Archive for May, 2010

Proteins may point to alcohol use test

Measuring a set of protein changes in the blood linked to alcohol use may potentially lead to a more accurate diagnostic test than those currently available, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers.

“The challenge in alcohol abuse as opposed to substance abuse — things like cocaine or heroin or PCP — is that alcohol is a perfectly legal substance for those over 21,” said Willard M. Freeman, Ph.D., department of pharmacology and lead investigator. “Unlike routine testing for illicit drugs, you can’t just look for a trace of alcohol because many people enjoy a drink in a responsible manner and alcohol is very quickly metabolized. Discriminating between excessive and responsible levels of drinking makes this a greater challenge.”

Proteins Predict Alcohol Use

Penn State Hershey researchers, working for two-and-a-half years in cooperation with Kathleen A. Grant, Ph.D., at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, identified a set of 17 proteins in the blood that accurately predicted alcohol usage 90 percent of the time in non-human primates. Researchers were able to separate usage into three categories — no alcohol use, drinking up to two drinks per day and drinking at least six drinks per day.

Protein levels rose and declined depending on alcohol consumption.

“We observed that the levels of some proteins increased or decreased with as little as one or two drinks a day,” Freeman said. “These same changes occurred with heavier levels of drinking. We also found other proteins that responded only to heavy levels of drinking. Combined, these proteins allow us to classify subjects into non-drinking, alcohol-using, and alcohol-abusing groups.”

The researchers are continuing their work, first by determining whether the changes measured return to normal levels with cessation of drinking. Second, they are looking for additional proteins to both increase accuracy and provide alternates if some of the initial 17 do not work in humans.

Working with groups around the world, Penn State Hershey researchers — led by Freeman and Kent Vrana, chair, department of pharmacology — plan to collect blood from people undergoing inpatient treatment for alcohol abuse.

Testing for Abstinence

“We’ll collect blood throughout their stay to see if the patients’ protein pattern reverts from an excessive drinking pattern to a pattern that’s indicative of alcohol abstinence,” Freeman said.

The goal is to create a diagnostic test for alcohol consumption that may be used in areas of public safety like aviation or national security, for parole conditions and for helping physicians determine if a patient may have an alcohol abuse problem. Currently there are tests that try to address this issue, but Freeman said these tests are not sensitive and specific enough to serve as diagnostics.

“Many of these tests rely on just one protein,” he said. “The limitation to this approach is that these tests often look at proteins produced by the liver. While these proteins increase with excessive alcohol intake, they also increase with any type of injury to the liver. For example, a lot of prescription drugs are hard on the liver. These tests let us know that the liver is being stressed but can’t discriminate between excessive drinking and other conditions, which therefore reduces the utility of these tests.

“That’s where we see the promise in this panel of proteins. The proteins are produced by a number of organs including the liver, the muscle, and the brain. This unique fingerprint that is indicative of alcohol abuse is less likely to be produced by unrelated conditions.”

Freeman stresses, a diagnostic test would not be testing for alcoholism, but rather, alcohol intake.

Amount of Drinking Test

“In a strictest use of the words, alcoholism is a psychological diagnosis as opposed to a level of drinking,” he said. “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual really classifies alcohol abuse and alcoholism based on how alcohol is interfering with your life. Obviously we can’t use a blood test to say yes, your drinking is interfering with your home life. But the amount of drinking and the amount of problems it causes in your life are tightly correlated.

“We envision, a number of years down the line if this becomes a diagnostic test, that if the test indicates that you’re drinking a lot, it would prompt a referral to a specialist in alcohol abuse and alcoholism. This test could provide an objective indicator to help people begin addressing what may really be a problem in their lives.”

May 31st, 2010  in Alcohol No Comments »

Naltrexone reduces brain’s response to alcoholism cues

Researchers at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital have produced the first evidence that the opioid blocker extended-release injectable naltrexone (XR-NTX) is able to reduce the brain’s response to cues that may cause alcoholics to relapse.

In data presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, Scott Lukas, PhD, director of the Neuroimaging Center at McLean, located in Belmont, Mass., said the findings help in the understanding of how XR-NTX works in reducing the craving for alcohol and may potentially help predict which people will respond best to the drug.

Less Likely to Relapse

“These data are quite important since relapse remains a significant challenge in treating patients with alcohol dependence,” Lukas said. “It looks to us that XR-NTX can help people remain abstinent by reducing the importance of these cues so they are less likely to relapse.”

XR-NTX works by blocking opioid receptors in the brain and was approved for the treatment of alcohol dependence in 2006. XR-NTX is commercially available as Vivitrol®.

“We were trying to better understand the biological basis of how XR-NTX reduces alcohol consumption,” Lukas said. “These data clearly demonstrate that XR-NTX reduced craving response in the brain when patients were presented with alcohol cues.”

In the study, which has not yet been published, the researchers used brain imaging as a tool to document how XR-NTX works when a person is placed in a situation deemed risky for alcohol relapse.

A total of 28 alcohol-dependent individuals were tested with a BOLD (Blood Oxygen Level Dependent) fMRI scan while shown pictures of bottles or glasses of alcoholic beverages and exposed to odors of their particular alcoholic beverage of choice.

Testing Naltrexone Injections

Under double-blind conditions, fifteen of the subjects were given an injection of a XR-NTX and thirteen subjects were given a placebo injection. The study did not test the older form of naltrexone, which is taken daily in pill form.

Initially, the subjects were asked to self-report their cravings for alcohol after being exposed to the alcohol cues. All subjects reported that their cravings increased in the first few minutes after exposure to the cues.

However, those on XR-NTX reported that their cravings started to diminish after a few minutes, while those on placebo injection reported no such decrease in craving levels.

fMRI images also revealed that the pictures and odors induced sharply contrasting brain blood flow activation patterns. Scans were taken at baseline and again two weeks after the injection. Scans of subjects on placebo were virtually unchanged after two weeks. But those subjects on XR-NTX showed significant reductions in activation patterns in areas of the brain having to do with cognitive and emotional processing and reward circuitry on the second scan following exposure to the alcohol cues.

Responded Less to Alcohol Cues

“The areas in the brain associated with craving did not light up nearly as much in patients treated with XR-NTX compared to patients on placebo,” Lukas said. “These data suggest that those patients on XR-NTX were responding less strongly to the alcohol cues after being on the drug for only two weeks,” he added.

Lukas cautioned, “There is no single magic bullet, but having a choice of medications at our disposal gives physicians an increased chance to better treat a wide range of addictions.”

Understanding cravings and how medication can play a role in controlling them will help to improve treatment for patients with alcohol dependence.

May 31st, 2010  in Alcoholism No Comments »

New technique enables drugs tests via exhaled breath

A new study from Karolinska Institutet presents a new technique that makes drug testing possible through exhaled air for the first time. By examining people who had received emergency care for an amphetamine overdose, the researchers found that in all cases there were traces of amphetamine and metamphetamine in the exhaled breath.

“Traditionally, drugs tests have been carried out using urine and blood samples,” says Professor Olof Beck, who led the study. “In recent years we’ve been trying to find simpler alternatives using saliva, which, unfortunately, has proved difficult. Our results open the way for a new kind of drugs test, which is simple and safe to conduct and that requires no integrity-violating monitoring or medical staff.”

Reliable Drug Tests

Drug abuse is a huge social problem and drugs tests are used widely and comprehensively by the healthcare and social services, the legal system, at workplaces and schools. Reliable drugs tests are important for making correct diagnoses and for keeping tabs on drug users to ensure that they are following prescribed treatment. Alcohol can easily be checked in a breathalyser, and the technology is available for conducting measurements in a way that doesn’t violate a person’s integrity. Measurements of other substances in the exhaled breath are available for diagnosing diseases such as asthma and diabetes.

In this present study, which is published in the latest issue of The Journal of Analytical Toxicology, scientists at Karolinska Institutet have developed a new and unique method for collecting narcotic substances from the exhaled breath. This they did by asking subjects to breathe into a specially designed mask for ten minutes, whereupon the exhaled air was collected and passed through a filter, which trapped the narcotic substances. These filters were then analysed using combined liquid chromatography and tandem mass-spectrometry, techniques that are highly sensitive and reliable.

The researchers took samples from 12 patients who had been admitted into emergency care with toxic symptoms after having taken amphetamines. The samples were taken after the effects of the drug had worn off and with the permission of the regional ethical review board in Stockholm. The ingestion of the drug was confirmed in the patient group through urine and blood samples. In all cases, the researchers were able to ascertain the presence of amphetamine and metamphetamine (a narcotics-classed central-stimulating substance similar to amphetamine) in the exhaled breath as well. The measured excretion rate was between 0.2 and 139 pg/min, which is very low compared to the blood and urine. No amphetamine or metamphetamine were detected in samples from healthy controls.

Drugs In Exhaled Breath

“The results are convincing and very promising,” says Professor Beck. “The study is the first to report the possibility of measuring drugs in the exhaled breath, and represents a unique, unexpected finding. We now have to move on to other drugs that are of interest for this type of breath test, and to develop the sampling and analysis methods. An instrument like a breathalyser for drugs would be the optimal solution for the efficient control of drug use by motorists, for example.”

The study was conducted by researchers at the clinical pharmacology division of the Department of Medicine, Solna and at the Psychiatry Unit at the Department of Clinical Science, Karolinska Institutet, and was financed by Vinnova (the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems), the Stockholm County Council and the Swedish Research Council.

May 23rd, 2010  in Illegal Drugs No Comments »

Smoking ban would help reduce heart attack admissions

A nationwide smoking ban would save more than $90 million and significantly reduce hospitalizations for heart attack, according to a Henry Ford Hospital study.

After analyzing data from the 13 states that don’t have a law banning smoking in public places, researchers concluded that more than 18,596 fewer hospitalizations for heart attack could be realized from a smoking ban in all 50 states after the first year of implementation, resulting in more than $92 million in savings in hospitals costs for caring for those patients.

The study, funded by the hospital, will be presented Thursday at the American Heart Association’s annual Quality of Care and Outcomes Research conference in Washington.

Smokers Harming Themselves

“Even if you just save one heart attack, it is something significant,” says Mouaz Al-Mallah, M.D., Henry Ford’s co-director of Cardiac Imaging Reearch and lead author of the study. “When people smoke, they are not only harming themselves, they’re harming those around them who are exposed to secondhand smoke.”

A similar study conducted in 2008 by Dr. Al-Mallah found that a smoking ban in Michigan could lead to a 12 percent drop in heart attack admissions after the first year of implementation. On May 1, Michigan became the 38th state to ban smoking in public places.

Prior research involving risk reduction from smoking bans has shown that heart attack rates can be reduced by 11 percent after a comprehensive smoking ban.

Henry Ford obtained 2007 data on the number of heart attack discharges, length of stay and hospital charges from the 13 states currently without a public smoking ban. Researchers found 169,043 hospitalizations for heart attack were reported in the states with a comprehensive smoking ban. When the same 11 percent risk reduction was applied to the non-smoking states, researchers concluded it would led to 18,596 fewer heart attack admissions.

May 21st, 2010  in Tobacco No Comments »

Heavy alcohol use increases risk of pancreatic cancer

Heavy alcohol use and binge drinking could increase the risk of pancreatic cancer in men, research from UT Southwestern Medical Center suggests.

In a study available online in Cancer Causes and Control, researchers found that the more alcohol a man consumed, the higher his risk of pancreatic cancer compared with those who drank little or no alcohol.

Important to Reduce Drinking

“If this relationship continues to be confirmed, reducing heavy and binge drinking may be more important than we already know,” said Dr. Samir Gupta, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study, which was conducted at the University of California, San Francisco.

Researchers found that men who consumed alcohol increased their risk of pancreatic cancer by 1.5 to 6 times compared with those who didn’t consume alcohol or who had less than one drink per month. The increased risk depended on the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption. Researchers found that the risk was greater no matter when in the past heavy drinking occurred.

They also found that men who engaged in binge drinking had a 3.5 times greater likelihood of developing pancreatic cancer. Their risk also was greater regardless of when the binge episodes occurred.

Researchers defined one drink as a can, bottle or 12 ounces of beer; a 4-ounce glass of wine; or one shot of liquor. Each of these servings contains about 14 grams of alcohol. The heaviest drinkers consumed 21 to 35 drinks per week. Binge drinking was defined as consuming five or more drinks during one drinking episode.

Researchers did not find the association among women, possibly due to the lower proportion of women who reported heavy or binge drinking, said Dr. Gupta, who also is affiliated with the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern.

Deadly Pancreatic Cancer

“Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, so any risk factor that can be identified and addressed may save lives,” Dr. Gupta said. “Our research found that large and frequent amounts of alcohol consumption may be risk factors for pancreatic cancer.”

Previous studies inconsistently have linked alcohol and pancreatic cancer. Dr. Gupta said his study is different, however, because the researchers collected more detailed information on alcohol consumption and binge drinking than other studies and because the researchers were able to analyze the data for multiple factors that previously hadn’t been considered in great detail.

In the current study, researchers used structured questionnaires to interview pancreatic cancer patients in the San Francisco area diagnosed between 1995 and 1999 and compared those results with those of control participants matched by sex, age and county of residence.

The 532 cancer patients ranged in age from 21 to 85, with the majority between 60 and 80 years of age. Fifty-five percent of study participants were men; 83 percent of them were Caucasian; and most of them were of normal weight with some college education. The 1,701 control participants were of similar demographics.

Dr. Gupta said more research is needed to understand the differences in pancreatic cancer risk between men and women and to understand why heavy alcohol use and binge drinking may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer in men.

Low Survival Rate Cancer

The next step, Dr. Gupta said, will be to see if other studies with detailed information on alcohol consumption and binge drinking have similar results.

Cancer of the pancreas, an organ important for digestion and production of hormones, has the lowest overall five-year survival rate of all specific cancers. Early signs of pancreatic cancer are difficult to diagnose, partly because the organ is located deep in the upper abdomen. Mortality rates have changed little in the past three decades, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Elizabeth Holly, who was the principal investigator, and Drs. Paige Bracci and Furong Wang also were involved in the UCSF study.

May 19th, 2010  in Alcohol 1 Comment »

Frequent alcohol use linked to faster HIV progression

HIV disease tends to progress at a faster rate in infected individuals who consume two or more alcoholic drinks a day, according to an important new paper in AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The article is available free online.

The article, entitled “Alcohol Use Accelerates HIV Disease Progression,” clearly demonstrates that frequent alcohol use, defined as two or more drinks daily, is associated with declining CD4+ cell counts (which indicate a weakened immune system) in individuals with HIV disease who either are or are not receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). Based on the results of a 30-month prospective study, the authors, Marianna Baum, Carlin Rafie, Sabrina Sales, and Adriana Campa, from Florida International University (Miami), Shenghan Lai, from Johns Hopkins University, and John Bryan Page, from University of Miami, Florida, conclude that alcohol has a direct effect on CD4 cells and that the accelerated decline in CD4+ cell counts in frequent alcohol users is not simply due to poorer adherence to ART in this population.

Alcohol Consumption and HIV

Another article by Natascha Ching, Karin Nielsen-Saines, Jaime Deville, Lian Wei, Eileen Garratty, and Yvonne Bryson, from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, demonstrated that children who were infected with HIV while in utero via maternal-fetal transmission, were subsequently given antiretroviral therapy, and had no detectable HIV in their blood, still produced neutralizing antibodies against HIV, suggesting that low levels of viral replication might still be occurring despite drug therapy. In the article “Autologous Neutralizing Antibody to Human Immunodeficiency Virus-1 and Replication-Competent Virus Recovered from CD4+ T-Cell Reservoirs in Pediatric HIV-1—Infected Patients on HAART,” the authors present data to support their conclusion that the children’s CD4 T-cells may contain latent HIV reservoirs that formed early in life before antiretroviral therapy was initiated.

“It is important that HIV infected individuals make informed decisions relating to alcohol consumption. This article will help to achieve that goal,” says Thomas Hope, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses and Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL.

May 18th, 2010  in Alcohol No Comments »

Waterpipes: A new pastime for the young?

As fewer people puff on cigarettes, a new smoking trend may be gaining popularity among North American youth. A study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that almost one-quarter of young adults in Montreal had used waterpipes (also known as shishas or hookahs) in the past year.

“The popularity of waterpipes may be due in part to perceptions that they are safer than cigarettes. However, waterpipe smoke contains nicotine, carbon monoxide, carcinogens and may contain greater amounts of tar and heavy metals than cigarette smoke,” warns senior investigator Jennifer O’Loughlin, a professor at the University of Montreal Department Of Social and Preventive Medicine and a scientist at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center.

Hookahs Popular Among Males

As part of a longitudinal cohort investigation (NDIT Study), 871 youth aged 18 to 24 completed questionnaires on their smoking habits. The research team, which included scientists from the University of Montreal, the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec and McGill University, found that 23 percent of respondents had used a waterpipe within the last 12 months and that 5 percent had used waterpipes one or more times in the past month.

The study found waterpipes to be particularly popular among young, English-speaking males who lived on their own and had a higher household income. In addition, the research team found that waterpipe users were more likely to use other psychoactive substances such as cigarettes, marijuana, illicit drugs and alcohol.

May 11th, 2010  in Illegal Drugs, Tobacco No Comments »

Drinking during pregnancy could lead to leukemia in children

Although acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is relatively rare in children, drinking alcohol during pregnancy could increase the risk, according to a recent paper published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Julie Ross, Ph.D., director of the division of pediatric epidemiology and clinical research at the University of Minnesota, said there are about 700 cases of AML in the United States in children each year.

“It’s quite rare, so we want to be careful about worrying parents too much,” said Ross, who was not involved in the study, but is an editorial board member of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Drinking and Leukemia in Children

Ross and the lead researcher of this study, Paule Latino-Martel, Ph.D., research director at the Research Center for Human Nutrition in France, agreed that these findings should strengthen the public health recommendation against alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

“Despite the current recommendation that pregnant women should not drink alcohol during pregnancy, alcohol consumption during pregnancy is 12 percent in the United States, 30 percent in Sweden, 52 percent in France, 59 percent in Australia and 60 percent in Russia,” said Latino-Martel.

Latino-Martel and colleagues analyzed 21 case control studies. Alcohol intake during pregnancy, defined as a response to a yes or no question, was associated with a 56 percent increased risk of AML in children. The risk of AML was higher in children aged 0 to 4 years old at diagnosis. There was no significant association with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

May 6th, 2010  in Alcohol No Comments »

Drivers who delay license reinstatement are often high risk

Driver’s license suspension has become the most widely used as well as effective method for incapacitating individuals who have been convicted of driving under the influence (DUI). A new study has found that encouraging license reinstatement with continued controls, such as interlocks as a condition of reinstatement, may be effective as long as they do not extend delays.

Results will be published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

Driver’s License Suspension Reduces Recifivism

“Suspension of driving privileges is the major standard sanction for an impaired driving offense in the western world,” explained Robert B. Voas, senior scientist and director of the Impaired Driving Center at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE). “Jail is used in most countries for multiple offenders and problem cases such as involvement in a crash causing injuries. But jail terms are generally too short to significantly reduce the risk the driver presents to the driving public. Research clearly shows that suspension reduces recidivism when compared to not suspending the offender, but it is far from a perfect system since studies show that up to 75 percent of offenders report illicit driving.”

“The value of the sanction partly depends on drivers regarding a proper driving license as having great value,” observed Paul R. Marques, senior research scientist with the Impaired Driving Center at PIRE. “Unfortunately it seems in recent years there are many more drivers who find the benefit of driving unlicensed to be an acceptable low-risk thing to do, probably because the perceived risk of consequences is small. This becomes a public danger for several reasons, not least of which is that an unlicensed driver is usually an uninsured driver. If we cannot adequately enforce license suspension, and if drivers do not feel threatened by loss of their licenses, then suspension cannot serve its intended purpose of restricting road use to those who abide by the laws.”

Researchers analyzed the driving records of 40 million drivers – three million of whom were convicted of DUI – from seven of the largest U.S. states during a seven-to14-year period of time.

“We found that 50 percent of second offenders delay reinstating for more than a year,” said Voas. “Those that delay have higher recidivism rates after they are reinstated, suggesting – but not demonstrated in this study – that they will have higher crash rates. Additionally, one third of second offenders will never reinstate.”

Alcohol-Involved Driving

“Maybe the single most interesting finding from this study is the relationship between risk indicators of impaired driving and the longer time delay in reinstatement after becoming eligible to reinstate,” said Marques. “Drivers with more alcohol citations are less likely to reinstate promptly when eligible. What can we do to reduce the risk these drivers pose to the average road user? We need to either substantially increase monitoring and enforcement, and/or use other ways to control alcohol-involved driving.”

Who are the DUI offenders who delay reinstatement after they become eligible? “It is probable that those who delay may do so because they have not satisfied other requirements such as attending and completing treatment, paying their fine, or meeting with their probation officer,” said Voas. “Research suggests that failure to meet these responsibilities is an indication that they are more likely to resist conforming to rules and regulations generally, including traffic laws. They may also have more serious drinking problems which make it less likely that they can separate their drinking from their driving.”

“The delay in reinstatement is also correlated with having had more prior DUI convictions – multiple offenders are more likely to delay than first-time offenders – and those with more prior convictions generally have more future convictions,” added Marques. “But also, there are usually more conditions placed on reinstatement for those perceived as having higher risk. There may be a break point where some offenders just do not want to bother with the burden of proper relicensing. We should not be making the relicensing process so onerous that we force people out of compliance with the laws.”

Conversely, who are the DUI offenders who do reinstate? “Conforming to the requirements imposed by the courts and motor vehicle departments in a timely manner suggest that these individuals have taken advantage of treatment and other intervention programs provided by the state and have better control over their own behavior,” said Voas. “The fact that first offenders, who have fewer drinking problems, are less likely than multiple offenders to delay suggests that the level of the offenders’ drinking problem plays a role.”

Driving While Suspended

People have different reasons to conform, observed Marques. “If you have a certain satisfaction with your life and want to retain privileges, conveniences, and fulfill responsibilities, then meeting the administrative and legal expectations around reinstatement is a no-brainer,” he said. “Simply enough, those more invested in social norms are more apt to do things that are normative. For those who are more marginalized, whether through choice, income or opportunity, the risk-benefit ratio of either not relicensing, or choosing to drive while suspended, will be different.”

“Our findings suggest that more attention should be given to DUI sanctions that maintain contact with the offender following reinstatement such as vehicle alcohol interlocks,” said Voas. “The results also suggest that offenders who have delayed several months beyond their nominal reinstatement date might be reminded of the importance of reinstating, and of the sanctions for illicit driving.”

“Our roadways are the national commons,” added Marques. “It is silly to imagine that we can bring DUI behavior under control just by making laws that are more punitive or restrictive. The evidence developed by Voas and colleagues provides an estimate of problem magnitude and should ideally form the basis for policy innovations.”

May 5th, 2010  in Drunk Driving No Comments »

Exposure to prenatal smoking may lead to psychiatric problems

It is well-known that maternal smoking during pregnancy can have long-term effects on the physical health of the child, including increased risk for respiratory disease, ear infections and asthma. New research shows that prenatal smoking also can lead to psychiatric problems and increase the need for psychotropic medications in childhood and young adulthood.

Smoking and Psychiatric Problems

Finnish researchers found that adolescents who had been exposed to prenatal smoking were at increased risk for use of all psychiatric drugs especially those uses to treat depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and addiction compared to non-exposed youths. The study will be presented Tuesday, May 4 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

“Recent studies show that maternal smoking during pregnancy may interfere with brain development of the growing fetus,” said Mikael Ekblad, lead author of the study and a pediatric researcher at Turku University Hospital in Finland. “By avoiding smoking during pregnancy, all the later psychiatric problems caused by smoking exposure could be prevented.”

Smoking and Birthweight

Ekblad and his colleagues collected information from the Finnish Medical Birth Register on maternal smoking, gestational age, birthweight and 5-minute Apgar scores for all children born in Finland from 1987 through 1989. They also analyzed records on mothers’ psychiatric inpatient care from 1969-1989 and children’s use of psychiatric drugs.

Results showed that 12.3 percent of the young adults had used psychiatric drugs, and of these, 19.2 percent had been exposed to prenatal smoking.

The rate of psychotropic medication use was highest in young adults whose mothers smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day while pregnant (16.9 percent), followed by youths whose mothers smoked fewer than 10 cigarettes a day (14.7 percent) and unexposed youths (11.7 percent).

Smoking Affects Unborn Child

The risk for medication use was similar in males and females, and remained after adjusting for risk factors at birth, such as Apgar scores and birthweight, and the mother’s previous inpatient care for mental disorders.

Smoking exposure increased the risk for use of all psychotropic drugs, especially stimulants used to treat ADHD (unexposed: 0.2 percent; less than 10 cigarettes/day: 0.4 percent; and more than 10 cigarettes/day: 0.6 percent) and drugs for addiction. An increased risk for use of drugs to treat depression also was seen (unexposed: 6 percent; less than 10 cigarettes/day: 8.6 percent; and more than 10 cigarettes/day: 10.3 percent).

“Smoking during pregnancy is still quite common even though the knowledge of its harmful effects has risen in recent years,” Ekblad concluded. “Recent studies have shown that smoking during pregnancy has negative long-term effects on the health of the child. Therefore, women should avoid smoking during their pregnancy.”

May 4th, 2010  in Tobacco No Comments »