Archive for the ‘ Illegal Drugs ’ Category

I Had to Hit Bottom With Meth

By James S.
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By James S.

What It Was Like

I took my first drink at age 12 and soon after started to use drugs. I used and drank for many years without major consequences. At the age of 20 I got a DUI and was arrested 12 times for alcohol-related offenses so I used drugs to change the way that I was feeling. In my mid-30s I started to use meth and loved it. All my morals were going down hill and I really did not realize it. I had two kids out of wedlock and was with a number of girls.

What Happened?

In 2007, I was using everyday and I was loosing every thing that I had worked for. In October, I was dealing drugs to support my habit. I took some meth to a motel room that my kids mother was staying at and sold it to her friend that was selling small amounts.

My kids were also staying there at that time. The next morning when they woke up the guy kicked my kid’s mother out of that room because he said she stole dope from him.

She took my two daughters to me and all that afternoon my two girls were sick throwing up and I thought that they just had a stomach bug.

A few weeks later Children Youth Families Dept. (CYFD) was wanting to talk to me and kid’s mother. The guy that had blamed her for steeling his dope turned us in and said we were using around our kids. He also made a lot of other accusations that were not true just to get her in trouble.

They tested all of us and we all were dirty, even our kids. My kids were ages 2 and 3 years old and they tested at higher levels of meth than we did. I couldn’t understand it because I thought that I kept it away from my kids. I would smoke it in another room.

CYFD and the police came and took my kids into custody. That was the day that I believe that I hit bottom. I did not know what to do, so I just kept getting high and drunk. I was going insane fast. I really started to go crazy and I didn’t see any way out. I didn’t think life was worth living any longer.

You see I thought that when CYFD took kids it was almost impossible to get them back.

I came up with a plan, I was going to shoot the guy that turned us in and then I was going to turn the gun on myself and end the pain. That is when a friend talked me into going to the hospital and turning myself in because I was a danger to myself and others. He also took my gun.

I was in there for a few days then went to rehab for 28 days. I got out of rehab and started to go to NA and AA. I was there every time the doors were open. I got a sponsor and took the steps and got involved in service work in the program. The judge gave me my kids back and now I stay sober and clean for me.

Lessons Learned

  • My life has changed so much today I am a productive member of society. I wear a badge today and get to help people everyday in a good way. I do a lot of work with the same judge that told me that if I did not change the way that I was living then I would never have my kids with me.
  • I thank God for all the people who have helped me. I will never be able to pay back what has been given to me so I just try to live right and help other people everyday.
  • I found out that 12 step programs work when I am willing to work the program.
  • Today I have a little over 4 years in recovery. I’m glad I made it into recovery.

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June 25th, 2015  in Illegal Drugs No Comments »

Federal Club Drug Law: More Harm Than Good?

A federal law enacted to combat the use of “club drugs” such as Ecstasy — and today’s variation known as Molly — has failed to reduce the drugs’ popularity and, instead, has further endangered users by hampering the use of measures to protect them.

University of Delaware sociology professor Tammy L. Anderson makes that case in a paper she will present at the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. The paper, which has been accepted for publication this fall in the American Sociological Association journal Contexts, examines the unintended consequences of the 2003 RAVE (Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy) Act.

Holding Rave Promoters Accountible

The act was designed to address the use of drugs, sometimes by very young teens, at the all-night electronic-dance-music parties known as raves that were especially common in the 1990s.

The law targeted club owners and promoters, holding them criminally responsible for illegal drug use at their events.

And that’s the problem, Anderson says. Before the law was passed, raves often provided services to help protect participants who were using drugs: free bottled water was available to combat the dehydration that can occur, for example, and security staff patrolled the event on the lookout for anyone in distress who might need medical care. Independent groups, such as Dance Safe, sometimes set up booths outside raves and tested the drugs people were carrying to alert them to dangerous ingredients.

“There were a lot of groups like that, and there was a lot of educational information about drugs being made available,” Anderson says. “Today, clubs and promoters are reluctant to take those precautions because it could be used as evidence against them.” They sometimes even fail to summon medical help when needed, she says.

Ineffective in Curtailing Drug Use

At the same time, the RAVE Act has clearly been ineffective in curtailing drug use at club events, Anderson says. Participants now widely use the drug Molly — for MDMA, the ingredient in Ecstasy — to stay awake for what is often a 24-hour party. Deaths from the use of Molly are not uncommon, according to Anderson, who cites examples such as the two 20-somethings who died at the 2013 Electronic Zoo (EZoo) festival in New York.

“The RAVE Act is a relic of the War on Drugs,” she says. “It never worked in the past, and it’s not working now.”

Anderson has conducted extensive research on raves, drug use, and the youth culture, including five years of intensive observations and interviews of rave participants on the East Coast of the U.S. and in London and Spain, supported by a grant from the National Institute of Justice. She is the author of Rave Culture: The Alteration and Decline of a Music Scene (Temple University Press, 2009).

August 23rd, 2014  in Illegal Drugs No Comments »

Why Some Pot Smokers Are Slackers

Researchers found that dopamine levels in a part of the brain called the striatum were lower in people who smoke more cannabis and those who began taking the drug at a younger age.
They suggest this finding could explain why some cannabis users appear to lack motivation to work or pursue their normal interests.
The study, by scientists at Imperial College London, UCL and King’s College London, was funded by the Medical Research Council and published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
The researchers used PET brain imaging to look at dopamine production in the striatum of 19 regular cannabis users and 19 non-users of matching age and sex.
The cannabis users in the study had all experienced psychotic-like symptoms while smoking the drug, such as experiencing strange sensations or having bizarre thoughts like feeling as though they are being threatened by an unknown force.
The researchers expected that dopamine production might be higher in this group, since increased dopamine production has been linked with psychosis. Instead, they found the opposite effect.
The cannabis users in the study had their first experience with the drug between the ages of 12 and 18. There was a trend for lower dopamine levels in those who started earlier, and also in those who smoke more cannabis. The researchers say these findings suggest that cannabis use may be the cause of the difference in dopamine levels.
The lowest dopamine levels were seen in users who meet diagnostic criteria for cannabis abuse or dependence, raising the possibility that this measure could provide a marker of addiction severity.
Previous research has shown that cannabis users have a higher risk of mental illnesses that involve repeated episodes of psychosis, such as schizophrenia.
“It has been assumed that cannabis increases the risk of schizophrenia by inducing the same effects on the dopamine system that we see in schizophrenia, but this hasn’t been studied in active cannabis users until now,” said Dr Michael Bloomfield, from the Institute of Clinical Sciences at Imperial, who led the study.
“The results weren’t what we expected, but they tie in with previous research on addiction, which has found that substance abusers – people who are dependent on cocaine or amphetamine, for example – have altered dopamine systems.
“Although we only looked at cannabis users who have had psychotic-like experiences while using the drug, we think the findings would apply to cannabis users in general, since we didn’t see a stronger effect in the subjects who have more psychotic-like symptoms. This needs to be tested though.
“It could also explain the ‘amotivational syndrome’ which has been described in cannabis users, but whether such a syndrome exists is controversial.”
Other studies have looked at dopamine release in former cannabis users and not seen differences with people who haven’t taken cannabis, suggesting that the effects seen in this study are likely to be reversible.

Researchers found that dopamine levels in a part of the brain called the striatum were lower in people who smoke more cannabis and those who began taking the drug at a younger age.

They suggest this finding could explain why some cannabis users appear to lack motivation to work or pursue their normal interests.

The study, by scientists at Imperial College London, UCL and King’s College London, was funded by the Medical Research Council and published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Lack of Dopamine Production

The researchers used PET brain imaging to look at dopamine production in the striatum of 19 regular cannabis users and 19 non-users of matching age and sex.

The cannabis users in the study had all experienced psychotic-like symptoms while smoking the drug, such as experiencing strange sensations or having bizarre thoughts like feeling as though they are being threatened by an unknown force.

The researchers expected that dopamine production might be higher in this group, since increased dopamine production has been linked with psychosis. Instead, they found the opposite effect.

Smokers Started Early

The cannabis users in the study had their first experience with the drug between the ages of 12 and 18. There was a trend for lower dopamine levels in those who started earlier, and also in those who smoke more cannabis. The researchers say these findings suggest that cannabis use may be the cause of the difference in dopamine levels.

The lowest dopamine levels were seen in users who meet diagnostic criteria for cannabis abuse or dependence, raising the possibility that this measure could provide a marker of addiction severity.

Previous research has shown that cannabis users have a higher risk of mental illnesses that involve repeated episodes of psychosis, such as schizophrenia.

Results Not Expected

“It has been assumed that cannabis increases the risk of schizophrenia by inducing the same effects on the dopamine system that we see in schizophrenia, but this hasn’t been studied in active cannabis users until now,” said Dr Michael Bloomfield, from the Institute of Clinical Sciences at Imperial, who led the study.

“The results weren’t what we expected, but they tie in with previous research on addiction, which has found that substance abusers – people who are dependent on cocaine or amphetamine, for example – have altered dopamine systems.

“Although we only looked at cannabis users who have had psychotic-like experiences while using the drug, we think the findings would apply to cannabis users in general, since we didn’t see a stronger effect in the subjects who have more psychotic-like symptoms. This needs to be tested though.

Amotivational Syndrome

“It could also explain the ‘amotivational syndrome’ which has been described in cannabis users, but whether such a syndrome exists is controversial.”

Other studies have looked at dopamine release in former cannabis users and not seen differences with people who haven’t taken cannabis, suggesting that the effects seen in this study are likely to be reversible.

July 4th, 2013  in Illegal Drugs 1 Comment »

Cocaine vaccine passes key testing hurdle

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have successfully tested their novel anti-cocaine vaccine in primates, bringing them closer to launching human clinical trials.

Their study, published online by the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, used a radiological technique to demonstrate that the anti-cocaine vaccine prevented the drug from reaching the brain and producing a dopamine-induced high.

“The vaccine eats up the cocaine in the blood like a little Pac-man before it can reach the brain,” says the study’s lead investigator, Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, chairman of the Department of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Breaking the Addiction

“We believe this strategy is a win-win for those individuals, among the estimated 1.4 million cocaine users in the United States, who are committed to breaking their addiction to the drug,” he says. “Even if a person who receives the anti-cocaine vaccine falls off the wagon, cocaine will have no effect.”

Dr. Crystal says he expects to begin human testing of the anti-cocaine vaccine within a year.

Cocaine, a tiny molecule drug, works to produce feelings of pleasure because it blocks the recycling of dopamine — the so-called “pleasure” neurotransmitter — in two areas of the brain, the putamen in the forebrain and the caudate nucleus in the brain’s center. When dopamine accumulates at the nerve endings, “you get this massive flooding of dopamine and that is the feel good part of the cocaine high,” says Dr. Crystal.

Immune System Fights Cocaine

The novel vaccine Dr. Crystal and his colleagues developed combines bits of the common cold virus with a particle that mimics the structure of cocaine. When the vaccine is injected into an animal, its body “sees” the cold virus and mounts an immune response against both the virus and the cocaine impersonator that is hooked to it. “The immune system learns to see cocaine as an intruder,” says Dr. Crystal. “Once immune cells are educated to regard cocaine as the enemy, it produces antibodies, from that moment on, against cocaine the moment the drug enters the body.”

In their first study in animals, the researchers injected billions of their viral concoction into laboratory mice, and found a strong immune response was generated against the vaccine. Also, when the scientists extracted the antibodies produced by the mice and put them in test tubes, it gobbled up cocaine. They also saw that mice that received both the vaccine and cocaine were much less hyperactive than untreated mice given cocaine.

Booster Shots to Dampen the Cocaine High

In this study, the researchers sought to precisely define how effective the anti-cocaine vaccine is in non-human primates, who are closer in biology to humans than mice.

They developed a tool to measure how much cocaine attached to the dopamine transporter, which picks up dopamine in the synapse between neurons and brings it out to be recycled. If cocaine is in the brain, it binds on to the transporter, effectively blocking the transporter from ferrying dopamine out of the synapse, keeping the neurotransmitter active to produce a drug high.

In the study, the researchers attached a short-lived isotope tracer to the dopamine transporter. The activity of the tracer could be seen using positron emission tomography (PET). The tool measured how much of the tracer attached to the dopamine receptor in the presence or absence of cocaine.

Reducing Cocaine Occupancy

The PET studies showed no difference in the binding of the tracer to the dopamine transporter in vaccinated compared to unvaccinated animals if these two groups were not given cocaine. But when cocaine was given to the primates, there was a significant drop in activity of the tracer in non-vaccinated animals. That meant that without the vaccine, cocaine displaced the tracer in binding to the dopamine receptor.

Previous research had shown in humans that at least 47 percent of the dopamine transporter had to be occupied by cocaine in order to produce a drug high. The researchers found, in vaccinated primates, that cocaine occupancy of the dopamine receptor was reduced to levels of less than 20 percent.

“This is a direct demonstration in a large animal, using nuclear medicine technology, that we can reduce the amount of cocaine that reaches the brain sufficiently so that it is below the threshold by which you get the high,” says Dr. Crystal.

Frequency of Vaccine?

When the vaccine is studied in humans, the non-toxic dopamine transporter tracer can be used to help study its effectiveness as well, he adds.

The researchers do not know how often the vaccine needs to be administered in humans to maintain its anti-cocaine effect. One vaccine lasted 13 weeks in mice and seven weeks in non-human primates.

“An anti-cocaine vaccination will require booster shots in humans, but we don’t know yet how often these booster shots will be needed,” says Dr. Crystal. “I believe that for those people who desperately want to break their addiction, a series of vaccinations will help.”

May 11th, 2013  in Illegal Drugs No Comments »

Teen marijuana use can lower I.Q.

The persistent, dependent use of marijuana before age 18 has been shown to cause lasting harm to a person’s intelligence, attention and memory, according to an international research team.

Among a long-range study cohort of more than 1,000 New Zealanders, individuals who started using cannabis in adolescence and used it for years afterward showed an average decline in IQ of 8 points when their age 13 and age 38 IQ tests were compared. Quitting pot did not appear to reverse the loss either, said lead researcher Madeline Meier, a post-doctoral researcher at Duke University. The results appear online Aug. 27 in PNAS.

Early Onset the Key

The key variable in this is the age of onset for marijuana use and the brain’s development, Meier said. Study subjects who didn’t take up pot until they were adults with fully-formed brains did not show similar mental declines. Before age 18, however, the brain is still being organized and remodeled to become more efficient, she said, and may be more vulnerable to damage from drugs.

“Marijuana is not harmless, particularly for adolescents,” said Meier, who produced this finding from the long term Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. The study has followed a group of 1,037 children born in 1972-73 in Dunedin, New Zealand from birth to age 38 and is led by Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi, psychologists who hold dual appointments at Duke and the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.

Tested at Age 38

About 5 percent of the study group were considered marijuana-dependent, or were using more than once a week before age 18. A dependent user is one who keeps using despite significant health, social or family problems.

At age 38, all of the study participants were given a battery of psychological tests to assess memory, processing speed, reasoning and visual processing. The people who used pot persistently as teens scored significantly worse on most of the tests. Friends and relatives routinely interviewed as part of the study were more likely to report that the persistent cannabis users had attention and memory problems such as losing focus and forgetting to do tasks.

8 IQ Points Is Huge

The decline in IQ among persistent cannabis users could not be explained by alcohol or other drug use or by having less education, Moffitt said.

While 8 IQ points may not sound like a lot on a scale where 100 is the mean, a loss from an IQ of 100 to 92 represents a drop from being in the 50th percentile to being in the 29th, Meier said. Higher IQ correlates with higher education and income, better health and a longer life, she said. “Somebody who loses 8 IQ points as an adolescent may be disadvantaged compared to their same-age peers for years to come,” Meier said.

Laurence Steinberg, a Temple University psychologist who was not involved in the research, said this study is among the first to distinguish between cognitive problems the person might have had before taking up marijuana, and those that were apparently caused by the drug. This is consistent with what has been found in animal studies, Steinberg added, but it has been difficult to measure in humans.

Long-Term Changes in the Brain

Animal studies involving nicotine, alcohol and cocaine have shown that chronic exposures before the brain is fully developed can lead to more dependence and long-term changes in the brain. “This study points to adolescence as a time of heightened vulnerability,” Steinberg said. “The findings are pretty clear that it is not simply chronic use that causes deficits, but chronic use with adolescent onset.”

What isn’t possible to know from this study is what a safer age for persistent use might be, or what dosage level causes the damage, Meier said. After many years of decline among US teens, daily marijuana use has been seen to increase slightly in the last few years, she added. Last year, for the first time, US teens were more likely to be smoking pot than tobacco.

“The simple message is that substance use is not healthy for kids,” Avshalom Caspi said via email from London. “That’s true for tobacco, alcohol, and apparently for cannabis.”

September 4th, 2012  in Illegal Drugs No Comments »

Marijuana poses dangers in first weeks of pregnancy

Marijuana is up to 20 times more potent than it was 40 years ago and most pregnant women who use the drug are totally unaware that it could harm their unborn child before they even know they are pregnant.

Writing in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis, American researcher’s state the argument that marijuana is a harmless drug is no longer valid due to the emergence of ‘high potency’ marijuana and synthetic marijuana which pose a potential real threat for pregnant women.

High Potency Pot

They also express concerns that marijuana’s increased popularity among teenagers and young adults could put this group at higher risk.

“The emergence of bioengineered crops and novel, medicinal marijuana strains, means that marijuana is no longer what it used to be in the 1970’s and early 1980s’: some new, high potency strains, including some medicinal marijuana blends such as ‘Connie Chung’ and many others, contain up to 20 times more THC, the psychoactive constituent of marijuana, than did ‘traditional’ marijuana from the 1970’s and early 1980’s ” explains co-author Dr. Delphine Psychoyos from the Center for Genetic and Environmental Medicine at Texas A&M University. “Furthermore, with the emergence of dispensaries and Internet websites, high potency marijuana and Spice products are now readily available to the general population.”

Synthetic Cannabinoids

Spice products, a prominent brand of ‘synthetic marijuana’, or ‘fake weed’ mixtures, contain extremely potent THC analogues, also called ‘synthetic cannabinoids’, such as AM694 (found in Euphoric Blends Big Band and others) and HU210 (found in Spice Gold), both of which are 500-600 times more potent than marijuana’s THC.

“The THC contained in ‘high potency’ marijuana and the potent THC analogues contained in Spice products and other brands of ‘synthetic marijuana’, are potentially harmful to embryonic development, as early as two weeks after conception. This is because these psychoactive chemicals have the ability to interfere with the first stages in the formation of the brain of the fetus; this event occurs two weeks after conception, earlier than before signs of pregnancy appear. By the time a woman realises she is pregnant and stops taking these substances it may already be too late for her unborn child. ”

High Rate of Use

“Given that marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug by pregnant women worldwide – one study estimates the rate is as high as 20 per cent – this is a major issue.”

Recent research from the past 5 years has shown that marijuana exposure during pregnancy has been associated with anencephaly, a non-sustaining life condition where a large part of the skull or brain is absent, neurobehavioral deficiencies, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities and memory impairment in toddlers and 10 year olds, as well as neuropsychiatric conditions, including depression, aggression and anxiety, in teens.

Increase Awareness Needed

“The problem is that many women who are pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant are totally unaware of this increased potency and the risks they pose,” says co-author Dr. Delphine Psychoyos. “This is because many websites on mothering and pregnancy, and those run by pro-marijuana advocacy groups, base their discussions on data collected prior to 1997, when no detrimental affects on pregnancy had been reported; It is important to note here that prior to 1997, pregnant women were mostly exposed to low potency, ‘traditional’ marijuana, which was the common form of marijuana in the market in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.”

“Marijuana has regained its popularity from the 1970s, especially among teens and young people, and has established social and cultural status as the most popular drug of abuse. Yet, like pregnant women, these young users probably have no idea of the significant increase in potency over the past four decades. ”

The researchers are calling for greater awareness among pregnant women about the availability of highly potent marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids such as those found in Spice products, and the risks that they can pose to their unborn child, even before their pregnancy has been confirmed.

They highlight the need to revise U.S. government bills and legislation to take account of the development of synthetic cannabinoids, such as those found in Spice and in new psychoactive substances that are based on cannabinoid research chemicals; They also question whether there is a need to put high potency marijuana in the highest category, if marijuana is to become legalised in America, based on its medical applications.

The authors also stress that teenagers and young people need to be more aware of the health risks of high potency marijuana, of synthetic cannabinoids found in Spice and other brands, and of synthetic cannabinoid research chemicals sold as designer drugs on various non DEA-regulated websites.

September 3rd, 2012  in Illegal Drugs No Comments »

Teen pot use leaves lasting mental deficits

The persistent, dependent use of marijuana before age 18 has been shown to cause lasting harm to a person’s intelligence, attention and memory, according to an international research team.

Among a long-range study cohort of more than 1,000 New Zealanders, individuals who started using cannabis in adolescence and used it for years afterward showed an average decline in IQ of 8 points when their age 13 and age 38 IQ tests were compared. Quitting pot did not appear to reverse the loss either, said lead researcher Madeline Meier, a post-doctoral researcher at Duke University. The results appear online Aug. 27 in PNAS.

Brain Age a Factor in Marijuana Use

The key variable in this is the age of onset for marijuana use and the brain’s development, Meier said. Study subjects who didn’t take up pot until they were adults with fully-formed brains did not show similar mental declines. Before age 18, however, the brain is still being organized and remodeled to become more efficient, she said, and may be more vulnerable to damage from drugs.

“Marijuana is not harmless, particularly for adolescents,” said Meier, who produced this finding from the long term Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study. The study has followed a group of 1,037 children born in 1972-73 in Dunedin, New Zealand from birth to age 38 and is led by Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi, psychologists who hold dual appointments at Duke and the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.

Psychological Tests Given

About 5 percent of the study group were considered marijuana-dependent, or were using more than once a week before age 18. A dependent user is one who keeps using despite significant health, social or family problems.

At age 38, all of the study participants were given a battery of psychological tests to assess memory, processing speed, reasoning and visual processing. The people who used pot persistently as teens scored significantly worse on most of the tests. Friends and relatives routinely interviewed as part of the study were more likely to report that the persistent cannabis users had attention and memory problems such as losing focus and forgetting to do tasks.

The decline in IQ among persistent cannabis users could not be explained by alcohol or other drug use or by having less education, Moffitt said.

8 Points Is Huge

While 8 IQ points may not sound like a lot on a scale where 100 is the mean, a loss from an IQ of 100 to 92 represents a drop from being in the 50th percentile to being in the 29th, Meier said. Higher IQ correlates with higher education and income, better health and a longer life, she said. “Somebody who loses 8 IQ points as an adolescent may be disadvantaged compared to their same-age peers for years to come,” Meier said.

Laurence Steinberg, a Temple University psychologist who was not involved in the research, said this study is among the first to distinguish between cognitive problems the person might have had before taking up marijuana, and those that were apparently caused by the drug. This is consistent with what has been found in animal studies, Steinberg added, but it has been difficult to measure in humans.

Early Use Causes Deficits

Animal studies involving nicotine, alcohol and cocaine have shown that chronic exposures before the brain is fully developed can lead to more dependence and long-term changes in the brain. “This study points to adolescence as a time of heightened vulnerability,” Steinberg said. “The findings are pretty clear that it is not simply chronic use that causes deficits, but chronic use with adolescent onset.”

What isn’t possible to know from this study is what a safer age for persistent use might be, or what dosage level causes the damage, Meier said. After many years of decline among US teens, daily marijuana use has been seen to increase slightly in the last few years, she added. Last year, for the first time, US teens were more likely to be smoking pot than tobacco.

“The simple message is that substance use is not healthy for kids,” Avshalom Caspi said via email from London. “That’s true for tobacco, alcohol, and apparently for cannabis.”

August 30th, 2012  in Illegal Drugs No Comments »

Chronic cocaine use may speed up aging of brain

New research by scientists at the University of Cambridge suggests that chronic cocaine abuse accelerates the process of brain ageing. The study, published today 25 April in Molecular Psychiatry, found that age-related loss of grey matter in the brain is greater in people who are dependent on cocaine than in the healthy population.

For the study, the researchers scanned the brains of 120 people with similar age, gender and verbal IQ. Half of the individuals had a dependence on cocaine while the other 60 had no history of substance abuse disorders.

Loss of Brain Volume

The researchers found that the rate of age-related grey matter volume loss in cocaine-dependent individuals was significantly greater than in healthy volunteers. The cocaine users lost about 3.08 ml brain volume per year, which is almost twice the rate of healthy volunteers (who only lost about 1.69 ml per year). The accelerated age-related decline in brain volume was most prominent in the prefrontal and temporal cortex, important regions of the brain which are associated with attention, decision-making, and self-regulation as well as memory.

Previous studies have shown that psychological and physiological changes typically associated with old age such as cognitive decline, brain atrophy and immunodeficiency are also seen in middle-aged cocaine-dependent individuals. However, this is the first time that premature ageing of the brain has been associated with chronic cocaine abuse.

Premature Aging

Dr Karen Ersche, of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI) at the University of Cambridge, said: “As we age, we all lose grey matter. However, what we have seen is that chronic cocaine users lose grey matter at a significantly faster rate, which could be a sign of premature ageing. Our findings therefore provide new insight into why the cognitive deficits typically seen in old age have frequently been observed in middle aged chronic users of cocaine.”

The scientists also highlight concerns that premature ageing in chronic cocaine users is an emerging public health concern. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that cocaine is used by up to 21 million individuals worldwide, with approximately 1 per cent of these individuals becoming dependent.

Dr Ersche said: “Our findings clearly highlight the need for preventative strategies to address the risk of premature ageing associated with cocaine abuse. Young people taking cocaine today need to be educated about the long-term risk of ageing prematurely.”

An Issue for Older Adults Too

The concern of accelerated ageing is not limited to young people but also affects older adults who have been abusing drugs such as cocaine since early adulthood.

Dr Ersche added: “Our findings shed light on the largely neglected problem of the growing number of older drug users, whose needs are not so well catered for in drug treatment services. It is timely for heath care providers to understand and recognise the needs of older drug users in order to design and administer age-appropriate treatments.”

April 26th, 2012  in Illegal Drugs No Comments »

Vaccine blocks cocaine high in mice

Researchers have produced a lasting anti-cocaine immunity in mice by giving them a safe vaccine that combines bits of the common cold virus with a particle that mimics cocaine.

In their study, published in the online edition of Molecular Therapy and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the researchers say this novel strategy might be the first to offer cocaine addicts a fairly simple way to break and reverse their habit, and it might also be useful in treating other addictions, such as to nicotine, heroin and other opiates.

Fighting Cocaine Addiction

“Our very dramatic data shows that we can protect mice against the effects of cocaine, and we think this approach could be very promising in fighting addiction in humans,” says the study’s lead investigator, Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, chairman and professor of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.

He says the antibody immune response produced in lab mice by the vaccine binds to, and sequesters, cocaine molecules before the drug reached the brains of these animals — and prevents any cocaine-related hyperactivity. The vaccine effect lasted for at least 13 weeks, the longest time point evaluated.

“While other attempts at producing immunity against cocaine have been tried, this is the first that will likely not require multiple, expensive infusions, and that can move quickly into human trials,” Dr. Crystal says. “There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine for any drug addiction.”

“An approach that works is desperately needed for cocaine addiction, which is an intransigent problem worldwide,” he adds. “There are no therapies now.”

The novelty of this possible treatment is that it hooks a chemical that is very similar in structure to cocaine, onto components of the adenovirus, a common cold virus. In this way, the human immune system is alerted to an infectious agent (the virus) but also learns to “see” the cocaine as an intruder as well, Dr. Crystal says. Once the structure of the new intruder is recognized, natural immunity builds to cocaine particles, so any time cocaine is snorted or used in any way, antibodies to the substance are quickly produced and the cocaine molecules are engulfed by the antibodies and prevented from reaching the brain.

Engineering a New Response

“The human immune system doesn’t naturally tag cocaine as something to be destroyed — just like all small-molecule drugs are not eliminated by antibodies,” he says. “We have engineered this response so that it is against the cocaine mimic.”

In this study, a team of researchers — scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University in Ithaca, and the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. — ripped apart an adenovirus, retrieving only the components that elicit an immune response and discarding those that produce sickness. They then hooked the cocaine analog on to these proteins to make the vaccine. “We used the cocaine analog because it is a little more stable than cocaine, and it also elicits better immunity,” Dr. Crystal says.

The researchers then injected billions of these viral concoctions into “garden variety” laboratory mice (mice that are not genetically engineered). They found a strong immune response was generated against the vaccine, and that these antibodies, when put in test tubes, gobbled up cocaine.

Vaccine for Addicts

They then tested the vaccine’s effect on behavior, and found that mice that received the vaccine before cocaine were much less hyperactive while on the drug than mice that were not vaccinated. The effect was even seen in mice that received large, repetitive doses of cocaine. Proportionally, the cocaine doses reflected amounts that humans might use.

The vaccine needs to be tested in humans, of course, says Dr. Crystal, but he predicts that if it works, it will function best in people who are already addicted to cocaine and who are trying to stop using the drug. “The vaccine may help them kick the habit because if they use cocaine, an immune response will destroy the drug before it reaches the brain’s pleasure center.”

January 6th, 2011  in Illegal Drugs No Comments »

Mexican Drug Crackdown Reduces Meth Usage

A study published in the scientific journal Addiction shows that the Mexican government’s recent efforts to control the manufacture of methamphetamine have caused a drop in methamphetamine treatment admissions in Mexico and in neighbouring Texas.

In 2005 Mexico began controlling its imports of pseudoephedrine (a precursor chemical used in the manufacture of methamphetamine), and in 2008 it became the first country in North America to ban all imports of pseudoephedrine as well as ephedrine, another important precursor chemical. Researchers estimate that the 2005 import controls caused a 12% drop in voluntary methamphetamine treatment admissions in Mexico, with similar reductions in Texas.

An even larger drop in voluntary admissions occurred following the 2007 closure of a commercial chemical company suspected of illicitly importing more than 60 tons of pseudoephedrine into Mexico. The head of the company fled Mexico but was eventually arrested in the United States. Methamphetamine treatment admissions in Mexico decreased by 56% following the closure of the company, with Texas showing similar results.

Signs of Meth Decline

All decreases in admissions appeared to be specific to methamphetamine, as researchers found no concurrent changes in cocaine, heroin, and alcohol treatment admissions during the same period. The study wound up shortly after the 2008 bans on precursor chemicals came into effect, so researchers weren’t able to examine fully the impact of those bans; however, the researchers noted that treatment admissions in Mexico showed signs of declining in the first few months following the bans.

Says lead researcher James Cunningham, a Fulbright Scholar at The University of Arizona: “These findings constitute the first evidence outside the United States that a country’s precursor chemical controls can have positive public health results both domestically and internationally.”