Thursday, December 27, 2012
The Year in Drugs
Top Posts at Addiction Inbox.
By the look of it, readers had marijuana on their minds in 2012. Of the posts at Addiction Inbox with the highest number of page views, an overwhelming majority are concerned with marijuana, and specifically, with marijuana addiction, withdrawal, and brain chemistry. Of the 9 most heavily trafficked posts of the year, only one involved alcohol. Readers were also interested in the safety of e-cigarettes, and the mysteries of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Happily, all the top posts were patently science-oriented articles.
See you in the New Year.
For Some Users, Cannabis Can Be Fiercely Addictive.
For a minority of marijuana users, commonly estimated at 10 per cent, the use of pot can become uncontrollable, as with any other addictive drug. Addiction to marijuana is frequently submerged in the welter of polyaddictions common to active addicts. The withdrawal rigors of, say, alcohol or heroin tend to drown out the subtler, more psychological manifestations of cannabis withdrawal.
The Molecules of Reward
Serotonin and dopamine are part of a group of compounds called biogenic amines. In addition to serotonin and dopamine, the amines include noradrenaline, acetylcholine, and histamine. This class of chemical messengers is produced, in turn, from basic amino acids like tyrosine, tryptophan, and choline.
Why cannabis research is a good idea.
There is little doubt among responsible researchers that marijuana--although it is addictive for some people--is sometimes a clinically useful drug. However, there is little incentive for commercial pharmaceutical houses to pursue research on the cannabis plant itself, since they cannot patent it.
Anxiety and the THC receptor.
Several years ago, molecular biologists identified the elusive brain receptor where THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, did its work. Shortly after that discovery, researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem identified the body’s own form of THC, which sticks to the same receptors, in pulverized pig brains.
Why do so many smokers combine tobacco with marijuana?
People who smoke a combination of tobacco and marijuana, a common practice overseas for years, and increasingly popular here in the form of “blunts,” may be reacting to ResearchBlogging.orgsome unidentified mechanism that links the two drugs. Researchers believe such smokers would be well advised to consider giving up both drugs at once, rather than one at a time, according to an upcoming study in the journal Addiction.
A group of nicotine researchers argue for an alternative.
Electronic cigarettes are here to stay. If you're not familiar with them, e-cigarettes are designed to look exactly like conventional cigarettes, but they use batteries to convert liquid nicotine into a fine, heated mist that is absorbed by the lungs. Last summer, even though the FDA insisted on referring to e-cigarettes as “untested drug delivery systems,” Dr. Neal Benowitz of the University of California in San Francisco--a prominent nicotine researcher for many years--called e-cigarettes “an advancement that the field has been waiting for.”
Maybe it isn't endorphins after all.
A perennial favorite, the runner’s high post shows what long-distance running and marijuana smoking have in common. Quite possibly, more than you’d think. A growing body of research suggests that the runner’s high and the cannabis high are more similar than previously imagined….Endocannabinoids—the body’s internal cannabis—“seem to contribute to the motivational aspects of voluntary running in rodents.” Knockout mice lacking the cannabinioid CB1 receptor, it turns out, spend less time wheel running than normal mice.
Epilepsy drug gains ground, draws fire as newest anti-craving pill.
A drug for seizure disorders and migraines continues to show promise as an anti-craving drug for alcoholism, the third leading cause of death in America, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported in its current issue.
The argument continues.
Marijuana may not be a life-threatening drug, but is it an addictive one?
There is little evidence in animal models for tolerance and withdrawal, the classic determinants of addiction. For at least four decades, million of Americans have used marijuana without clear evidence of a withdrawal syndrome. Most recreational marijuana users find that too much pot in one day makes them lethargic and uncomfortable. Self-proclaimed marijuana addicts, on the other hand, report that pot energizes them, calms them down when they are nervous, or otherwise allows them to function normally.
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