Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Tag: addiction research (page 2 of 2)

Secondhand smoke may cause mental illness

Remember how the other day we saw a story about how cigarette smoking might cause depression? Now it turns out that researchers in London have figured out that “exposure to secondhand smoke is associated with psychological distress and risk of future psychiatric illness in healthy adults.”

Their study appears in this month’s Archives of General Psychiatry.

I find this fascinating, as the child of two smokers, one a chain-smoker who refused to roll the windows down when she smoked in the car. … Little story here: There’s a whole bunch of data to suggest that babies born to women who smoke throughout pregnancy are at risk of low birthweight. I was born at just over six pounds, six-two to be exact, and as all babies drop weight, I dropped below that after birth. At eight weeks old, tiny little baby, I came down with pneumonia, and I nearly died.

My mother always attributed the pneumonia to “someone with a virus who wanted to hold the baby.”

It only recently dawned on me that the secondhand smoke in a house with the windows closed (I was born at Halloween) could have been the bigger problem, huh? Or at least a complication. Denial—dayam.

If you smoke, please quit!

Lancet study calls for “heroin therapy” for “chronic addicts”

Big study in the news today from the British medical journal The Lancet:

Treatment with supervised injectable heroin leads to significantly lower use of street heroin than does supervised injectable methadone or optimised oral methadone. UK Government proposals should be rolled out to support the positive response that can be achieved with heroin maintenance treatment for previously unresponsive chronic heroin addicts.

Would like to hear from former heroin users on this… If any of my friends from Opiate Detox Recovery who have used heroin are here, please weigh in.

I’ve never used heroin. But from speaking with heroin users who have injected, it seems like there may be a few problems with this study. For instance, this one articulated by a BBC story covering it:

The researchers – working at clinics in south London, Brighton and Darlington – found that those offered injectable heroin under the supervision of a nurse were significantly more likely to cut down their use of street heroin than those receiving oral or injectable methadone.

In further analysis yet to be published, it was noted that … some patients were able to stop use of the drug altogether.

In other words, some patients were able to quit using street heroin… but were still showing up for nursey to inject them with medical-grade heroin?

And the taxpayers are paying for this?

I wonder if any recovering addicts were involved in this research…

I dunno, but here’s what it sounds like to me: the street-drug junkies are becoming prescription-drug addicts.

Certainly, it’ll clean up their ulcerated arms and restore their collapsed veins; it will provide them with a drug that is of reliable quality—for free.

What happens when they want to increase their “dose”?

Also, from what I understand, it’s very difficult not only to give up the heroin, but also to give up the needle.

What do you think?

JAMA: Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Update from this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association: People with addiction and bipolar disorder are more likely to have a more rapid-cycling form of bipolar, according to a study funded by three big federal agencies—the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Listen up, those in recovery:

Based on the findings, the authors emphasize the importance of treating bipolar patients even if they have an active substance abuse disorder.

“Treatment” might include therapy, hospitalization if needed, and medication.

Ever heard people say you’re not really sober if you take antidepressants or other psychoactive medication, even under a physician’s oversight?

Over the weekend I talked with a friend of mine who’s been sober for 30-some years. She told me the story of a woman who got sober some years back, had a few years under her belt, and hit a real rough patch. Got extremely depressed, couldn’t climb out. Finally asked for what my sponsor calls “extra help” and went to a therapist, who suggested a psychiatrist, who in turn diagnosed bipolar disorder and prescribed medication. Which she threw out, because she was told by a number of people that if she took it, she’d no longer be sober. And she hung on as long as she could, and when she couldn’t endure anymore, she killed herself.

“It’s just as much self-will NOT to accept help as it is to go drink or engage in active addiction,” my friend said.

I’m reminded of that old story about the guy who’s flooded out to the top of his house, and along come a raft, a boat, and a helicopter, all of which he turns down, telling himself he’s waiting for “God” to save him. After he drowns and gets to the Pearly Gates, God chews him out: “I sent you a raft, a boat, and a helicopter—what were you bloody thinking??”

For full article: JAMA 2010;303(20):2022

Targeting brain circuits for addiction, relapse

Big Associated Press story today: let’s treat drug addiction with more drugs!

Nora Volkow of the National Institute of Drug Abuse is urging researchers at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting to get creative by developing new “therapies” to change the neuro-circuitry of addicts and alcoholics.

The word “therapies” is often code for “drugs.” Nine-tenths of the story is about how promising naltrexone looks in treating opioid addiction. Which is logical, since naltrexone (strangely enough, already prescribed to treat alcoholism) binds to the body’s opiate receptors. Instead of stimulating them the way opiates do, however, it is an “antagonist”—it kicks opiates off the receptors and reverses their effects. Which is why it’s used in ERs for opiate overdose.

I’m all for any “therapy” that helps anyone stay sober, and I admire how Volkow’s focus on the neurology of addiction has served to emphasize the illness aspect of addiction, and to break some of its moral stigma. However, I think scientists sometimes privilege certain “therapies” over others.

Buried at the bottom of the story:

Medication isn’t the only option. Biofeedback teaches people with high blood pressure to control their heart rate. [Dr. Charles] O’Brien’s colleagues at Penn are preparing to test if putting addicts into MRI machines for real-time brain scans could do something similar, teaching them how to control their impulses to take drugs.

“It’s controlling your own brain,” O’Brien says. While the idea is extremely early-stage, “we think that it’s very promising.

It’s great that the Associated Press included these two grafs at all. I had to chuckle at the doctor’s insistence that a meditative approach to controlling one’s impulses is an “extremely early-stage” idea. Strictly in terms of recovery from addiction, it’s been around since the 1930s. In broader terms—Buddhists have been practicing meditative impulse-control and release from suffering for the past 6,000-8,000 years. And then there’s yoga, tai chi, qi gong, and mindfulness meditation, which has been studied specifically for its effects on stress and pain reduction—but perhaps not for its effects on addiction and recovery. It’s about time.

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