own discomfort of seeing someone in pain than for the benefit of the other person.

Being Thoughtful About Touch

For a hug to be meaningful it has to be given in a thoughtful manner. The hug that is given out of habit rather than out of a sincere desire to be supportive has no effect at best, or is taken as an insult by the recipient.

Touching Both And Men And Women In A Similar Fashion

A heterosexual person who only offers hugs to persons of the other sex ought not to be surprised to learn that people are suspicious that these hugs are more about sexuality than about support.

A Final Reminder

One of the things meetings can offer is a safe place to experience comforting non-sexual touch. However, one must always keep in mind that other members may have very different views of the meaning of touch and approach any touch with caution. Anything powerful enough to heal also has the power to harm, and touch is no exception. ________________________________________ Dr. Mic Hunter is the author of: The Ethical Use Of Touch In Psychotherapy (with Jim Struve) Back To The Source: The Spiritual Principles Of Jesus, Conscious Contact: The 12 Steps As Prayer Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse In America’s Military, Abused Boys: The Neglects Victims of Sexual Abuse His solo practice is located in St. Paul, Minnesota.  

Thanksgiving Traditions Include Expressing Gratitude With Sharing

Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.

Henry van Dyke. American Poet

Thanksgiving really is about traditions...

Family Praying Before Dinner
Traditional Thanksgiving Day Dinner
If you think back to Thanksgiving Day in your own family, you might recall such things as the favorite item on the menu, or waiting for your grandparents to arrive, or tossing a football or Frisbee with your cousins...or maybe your Thanksgiving day memories were just a quiet day spent with your immediate family. The truth is we all have our own private memories of this holiday. We see how it is portrayed in movies, television shows, advertisements...you can even read all about the roots of Thanksgiving Day. Chances are you will find it an interesting read. We know one family where the two adult sons take an extended bike ride. They get up early in the morning, go riding and arrive home just in time to celebrate the holiday with the rest of the family. Of course, they are teased about how they are avoiding helping with the dinner preparations, but again it is their tradition.

PACE Recovery Center continues a new tradition

You might remember last year when we shared with you that the PACE men would be volunteering their time on Thanksgiving Day to participate in the local Gobble Gobble Give Thanksgiving Charity Event to feed the homeless. A tradition was born, and this year the tradition will continue. Again this year, we will be volunteering at the Santa Ana, California Gobble Gobble Give event.  If you happen to live in the Orange County, California, area and are interested in participating, then you can visit their FACEBOOK page.

Recovery includes starting new traditions...

Couple Working in Homeless Shelter
Volunteering on Thanksgiving Day!
Our motto is Positive Attitude Changes Everything! As we've said before, we know that as the clients at our addiction recovery center help provide hope to others it will help them realize the positive changes they are making in their own lives. We wish you all a beautiful, safe, healthy and peaceful Thanksgiving.  

Honoring Our Veterans 2014

Flag and Flowers at the Vietnam Veterans MemorialEvery year on this day we stop to honor our veterans...

Yes, it is November 11, 2014. All of us will take a few minutes out of our day to acknowledge what each veteran of our Armed Services has contributed to our lives. Last year you may remember that we featured two of Pace Recovery's treatment team who both served in the United States Marine Corp - Sean Kelly and Victor Calzada. Today people will gather together to share memories, visit war memorials, stop by a Veterans Hospital to visit a loved one or just to be part of this day to say thank you.

A special poem

Years ago we came across a beautiful poem that was written in 1860 by William Whiting. We would like to share it with you today, and while it expresses gratitude to all sailors...it touches all those who gave part of their lifetime to serve our country.

The Watch

For twenty years, This sailor has stood the watch

While some of us were in our bunks at night, This sailor stood the watch

While some of us were in school learning our trade, This shipmate stood the watch

Yes...even before some of us were born into this world, This shipmate stood the watch

In those years when the storm clouds of war were seen brewing on the horizon of history, This shipmate stood the watch

Many times he would cast an eye ashore and see his family standing there, Needing his guidance and help, Needing that hand to hold during those hard times, But he still stood the watch

He stood the watch for twenty years, He stood the watch so that we, our families, And our fellow countrymen could sleep soundly in safety, Each and every night, Knowing that a sailor stood the watch

Today we are here to say:"Shipmate...the watch stands relieved. Relieved by those YOU have trained, guided, and lead Shipmate you stand relieved...we have the watch!"

"Boatswain...Standby to pipe the side...Shipmate's going Ashore!"

- William Whiting, 1860

 

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