Entries in Drugs (81)


Mike Tyson Went Vegan to Flush Drugs, 'Bad Cocaine'

Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) -- Mike Tyson’s ear-chomping days are officially behind him. The former professional boxer and world heavyweight champ has become a vegan.

Tyson, who actually committed to the strict vegetarian diet last year and has lost 100 pounds, offered a perfectly logical and cogent explanation for giving up his animal-based diet in a clip from Tuesday’s Oprah: Where Are They Now?

“Becoming a vegan gave me another opportunity to live a healthy life. I was so congested from all the drugs and bad cocaine, I could hardly breathe, [I had] high blood pressure, [was] almost dying [and had] arthritis. And once I became a vegan all that stuff diminished,” Tyson, 46, said.

But he has not always waxed so poetically on the topic of veganism.

“I just threw up the white flag,” he told Ann Curry on the Today show last year in an attempt to explain why he took up the diet. “Too many prison cells, too many jails, too many lawsuits, too many bankruptcies, too many women, too many venereal diseases, too many everything. I got tired … of every time my prostitute girl got back from a trip, I had to sleep with her. I’m going to live a different life.”

Registered dietitian Cynthia Sass gave Tyson’s dietary switch a thumbs-up but said he’d have to eat carefully to get adequate amounts of protein, zinc and calcium. And in order to avoid becoming “Low Iron Mike,” she recommended eating plenty of beans, legumes and nuts.

“It’s a good idea to pair iron-rich, plant-based sources such as spinach and broccoli with citrus and other good sources of vitamin C in order to enhance iron absorption,” she pointed out.

Sass said she has seen plenty of people declare they are vegan only to subsist on frozen vegan pizza, vegan ice cream and other vegan junk foods.

“You get rid of cholesterol and saturated fat but you don’t increase fiber, antioxidants and vitamins,” she said. “That’s not really healthier.”

This doesn’t appear to be the case with Tyson, who, in the Oprah Winfrey clip, is shown with his third wife, Lakiha Spicer, whipping up a vegetable smoothie and snacking on fruit.  Not a slice of beef or Evander Holyfield in sight.

The Tyson interview aired Tuesday night on the OWN channel. You can also catch Tyson in his one-man show, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, now touring nationally with director Spike Lee.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Don’t Dish About Your Past Drug Use to Your Kids, Study Says

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When it comes to telling your kids about how you used drugs but they shouldn’t, honesty may not be the best policy.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign surveyed 561 middle school students on conversations they had with their parents about alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana.  They found that children were less likely to think drugs were bad if their parents opened up with them about past substance use to teach a lesson.  Children whose parents told them to avoid drugs were more likely to avoid them.

“Parents should really hit on what are the bad things that can happen, health-wise, from using drugs,” said communications researcher Jennifer Kam, one of the study's authors.  “They should really clearly tell kids that they disapprove of them using drugs.  Also, give them strategies to avoid use or decline use in a way that makes them look cool.”

Other factors that discouraged drug acceptance in the middle school students included having parents who set rules against drugs and shared cautionary tales about other people who have gotten into trouble because of drugs, Kam said.

Parents who have engaged in drugs and alcohol in the past walk a fine line between lying to their children and divulging information that makes substance use seem acceptable.

“I would caution against lying,” Kam said.  “I wouldn’t volunteer the information, but if a child asks, and a parent lies, it could impact the relationship later on.”

The research showed an association between parent conversations and children’s beliefs about drugs, but not that one necessarily caused the other.  The study was also limited to white and Hispanic students from rural Illinois schools, so it doesn’t capture possible regional and ethnic differences that would be present in other populations.

The Partnership for a Drug Free America agrees that parents should be honest and specific if a teen asks directly about past drug use, according to its Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain.

“You don’t have to tell her all the details,” the guide says.  “Find out why she’s asking about your history, and then tell her what she wants to know -- nothing more.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Marijuana Use Up Among Teens, Survey Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Marijuana use is on the rise among the nation's high school students, according to a survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health.  

The annual "Monitoring the Future" survey shows more than a third of high school seniors say they've tried marijuana within the past year, and views on pot are changing.  

A record low number of eighth graders believe it's harmful to occasionally smoke pot -- just 20 percent of 12th graders agree.  

Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, highlights the dangers of teens not understanding the harmful effects of regular marijuana use.

"Marijuana use that begins in adolescence increases the risk they will become addicted to the drug, she says in a statement. "The risk of addiction goes from about 1 in 11 overall to about 1 in 6 for those who start using in their teens, and even higher among daily smokers."

The survey, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, also shows use of the prescription stimulant Adderall is up, but illicit drug use overall continues to decline, as tobacco use, and alcohol intake also fall.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Weight-Loss Surgery Tied to Substance Abuse

Tom Morello/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Weight-loss surgery can help people who are obese ditch their unhealthy relationships with food.  But a new study suggests these patients sometimes enter a rebound relationship with something else -- alcohol, drugs or cigarettes.

The survey-based study of 155 bariatric surgery patients found a 50 percent rise in the frequency of substance abuse two years after the procedure.

“Many people who undergo bariatric surgery struggle with eating in response to different emotional cues,” said Alexis Conason of the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center, lead author of the study published Monday in the Archives of Surgery.  “I [wondered] what happened afterward.  If they are no longer able to cope with their emotions through eating … do they turn to something like drugs or alcohol to serve the purpose that food did originally.”

Conason tested the theory of symptom substitution -- the swapping of one habit for another.  Patients who drank and smoked before surgery reported more drinking and smoking two years after.  And while one in 25 patients reported using recreational drugs before the procedure, one in eight said they used them two years later.  But Conason stressed that much more research is needed.

“The emerging body of literature [on this] is in its infancy,” she said, stressing that her study focused on frequency of substance use but not on the quantity of substances consumed or whether doing so caused problems for either the patients or their family members.  ”We have a small sample size, so it’s going to be important to see how this is replicated with larger samples.  We need to [better understand] the problematic nature of the substance use … the reasons why.”

Some experts think the uptick in substance use might be related to social behaviors.

“What this study may be showing is that morbidly obese people are socially isolated,” said Dr. Christine Ren-Fielding, chief of bariatric surgery division in the department of surgery at New York University Langone Medical Center.  “After surgery, they not only become physically healthy but mentally healthy and now become more social.  They go out on dates and go to parties which may involve a social alcoholic drink.”

The frequency of alcohol use among bariatric patients prior to surgery was very low, Ren-Fielding added.

“Perhaps after surgery, the frequency of alcohol use in bariatric patients normalizes to approach the frequency of alcohol consumption in the lean population,” she said.

The rise in substance abuse over two years followed an initial decline that Conason attributes to strict instructions for the recovery period after surgery.  She said patients should be followed closely to ensure they are maintaining a healthy weight and adjusting well to their new bodies, emotions and relationships.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Intersex Experts Question Safety of 'Normalizing' Drug

Courtesy Janet Green(NEW YORK) -- Janet Green was born with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a condition that is one of 36 disorders of sexual development, leaving her with ambiguous genitalia, or intersex.

During the earliest weeks of conception in her mother's womb, Green was bathed in an overproduction of male hormones that caused a masculinization of her body and brain.

Girls with the condition can have clitorises as large as small penises or labia that look like a scrotum, but the internal sex organs are normal.

"I remember people being concerned about my body and a discomfort talking about it," Green, now a 55-year-old real estate agent from New York, said of her grueling medical journey.  "I just wanted to be normal and fit in."

Standard treatment is surgery, which can be painful and leave psychological scars.  But since the 1980s, doctors have prescribed a powerful steroid off-label for pregnant mothers who are at risk for the condition.

Now, in a report published this month in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, researchers call for more investigation into the use of that drug, dexamethasone, which they say is potentially unsafe.

The drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of inflammation, certain forms of arthritis and some cancers.  But off-label, dexamethasone is used to reduce rates of typically boy-like chararteristics, lesbianism and bisexuality in girls -- characteristics clinicians have termed "behavioral masculinization."

There are no requirements by the FDA for off-label use.

Only one in eight children conceived by at-risk parents ever gets any potential benefit from the drug, according to the report, and it has never been scientifically tested in controlled clinical trials.

"Women don't even know it's experimental," said Alice Dreger, lead author of the report and professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Just this year, a Swedish study on dexamethasone reported nearly 20 percent of the children exposed to the drug had a "serious adverse event," including anxiety and mood disorders and problems with memory and verbal processing.

"There is a lot of exposure with little benefit and a fair amount of risk," said Green, who is now a patient advocate as interim executive director of the Accord Alliance in Whitehouse Station, N.J.  "To me, that's a scary thing.  Over time, a lot of things have been done to girls that are experimental and this is another one."

Bioethicists have sounded the alarm because, they say, doctors are bypassing the strict regulations and ethical protocol of clinical trials by offering the drug off-label, then recruiting the same patients for federally funded follow-up studies.

Mothers were told the therapy was "safe for mother and child," Green said, but there has been no scientific evidence.  "Until we get decent studies we can't answer what are the side effects."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Back in the Habit: Baby Boomers Admit Drug Abuse

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Those who came of age in the marijuana-happy, acid-dropping, cocaine-snorting 1960s and '70s are finding their way back to drugs.

In 2010, nearly 2.4 million people ages 50 to 59 said they had abused prescription or illegal drugs within the past month -- more than double that of 2002, according to data from the National Institutes of Health.

Emergency rooms nationwide are seeing more patients age 55 and older for reactions to cocaine, heroin and especially marijuana.

Visits to the emergency room for marijuana abuse, for example, jumped 200 percent from 2004 to 2009 in this age group, according to Gayathri Dowling, PhD, the acting chief of the science policy branch at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

"We knew a lot of baby boomers had used drugs in their youth," said Dowling.  "That is a risk factor.  The younger you use, the more likely you are to have problems later."

Dowling says boomers grew up in a culture where drug use "became less stigmatized."

Bee, 52, who lives in the Boston area, agrees.  She admits to heavy marijuana use in her late teens and early 20s, but then she kicked the habit.  Bee, who asked ABC News not to use her last name, started again in her 40s, while dating a man who liked to light up.

"If you've done it before," said Bee, "it's easier to start again."

She's now trying to quit, and has been mostly clean for six months.

In Florida, the Hanley Center, an addiction recovery facility in West Palm Beach, opened a boomer unit three years ago.  Juan Harris, the clinical director of boomer treatment, says they are packed.  Right now it's a 24-bed facility, with plans to expand to 40 beds.

"Alcohol addiction is [still] the primary substance for people age 50, but it's going down," said Harris.  "There are more and more people over 50 abusing more illicit stuff, such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana and prescription drugs."

Harris places the blame partly on the pressures of this stage of life.

"Divorce, loss of a job, loss of health, a lot of grief and loss issues," he said.  The good news, according to Harris, is that these older drug users are motivated to break their habit, and have a good success rate.

Some of the increase in drug use in this age group is due to their sheer numbers; an estimated 75 million people were born in the Baby Boom years between 1946 and 1964.  Still, some experts say population numbers alone don't explain all of the increase.

"We are concerned that it is going to get worse," said NIDA's Dowling, who adds that older adults metabolize drugs differently, and "even moderate levels of use can have more severe consequences."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ecstasy Causes Memory Loss, Study Finds

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study has linked Ecstasy use to memory loss, researchers in Germany have found.

Dr. Daniel Wagner said he tracked more than 100 recreational Ecstasy, or MDMA, users over the course of a year and found that they didn’t perform as well on a series of tests at the end of the study.  He said the damage was most evident in associative memory.  For example, Ecstasy users might have difficulty remembering where they put their keys.

“Given the relatively small amounts of MDMA that were used, and given the relatively short time period of one year, we were quite surprised at these specific effects,” Wagner told ABC News.

Those Ecstasy users took an average of 32 pills over the year, or slightly more than one pill every other weekend.  Dr. Stephen Ross,  director of Addiction Psychiatry at New York University’s Tisch Hospital, said the findings weren’t new or surprising.  Other researchers had similar results in 2007.

“It is a drug that certainly can be problematic,” Ross said.

He also said Wagner’s findings should also be taken with a grain of salt, because Wagner and his team didn’t use any brain imaging to confirm damage to the hippocampus, the part of the brain that plays an important role in long-term memory.

Ross said it’s also not clear whether cannabis -- which was not controlled for in the study -- played a role in the memory loss Wagner saw in his patients.  Studies find cannabis can cause  memory impairment.

“The study doesn’t necessarily rule out the fact that other things caused this,” Ross said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Appetite for Food, Cocaine Linked to Same Spot in Brains of Mice

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- In the global fight against obesity, scientists have become particularly interested in the parts of the brain that make us want to eat, and sometimes to eat too much.

Many researchers have noted that hunger and satiety stimulate the brain's reward system. But scientists at Yale University have discovered that the same brain cells behind hunger drive another circuit of reward, the one stimulated by highly addictive drugs like cocaine.

The drive to eat lies in a couple hundred brain cells, called neurons, in the hypothalamus, a tiny structure at the very center of the brain.

"In order for you to feel hungry, these neurons have to be active," said Tamas Horvath, one of the authors of the study published Sunday.

Horvath and his colleagues found that when these brain cells were made to be inactive in the brains of mice, the mice became far less interested in food and became leaner. But at the same time, they became more interested in exploring new environments and they became very interested in cocaine.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, suggest that in mice, and possibly in humans, there is an overlap between addiction and obesity in the brain. But perhaps not in the way many scientists may have thought.

Researchers studying the root of obesity in the brain have suggested that the brain's reward system, which gets jazzed by actions like eating, is less active in animals and people who are obese, meaning they eat more in order to satisfy those brain cells.

But Horvath said his findings suggest the opposite.

"If you make these [brain cells] less active, you're less interested in food, you're leaner, and more interested in novelty and when provided the opportunity for cocaine, you're very interested in cocaine," he said.

So far, the findings apply only to mice, and only more research can show if they apply to humans.

Scott Sternson, who studies the neurological processes behind hunger at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, said the findings are unexpected and mean that scientists need to think more carefully about the wiring of the brain's reward system when it comes to food.

Dr. Deborah Mash, a professor of neurology and pharmacology at the University of Miami School of Medicine, said the findings shake up the current thinking about drug addiction in the brain. Typically, scientists don't consider the bundle of hunger-driving brain cells in the hypothalamus as a part of the system that gets hooked on drugs like cocaine.

"We really don't understand the rules of this system yet," Mash said. "If we could begin to see how the circuitry is disregulated in addiction, we may be able to come up with a druggable target" for treating cocaine addiction.

Mash, who studies the brains of cocaine addicts after their deaths, said the study also highlights some intriguing parallels in human drug addicts.

"Most cocaine-addicted individuals are very thin. When people come off of cocaine, they eat and eat and eat," she said.

Horvath said he will continue to study the overlap between hunger and addiction in the brain, and he hopes that other scientists will consider how even the most fundamental structures of the brain can influence complex behaviors.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Congress Approves Ban on Just 2 of 17 'Bath Salts' Chemicals

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Federal law enforcement officials, eager to get a deadly array of toxic drugs known as "bath salts" off the streets, say they are frustrated that bureaucratic politics got in the way of congressional lawmakers drafting a comprehensive ban.

"Bath salts are the worst of the worst of the synthetic drugs," said a law enforcement source familiar with the congressional negotiations. "It makes no sense why they aren't all included in the bill."

The bill in question would add an array of ever evolving synthetic drugs to the federal list of illegal substances, but conspicuously missing are many of the elements used in bath salts. The omission has led some lawmakers to accuse their colleagues, particularly Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., of choosing political expediency over public safety.

The Drug Enforcement Administration recently submitted a list of 41 synthetic drugs it wanted Congress to place on the "Schedule I" list of federally criminalized drugs that already includes heroin, cocaine and meth. Among those were 17 chemicals used to produce bath salts, a stimulant believed to have played a role in a spate of grisly incidents including a May assault in Florida in which an attacker allegedly high on the drug chewed off a homeless man's face.

A conference of House and Senate lawmakers last week agreed to ban just two variants of bath salts, leading cops to wonder why only limited steps were taken.

A bill that was recently passed in the House of Representatives sought to add all 17 bath salt chemicals to the government's list of controlled substances. In the Senate, an amendment to an FDA act listed just two bath salts compounds, MDPV and mephedrone.

When House and Senate negotiators concluded their conference talks this week, they agreed to criminalize 26 synthetic drugs, including those found in synthetic marijuana and the street drugs "K2" and "Spice," but listed only the two bath salts chemicals named in the Senate legislation.

Ironically, and to the consternation of law enforcement officials desperate to get bath salts off the street, those two drugs are already illegal after the DEA put them on an "emergency schedule" list last year.

The DEA has no official statistics on arrests or prosecutions for bath salts, a testament to the drug's rapid popularity and the variety of chemicals that fall under the "bath salts" street label.

Between 2010 and 2011, however, the number of calls to poison control centers nationwide related to bath salts increased from 303 to over 6,000, a more than 1,800 percent increase.

Law enforcement officials contend that including all the known bath salts substances on the schedule will make it easier to prosecute the criminals who import, sell and possess the deadly chemicals. If a drug is on the list of controlled substances, investigations and prosecutions can proceed quickly.

"There are no questions about the drug if it's a controlled substance. We just know it's illegal and can get to work. Already, lots of time is wasted just waiting for lab results to come back," said a DEA official.

Law enforcement officials as well as several congressional staffers not authorized to speak on the record but familiar with the negotiations say Leahy chose not to include the additional 15 bath salt drugs included in the House bill.

"Those 15 got lost because in the conference there was some procedural issue and Leahy didn't want to bother with it," said a Senate staffer.

"Bath salts were in the House bill. And they're not in this one. You'd have to ask Sen. Leahy why that happened," said a staffer for a House Republican.

Leahy did not respond to requests for comment from ABC News, but a Judiciary Committee staffer defended Leahy's decision to put just two of the 17 substances in the final version of the bill, saying "Leahy's focus was to get done what the Senate started. The House bill was out there, but not in a formal way."

He argued that with a bitterly divided Congress, getting consensus on a bill as complex as the FDA Safety and Innovation Act was an accomplishment.

When asked why not criminalize drugs that the DEA says it needs listed to help keep the streets safe, the committee staffer said, "Sen. Leahy has been clear that scheduling controlled substances is not something to be taken lightly."

"It is not without implication to put a whole lot of chemicals on the federal drug schedule," he said. "It means putting more people in jail and makes it harder to seek legitimate uses for these drugs. Leahy is most comfortable sticking with what has been carefully considered."

On background DEA officials were frustrated that the bill did not go far enough, but publically the agency "commended House and Senate negotiators for agreeing on legislation to control 26 synthetic drugs."

The bill also gives the DEA new powers to temporarily declare drugs illegal without going through the lengthy scheduling process to permanently criminalize them. Under the new law the agency can place drugs on a two-year "emergency schedule." Currently, the DEA can only emergency schedule a drug for one year.

In the meantime, one DEA official said, agents will be playing a "game of whack-a-mole," discovering new drugs and trying to classify them fast enough to prosecute offenders.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Should Kids Be Prescribed ADHD Medications Sooner?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who start taking medications as early as fourth grade may be more likely to score better academically than those who start taking medication in middle school, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

ADHD is a developmental disorder characterized by problems focusing and erratic behavior.  Since 2007, 5.4 million children ages 4 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, and 66 percent reported taking medication to treat their symptoms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  A majority of children are diagnosed with ADHD by age 7.

Researchers looked at data of nearly 12,000 Icelandic children born between 1994 and 1996, each of whom began taking medication for ADHD sometime between fourth and seventh grades.  By the time the children reached seventh grade, those who had begun taking medications within the first year of fourth grade showed only a 0.3 percent drop in their math score, compared to a 9 percent drop among children who started medication around sixth or seventh grade.

"Performance of kids with ADHD tends to decline over time, especially if medication is delayed," said Helga Zoega, an epidemiologist at the Institute for Translational Epidemiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and lead author of the study.  "Starting medication earlier may halt this decline."

The girls among the group only showed improvement in math after starting medication.  The boys showed improvement in both math and language arts.

A majority of kids are diagnosed with ADHD by age 7, Zoega said.

Besides medication, treatments for ADHD include behavioral interventions, education plans and parental training.  The interventions may be the first line of treatment before medication, or may be used in combination with medication.

The study data did not show whether the children received other forms of treatment besides medication, and whether these additional treatments may have influenced their performance.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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