Saturday, August 16, 2008

CADCA Survey Finds Alcohol Top Problem Facing Communities

According to CADCA´s 2007 Annual Survey of Coalitions, 68 percent of community anti-drug coalitions across the country ranked alcohol as the number one problem facing their community. The Annual Survey of Coalitions (formerly known as the National Coalition Registry) is the only nationwide survey that targets community-based drug and alcohol abuse prevention organizations.

In the 2007 Survey, marijuana came in at a close second, with 60 percent of community groups ranking it as among the top five major problems in their areas. Other substances cited among the top five concerns include tobacco, methamphetamine and prescription drugs. Coalitions also consider binge drinking as one of the issues that they struggle with in their communities, confirming what several other nationwide studies have shown.

“It’s no surprise that our members are seeing big problems with youth alcohol use in their communities. The findings from our Annual Survey of Coalitions reflect those of other major national surveys that show alcohol use as the number one abused substance, followed by cigarette smoking and marijuana use,” noted General Arthur T. Dean, CADCA Chairman and CEO.

CADCA’s Web-based survey is conducted annually to identify the major issues facing community coalitions and to understand how coalitions work in their communities. Participants are asked a wide range of questions, such as the substance abuse issues facing their communities, the activities they use to address those issues and the organizations and agencies that help them in their efforts. The survey also asks for descriptive information, such as geographic target area, budget size and coalition membership, offering a picture of what typical community coalitions look like. In 2007, 700 coalitions participated in the survey.

When asked what major partners help them tackle their community’s problem, 88 percent said law enforcement was one of their strongest allies, 86 percent said parents and 81 percent cited the faith community.

According to the 2007 findings, community coalitions use a wide range of strategies to address their community’s problems. Some of the most widely-used strategies include education and information dissemination; media outreach, advertisements and public service announcements; special events and community forums; community mobilization and neighborhood improvement activities; and training to community groups.

In addition to the 2007 findings, CADCA is also launching a new feature in its Annual Survey of Coalitions that will allow people who have completed the survey to obtain state and national survey reports. For example, survey participants are now able to:

• Download a copy of their previous survey responses from 2007, 2006 and 2005.

• Obtain a report on a particular topic in the survey – such as, the sectors typically represented on coalitions, the activities coalitions are engaged in and the type of federal prevention funding coalitions receive.

• Network with other coalitions in their state by searching the Survey Report database for other coalitions in their state who are dealing with the same issues or working in the same areas.

CADCA members receive the same information but also get national level reports, expanding their networking potential.

To access the Annual Survey Reports, visit: and login with the information used to participate in the 2007 Survey. Forgot your login? Send an email to or or call 800-54-CADCA, ext. 240 or 257.
source: Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America,

Friday, August 15, 2008

Restoring a People -- Program Battles Native Substance Abuse

The counselors of an intensive outpatient treatment center run here by the Navajo Nation, Pastor Cecil Lewis Jr. and Robinson Tom have started a fight against the tribe’s alcoholism and drug abuse because these problems hasten the breakdown of Indian families.

According to them, people addicted to alcohol and drugs lose self-confidence, giving up the will to live or do anything. Unable to raise their families due to addiction, they put their children under care of grandparents, uncles or aunts who are already struggling to survive on food stamps and scanty incomes.

Children who grew up watching the miseries of substance abuse often follow in their parents’ footsteps. In the end, the idea of a traditional mother and father or the concept of supportive, safe and nurturing family evaporates into thin air.

Even though tribes have made great strides in past years, the counselors argue that no less than 10 percent of Navajos could be diagnosed as alcoholics, and there isn’t a single house in the Navajo Nation that isn’t affected by alcohol or drug abuse. Use of methamphetamines among young people is also an issue. The predicament is mirrored throughout Indian reservations and communities across the country.

Pastor Lewis and Counselor Tom understand the situation very well because they have been there themselves. “I was an alcoholic,” said Pastor Lewis, a counselor for the Faith-based Initiative Project at the treatment center in this tiny town mostly populated by Navajos, about 130 miles northwest of Albuquerque. “I thought getting drunk would be a way to alleviate and resolve my problems. But they just became worse.” He said just like any other person in trouble, he tried many ways to live life and failed, until he finally found God in 1984 and turned his life around. “I run into the people everyday who remind me of my past,” said Robinson Tom, who has been sober for the last 15 years, “Not only do alcoholism and substance abuse destroy a person, but they decimate families, relationships and beliefs.”

Tom had his first drink when he was 9 years old—it was given to him by an adult relative—and he tried to kill himself in 10th grade. His suicidal urge was repeated three more times. Tom stopped drinking after he seriously injured himself by falling from a tall tree while drunk. In his sickbed, he felt that being an alcoholic wasn’t the way his creator wanted him to live.

To tackle the substance abuse problem, Crownpoint Department of Behavioral Health Services, serving the Eastern Navajo region since 1970’s, offers treatment services ranging from traditional Navajo methods to Alcoholics Anonymous classes. Since 2001, the center has administered a faith-based initiative project, to promote access to spiritual healing services for the Navajos suffering from substance abuse.

In Navajo, the center is called “Dine’ Bee lina’ Na’ Hisoolnaal” Center. According to Tom, the native phrase means “restoring the life of a person so he can live the way he was supposed to live.” Most of the center’s clients are those who ran into trouble with the law because of their addiction and were ordered to take up to six weeks of counseling programs.

Pastor Lewis, who is also leading about 20 to 35 congregations at Dear Spring Mission in the area, puts emphasis on spiritual healing through the words of God. During counseling, he uses the Bible as a tool, which he believes to possess the power of changing a person. “Deep inside our hearts is an inner man,” said Pastor Lewis. “There’s spirit which was always hungry for God. When you find the god, you’ll look beyond our natural instincts or ways of life and can change the miserable life.” Counselor Tom relies on treatments rooted in Navajo traditions. For example, he likes to take his clients to a sweat lodge at the center for purification ceremonies.

Dozens of alcoholics and drug abusers in shorts sit in the pitch darkness of a tent made of sticks and wool blankets. In the middle of the dirt floor, a pit has been dug and filled with rocks heated by fire.

Cedar logs are thrown on the rocks, giving off a fragrance, and then lavender, sage and sweet grass. A bucket of water is then thrown on the rocks, filling the tent with a heavy steam. There, the abusers and addicts purify their spirit corrupted with alcohol and drugs. Women clients use a separate sweat lodge.

Tom sees the sweat lodge as a way to share culture and help his fellow Navajo clients find a more spiritual path that leads them to a right way. However, the treatment alone can’t tackle the substance abuse problems. “In order to attack the substance abuse effectively, there must be a way to fight poverty, because it leads to alcoholism and drug abuse,” said Pastor Lewis. “Just think how the Navajo Nation would be improved if there was a majority of people working and earning.”
source: New America Media,

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Test Effective in Detecting Heavy Drinkers

The sooner alcohol problems are addressed the better the outcome and the less long-term damage is done from excessive drinking. Physicians and healthcare providers now have a new chemical-based test that is more accurate in detecting heavy drinking in their patients. The test can detect heavy drinking episodes in the past four to six weeks.

Physicians and healthcare providers have a new tool which is twice as likely to detect heavy drinking in patients compared to the usual liver enzyme test. The Early Detection of Alcohol Consumption test has been found effective in detecting patients who drink in excess.

The test is used to determine if a patient has engaged in heavy drinking in the previous four to six weeks. Heavy drinking is defined as more than five drinks a day for men and four drinks a day for women.

How The EDAC Test Works

The Early Detection of Alcohol Consumption test is actually an algorithm of 20 blood chemistry levels. Those measurements are compared to a database of more than 1,700 heavy and light drinkers.

Scientists have found that the Early Detection of Alcohol Consumption test is twice as accurate as a liver enzyme test that has been used for years to detect heavy drinking. In one study, 88% of the heavy drinkers and 92% of the light drinkers were correctly identified using the test.

The test is even more effective with patients over 40 years of age.

Early Detection Important
Research has shown that the sooner alcohol problems are addressed the better the outcomes and the less long-term damage. At the 2008 meeting of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, physicians were encouraged to use the test to increase early intervention with heavy drinkers.

"Physicians can use the test as part of an early intervention," James Harasymiw, director of Alcohol Detection Services, said in an AACC news release. "When patients are confronted with test results, they may be more likely to change their behavior."

"Physicians can show patients the test results to help convince them that their drinking is causing serious damage to their organs and other biologic systems," Harasymiw said.

More Accurate Than Screening Tests?

There are many short alcohol screening tests that are available to screen for alcohol problems in the healthcare setting, but the results of those tests depend upon the patient answering the questions openly and honestly.

Someone trying to cover up or minimize their drinking habits could easily do so with the short-answer screening tests. But the Early Detection of Alcohol Consumption test measures actual blood chemistry levels, making it more difficult for heavy drinkers to hide their consumption.
source: Harasymiw, James W., et al. "Identification of Heavy Drinkers By Using the Early Detection of Alcohol Consumption Score." Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research Volume 25 Issue 2, Pages 228 - 235.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More drug use, less treatment in E. Ky.

A higher proportion of people in Appalachia abuse prescription painkillers than in the rest of the nation, and the problem is even greater in coal-mining areas such as Eastern Kentucky, according to a federal study.

Compounding the problem, relatively few facilities in Appalachia offer short and long-term residential treatment — the kind of service needed by many people addicted to OxyContin and other painkillers.

“There's truly an access-to-health-care disparity for these coal-producing counties that we need to address,” said David Mathews, director of adult services with Kentucky River Community Care, which provides services including substance-abuse and mental-health treatment in eight Eastern Kentucky counties.

The findings are included in a new study of access to substance-abuse and mental-health treatment in Appalachia that was underwritten by the Appalachian Regional Commission— a federal-state partnership that works to create opportunities for self-sustaining economic development and a better life for Appalachian residents.

The study underlines the cyclical relationships between poverty, depression and drug abuse in parts of Appalachia, and the resulting need for more treatment facilities.

Anne Pope, federal co-chair of the agency, and Gov. Steve Beshear announced the results at a news conference Tuesday in London.

Pope said Beshear had pushed ARC to tackle the issue of substance abuse, and also cited the efforts of Louise Howell, executive director of Kentucky River Community Care.

Pope said trying to reduce substance abuse fits with ARC's mission to boost economic development because substance abuse is a barrier to improving the economy.

“Communities cannot grow if there is a major substance-abuse problem,” Pope said.

Distress, depression

Researchers found that, generally, access to substance-abuse and mental health care in Appalachia compared favorably with access in the rest of the country.

However, there were differences within the sprawling region — which includes all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states from New York to Mississippi.

The central part of the region, including Eastern Kentucky, faces some significant challenges, the study found.

For instance, more residents of Appalachia reported problems with serious psychological distress and major depression, and the rate of such problems was higher in Central Appalachia. The study was based on analysis of information from surveys, hospitals and treatment facilities.

There is a link between the economy and mental-health problems such as depression, treatment providers said. Most of the counties considered economically distressed by the ARC are in Eastern Kentucky.

“When they're not able to provide for their families, the stress and depression are going to increase,” Kathy Tremaine, director of Cumberland River Comprehensive Care, said of people having financial problems.

The study found that, as the main reason for being admitted to treatment, abuse of drugs such as prescription painkillers was higher in Appalachia — especially in coal-mining areas — than elsewhere.

Such abuse is rising across the country, but it's going up faster in Appalachia, particularly in those mining areas, researchers found.

And despite concerns about prescription drug abuse, alcohol was the main reason for people being admitted to treatment in Appalachia, as in the nation. The study found a much higher percentage of people in Appalachia being admitted primarily for alcohol abuse – 45 percent in 2004, compared with 22 percent in the nation.

Less cocaine, meth

There was good news in the study. Among other things, it found relatively lower marijuana and cocaine use in Appalachia and lower treatment admission rates for heroin. It also found that, although there might be “hot spots” of methamphetamine abuse, use of the drug was lower overall in Appalachia than in the United States.

People in the region have recognized the problems and responded with a variety of programs such as school-based prevention activities to try to prevent drug abuse, though there is a need for more.

Researchers also found that proportionately more facilities in Appalachia offered intensive outpatient care, mental-health assessment and substance-abuse family counseling; that nearly all facilities offered some form of substance-abuse treatment; and facilities offered more free and reduced-cost treatment and accepted more forms of payment.

However, fewer facilities there offered outpatient detoxification, and there were fewer places where people could stay for short- or long-term substance-abuse treatment.

Mathews, with Kentucky River Community Care, said that it's clear there is a need for more treatment for substance-abuse and mental-health problems.

Surveys found that in the same Eastern Kentucky counties where people reported relatively high rates of painkiller abuse and drug dependence, a higher percentage of people said they had needed drug treatment in the last year but had not gotten it.

People told researchers about a variety of barriers to substance-abuse and mental-health treatment, including lack of transportation, lack of money and fear of being stigmatized.

Money is a key issue for treatment providers as well.

The state cut funding for community mental-health centers 3 percent in the current budget, and funding hadn't gone up to match costs even before, Tremaine said.

“We've gone underfunded for the last 10 years,” she said.

Tremaine said that means the centers provide services without getting reimbursed. Cumberland River doesn't turn away people needing treatment, but the question is how long that can continue, she said.

Waiting for treatment

A shortage of money for residential substance-abuse treatment services — especially to hire trained people to provide treatment — means there is a waiting list to get into such facilities in Eastern Kentucky.

The danger is that people might not come back when a spot finally opens up.

“If we don't get people in when they're motivated, we've lost them,” Mathews said.

Beshear said a state initiative to build 10 substance-abuse treatment centers in Kentucky, called Recovery Kentucky, will help address the shortage of residential care in the state. Five are already open.
source: Lexington Herald Leader,

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Alcohol battle pays dividends, UVa study finds

Some University of Virginia students’ perceptions of their peers’ drinking habits are changing, a new study suggests.

Data from an estimated 15,000 surveys done from 2001 to 2006 has led to a marketing campaign researchers said is correcting misconceptions about what many people believe is more or less a collegiate pastime.

James Turner, executive director of Student Health at UVa, said Monday that the study is based on surveys of undergraduate students.

The study’s findings included showing that over the six-year period students reported driving under the influence fewer times in 2001 than they did in 2006.

While Turner said some students assume the opposite.

“It’s these misconceptions of the norms that tend to drive behavior,” Turner said.

Schools across the country have used similar approaches — known as “social norming” — to curb alcohol abuse, promote recycling and combat prescription drug abuse, among other things.

During the study, the UVa surveys asked students to pair their alcohol consumption with a list of consequences they may have experienced after drinking too much.

The list included missing class, having unprotected sex and getting in trouble with police.

After comparing 2006 numbers with those from 2001, the study found that roughly 2,000 fewer students were injured by alcohol-related events and that 550 fewer engaged in unprotected sex.

The study also found the number of students who reported experiencing no alcohol-related consequences was down by 2,500. And that females tended to respond positively to the university’s social norming marketing 30 percent more often than males, Turner said.

Poster campaign

Turner said the university has reinforced those findings by promoting them campus-wide on posters and on the Internet.

It’s also led to the distribution of more than 30,000 cards that help students gauge their alcohol intake.

Linda Hancock is director of the Wellness Resource Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, where since 2002 freshmen have been surveyed about their perceptions of safe sex and responsible alcohol use prior to their first day of classes.

After the initial surveys, Hancock said, students are inundated with posters around campus that debunk misconceptions about the state of VCU students’ health habits. Officials also print “stall journals” with VCU survey data and place them in bathrooms around the university.

Hancock said people are often skeptical after hearing VCU students live healthy lifestyles. Among students, that perception can come from repeatedly seeing unhealthy living among the same people again and again and thinking it’s normal, Hancock said.

“The majority who don’t get hammered don’t get seen,” she said.

Hancock said VCU’s surveys report 25 percent of the students don’t drink and that upwards of 70 percent are not drinking in a range she describes as “high risk,” or having a blood-alcohol level above .08, the legal limit in Virginia.

The UVa study also reported that 25 percent of its students report being alcohol-free, Turner said.

H. Wesley Perkins, a sociology professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York, said that while plenty of schools have tried implementing social norms programs, many don’t stick with them long enough to see substantial results.

Some schools put up posters during Alcohol Awareness Week and then “go home for the year,” he said.

Social norms

Perkins helped pioneer work on social norms in the mid-1980s and helped with the UVa study. He said the five-year data collection period produced figures he believes other schools would find if they stuck longterm with norming programs.

At Hobart and William Smith — population less than 2,000 — Perkins said a four-year study in the late 1990s showed “high-risk drinking” was cut by 40 percent over the life of the study.

Around the country he’s also found that “scare tactics” and cracking down on policy enforcement often lead to a backlash from students.

At Florida State University, health officials try to correct misconceptions among their student body — roughly 35,000 undergraduates this fall — with mandatory classes for those found committing an alcohol violation on or off campus.

Those classes also try to find out if a student has underlying problems, such as prescription-medication abuse, said Lesley Sacher, director of FSU’s Thagard Student Health Center.

Sober data

Outside of a student getting in trouble, the college has also used public service announcements, billboards and advertisements on buses to put sober data out.

“When you’re dealing with a complex social issue, there’s really no magic bullet,” Sacher said of the university’s multiple approaches.

Lynn Reyes, a drug and alcohol counselor at the University of Arizona, said she finds mandatory classes for students who get into trouble with alcohol to be effective.

“My preference is to talk to students one on one about norms,” Reyes said.
source: Charlottesville Daily Progress,

Monday, August 11, 2008

Saving Brains - Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Discovery In Sheep Could Help Humans Soon

In a study on fetal alcohol syndrome, researchers were able to prevent the damage that alcohol causes to cells in a key area of the fetal brain by blocking acid sensitive potassium channels and preventing the acidic environment that alcohol produces. The cerebellum, the portion of the brain that is responsible for balance and muscle coordination, is particularly vulnerable to injury from alcohol during development.

The researchers also found that although alcohol lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood of the mother, it is not the lack of oxygen that damages the fetal cerebellum, but the drop in pH.

Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition in which maternal drinking during pregnancy injures the brain of the developing fetus. Alcohol is the most common cause of injury to the fetal brain. Children born with fetal alcohol syndrome may have cognitive impairments and difficulty regulating their behavior. They often have difficulty in school and exhibit behavioral problems, such as impulsiveness, later in life.

The syndrome is estimated to occur in approximately one in every 1,000 births in Western countries. Milder forms of the condition, known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, occur more frequently.

The study with sheep, published in the August issue of the American Journal of Physiology, demonstrated that the damage can be prevented by blocking acid sensitive potassium channels, known as TASK channels, that lead into the Purkinje cells. The study, "Acid Sensitive Channel Inhibition Prevents Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Cerebellar Purkinje Cell Loss," was carried out by Jayanth Ramadoss, Emilie R. Lunde, Nengtai Ouyang, Wei-Jung A. Chen and Timothy A. Cudd. The research was done at Texas A&M University.

Maternal drinking lowers the blood pH of both the mother and the fetus, making the blood more acidic. The researchers hypothesized that this acidity damages the Purkinje cells of the fetal cerebellum. Using 56 pregnant sheep, they induced the change in pH in some sheep using alcohol, while in others they manipulated the extracellular pH. This approach allowed them to test their hypothesis that it was the fall in pH that created the damage, not the alcohol, per se.

Alcohol produced a 45% reduction in Purkinje cells of the fetal cerebellum, while the pH changes alone produced a 24% decrease. A drop in the number of Purkinje cells in the cerebellum is a measure of damage.

However, when the researchers used a drug, doxapram, to block the TASK channels leading into the Purkinje cells, they prevented the change in pH in the fetal cerebellar cells and prevented any reduction in the number of these cells.

"This study demonstrates that direct pharmacological blockade of TASK 1 and TASK 3 channels protects the most sensitive target of fetal alcohol exposure, cerebellar Purkinje cells," the authors concluded.

This study complements work by other researchers who have found success with supplements such as choline, a precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. These supplements may work on the same mechanism that Dr. Cudd's lab has been researching.

Funding: The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Pediatrics Initiatives and the NIH National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

My father gave me my first hit of heroin

Crime was part of my life from my earliest memory. Not just the seedy, dark kind, but the day-to-day-to-pay-the-bills crime. This included theft, fraud, robbery and drug-dealing. Mum had left us when I was three. Dad did whatever he could to keep us going. Crime was how we survived, and as I grew older it became a father and son business.

Dad was first released from prison in 1982. We were living in a smart flat in Kensington and he'd gone straight back to dealing drugs to bring in money - getting a job wasn't even on his radar. Part of our income came from a 2kg block of Peruvian cocaine he was holding for a mate. Dad woke me up on my 16th birthday with a massive line of coke neatly presented on an antique mirror. I loved it. It never felt as if he was being irresponsible. It was normal to me.

A few weeks later, I was watching him dealing with two new customers. They were buying heroin. I'd been snorting a lot of coke and had overdone it. The hash was no longer balancing the buzz of the coke. I wanted something stronger. Dad clearly thought smack was something special - he told me it calmed the erratic, euphoric hit of cocaine. I became convinced this was what I needed for my amphetamine-frayed nerves. I'd asked him for heroin plenty of times, but he'd always flatly refused. When it started to look as if I was going to ruin this transaction with the new customers, he took me into the kitchen.

"Look, kid, I don't know what you're up to, but we need their business - I have to pay the rent." He took out a six-inch square of silver foil from the cupboard. "You can have some of this, but only a little, then piss off to your room and let me seal the deal."

My heart beat faster. This was the rite of passage I'd been waiting for, and another step deeper into Dad's world. I knew what to do - I'd seen him do it plenty of times. The narcotic rush that ran through my body was physical and emotional. I instantly understood why Dad loved it so much. It made everything easier, happier and safer. In that moment I felt a deeper connection to my father. It sounds shocking but, for me, it was no different from your average father and son sharing their first quiet pint down the local pub.

This initiation into the world of class As happened at a time when I was terrified of what the future held. Dad had been locked up for the previous three years, and had missed my transition from boy to teenager. We had a lot of catching up to do.

My smack habit developed quickly, partly from the little Dad gave me to calm me down and partly from the stuff I nicked off him to keep me stoned. I once angrily asked him why he gave it to me and he told me he wanted to keep me off the streets. At least this way he could "keep an eye on me". It was a twisted paternal protectiveness that led to our relationship breaking down completely, and ended with him back in prison and me locked up for the first time in my life.

My father was essentially lazy; crime was a means to getting us to a better place. Long-term, he wanted me to go to college; get some qualifications and a "proper" job. He was well-intentioned, but hopelessly deluded by the painkilling drugs he loved so much.

A while back I heard that the dysfunction our parents hand down to us gives us something to work with, something to motivate us out of the gutter; that's if we're lucky enough to survive our early years. Giving me heroin was a mistake my father grew to regret deeply - I knew this because he told me, many times. It accelerated me to a place to which I was already heading. And, looking back, the quicker I got there the better. My destination was prison, for dealing and taking drugs.

At 21, I was released on bail to go into rehab and I was able to do what my father never managed through all his years in prison, reading books and meditating: I got clean from drugs and alcohol, and I've stayed clean ever since.

That day in the kitchen had a dark beauty to it. Taking drugs was part of the way my father and I connected. I'm thankful I was able to get a little closer to him during that time. Heroin took my father's life, through a deliberate overdose 16 years ago. Bizarrely, it gave me mine. I still love and miss him deeply.
source: The Guardian,

Friday, August 8, 2008

America's Hard-Drinking Cities

Austin, Texas, is famous for its parties. People flock from around the world to attend events like the annual South by Southwest film and music festival. And when they get there, chances are they make like the locals and throw back a few cold ones--because Austin may be the hardest-drinking city in America.

Austin ranks high for its drinking habits across the board. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey, 61.5% of adult residents say they have had at least one drink of alcohol within the past 30 days, and a staggering 20.6% of respondents confess to binge drinking, or having five or more drinks on one occasion.

Some residents attribute those numbers to the city's sizable population of college students. Austin is home to several schools, including the University of Texas at Austin, one of the largest universities in the country.

"I imagine that's probably why the city's on [the list]," says Hunter Darby, manager of Austin's Dog & Duck Pub. "Sixth Street in Austin is like a tiny version of Bourbon Street. It caters a lot to a younger crowd who are right at age 21. They'll just go from bar to bar to bar. ... There are a ton of bars per human being in this town."

Collegiate excess has repercussions far beyond hangovers and missed classes, and should be of concern to members of the surrounding community. "Binge drinking hurts not only the drinker but also others near him," says Henry Wechsler, Ph.D., a lecturer at the Harvard school of Public Health, where he was also the director of the College Alcohol Study, and author of Dying to Drink: Confronting Binge Drinking on College Campuses.

"The binge drinker disturbs the peace, through noise, vandalism and sometimes violence. Like secondhand smoke, binge drinking pollutes the environment."

"The [social] cost of alcohol is in the billions of dollars. Roughly half the total is related to what's called alcohol addiction," says Paul Gruenewald, scientific director of the Prevention Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, which is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

"The other half is related to other harms that happen to people when drinking; primarily drunk driving, drunk driving crashes, pedestrian injuries, violent assaults, and various criminal behaviors and various injuries," Gruenewald said.

"It's not a pretty picture. It's quite ugly from the public health point of view. It's a much bigger problem than crime related to illegal drugs," he added.
By The Numbers: America's Hard-Drinking Cities

Coming in second on the list is Milwaukee. This city, known as "the nation's watering hole," has a long reputation as a city built on beer. It was once the nation's top beer-producing city, home to four of the world's largest breweries: Schlitz, Pabst, Miller and Blatz. Legendary sitcom characters Laverne and Shirley fixed bottle caps on one of the city's assembly lines. Even the town's baseball team--the Brewers--reflects its boozy past.

Rounding out the top five hardest-drinking cities are San Francisco; Providence, R.I.; and Chicago.

To determine the cities with the highest alcohol consumption, we started by making a list of the 40 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S.--geographic entities defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for use by federal agencies in collecting, tabulating and publishing statistics.

We then examined data from the CDC's 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey (BRFSS), a nationwide system that collects information on health risk behaviors, preventive health practices and health care access.

In this survey, the CDC develops a core questionnaire and provides it to state governments, which then perform telephone surveys asking more than 350,000 American adults about their health.

Due to state-by-state variations in the handling of the survey, the BRFSS isn't a perfect way to measure drinking habits. But since its data come directly from citizens, it does provide a good idea of regional variations.

The survey doesn't report results for every city in the nation, so two of our 40 candidate cities were eliminated from the list due to missing data. And because the CDC coordinates the surveys but does not individually manage them, there tend to be differences in sample size and margin of error from city to city. So we removed another five cities from our list because they exhibited unusually large margins of error.

The remaining 33 cities were then ranked based on their residents' responses to three different questions on the BRFSS: whether they had at least one drink of alcohol within the past 30 days; whether men had more than two drinks per day or women one drink per day; and whether they had five or more drinks on one occasion. In each case, higher-ranking cities reported larger percentages of their population answering in the affirmative.

To determine the 15 hardest-drinking cities, we added up the rankings from each category, counting the "five or more drinks on one occasion" question twice, since it most directly addresses the question of problem drinking. We then sorted that sum into our final ranks.

Of course, just because a city ranks high on the list doesn't make it a den of debauchery. A top-drinking town could be populated by health-conscious adults who sip a glass of wine a day in order to keep their hearts healthy. And just downing a few cold ones doesn't make a person irresponsible.
source: Forbes

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Aging sobers most drinkers, but not alcoholics

As Americans aged over the last two generations, they drank less alcohol. And the younger generation of adults drank less heavily than the ones before it, according to the first analysis of alcohol-consumption trends over adult life spans.

By the time they reached their 80s, more than 40 percent of men and 60 percent of women said they didn't drink at all, according to a study in the August issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

Over time, beer drinkers generally shifted to wine, the study found, and the younger generation drank less hard liquor than the older ones did. At the same time, more and more adults aged into moderate drinkers by federal dietary standards. They define moderate drinking as two drinks per day for men and one per day for women.

"They've understood that a little alcohol is OK but a lot is not good," said Curtis Ellison, a co-author of the report and a professor of medicine and public health at Boston University School of Medicine.

At the same time, rates of problem drinking remained unchanged, Ellison's team found. Nearly 13 percent of men and 4 percent of women reported problems across the study span.

"It seems they just can't get over their problems with alcohol," Ellison said.

Researchers relied on estimates of alcohol consumption reported every two to four years from 1948 through 2003 for a famous and massive study of lifetime health called the Framingham Heart Study. The alcohol analysis involved 8,600 of its participants, born from 1900 through 1959.

The participants' experiences with alcohol reflect trends for most of the last century.

Women consistently drank less than men, the study found. Heavy drinking dropped with age for men but fell less markedly for women.

By their mid-70s, men were drinking half the beer they'd drunk in their mid-30s, and the decline among women was similar.
source: McClatchy Washington Bureau

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

No easy answer to problem of alcohol

Alcohol and drug abuse is a major issue in Jackson County.

That was the consensus of panelists who discussed the topic Monday night during a town hall meeting sponsored by Together For Jackson County Kids. The meeting "Impact of Alcohol and Other Drugs on Jackson County Community: How Can We Change It?" was held at the Black River Falls Middle School.

About 10 residents attended the meeting, which featured presentations from Nick Lee, a drug and alcohol counselor with West Central Wisconsin Behavioral Health; Terry Greendeer, the Alcohol and Other Drug Program Director with Ho-Chunk Nation; Sheriff Duane Waldera; youth member Ben Hodge from Together for Jackson County Kids and Michelle Schoolcraft, social worker with the county's Department of Health and Human Services.

Brockway Police Chief Christian Eversum could not attend the meeting, but sent a letter saying his research on police calls in 2007 shows 25 percent involved some use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs.

"We clearly have a serious issue in Jackson County and it is going to take the hard work of everybody in this community to make positive change," Eversum's letter said.

Waldera echoed Eversum's comments but said the alcohol and drug connection with county calls is much higher.

"We do have a problem," Waldera said. "We need to somehow come up with a program to intervene. Citations can and do have an impact, but it needs to be more than just paying a fine and moving on. The majority of cases that sit in jail are alcohol-related and alcohol can be just about linked to every case when we've had to intervene."

Greendeer, who has worked with the Ho-Chunk alcohol and drug program for 21 years, said alcohol affects everybody regardless of race, social or cultural beliefs.

"One of the biggest things that I see with the Native American person is that one of the biggest things taken from them is their spirit," Greendeer said. "They aren't able to define what their values and beliefs are once alcohol has taken over their whole life."

Both Greendeer and Lee said preventing youth from abusing alcohol has to start with the parents, who need to understand the law and need to be involved.

"If there is normal, responsible drinking at home and it hasn't become abusive and when it doesn't become that way, there's probably a good chance a teen isn't going to acquire that attitude and engage in abuse of alcohol," Lee said.

Greendeer said her office conducts alcohol awareness activities every April, but the biggest challenge is getting participation from adults.

"Parents do not want to be involved," she said. "It hasn't changed. You're talking about a problem that exists and has been in existence for years and years and generations, but it's always hidden in the closet and is devastating to everybody. I don't know what to do. They don't want to admit there is even a problem."

Greendeer said sometimes a parent will refer a child for in-patient treatment and the child is gone for 45 days, but comes back to the same home environment that contributed to the addiction problem in the first place.

"The family doesn't get the treatment that the child should have had," Greendeer said. "They want their child to live a sober lifestyle but yet the parent hasn't gone the extra mile to be supportive of their child while they are in treatment."

In-patient facility

Judge Thomas Lister, who attended the meeting, asked Greendeer if the Ho-Chunk Nation would be willing to work with the community to provide an in-patient treatment facility in Jackson County. She said the nation is working on providing one for its own members, but would have an interest in a community center as well.

Lister said a facility closer to home would allow members to get the family support they need. He also said the facility would give the courts more options for defendants who need treatment rather than putting them in jail for a cost between $40 to $80 a day, depending on their medical needs.

"Give me an inpatient facility where I can put them rather than in jail," Lister said. "Give me that $40 to $50 a day to a residential treatment center where they can get some meaningful intervention. Maybe we can pull together some philanthropists and local organizations and try for one."

Lister said the court is limited when dealing with alcoholism as a disease. Simply putting alcoholics in jail may be punishment for the crime, but upon release the person has not been rehabilitated.

Waldera said continuing to arrest repeat offenders for bail violations - many of them for consuming alcohol - ties up two to three hours of a deputy's time for each arrest.

"It tends to be a revolving door sometimes," Waldera said. "Our deputies get frustrated. If there is a way to intervene, identify the problem and get them adequate help, it will be a cost-saving to the county. We can fill the beds in the jail; that's not the issue. But we need to keep repeat offenders out of the jail and have them be productive citizens in society."

Schoolcraft said Together for Jackson County Kids remains committed to continuing discussion and dialogue on the alcohol and drug abuse issue and additional town hall meetings are possible.

"We need to find a common ground that all of us can live with to help our children grow up and be successful adults," she said.
source: Jackson County Chronicle,

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Guns and Poppies

In the morass that is Afghanistan, not just the Taliban are flourishing. So too is opium production, which increasingly finances the group’s activities. There is no easy way to end this narcotics threat, a symptom of wider instability. Even a wise and coordinated plan of attack would take years to bear real results. But the United States and the rest of the international community are failing to develop one. They must work harder, smarter and more cooperatively to rescue this narco-state.

The scope of the problem is mind-numbing. Opium production mushroomed in 2006 and 2007, and Afghanistan now supplies 93 percent of the world’s heroin, with the bulk going to users in Europe and Russia. According to official figures, the narcotics trade rakes in about $4 billion a year, which is about half of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product. It strengthens the extremist forces that American and NATO troops are fighting and dying to defeat; it undermines the Afghan state they are trying to build; and it poisons drug users across Europe, where many people do not see Afghanistan as their problem and leaders are shamefully ignoring the connection.

Last week, the United Nations reported an alarming new development: Afghan drug lords are recruiting foreign chemists, mostly from Turkey, Pakistan and Iran, to help turn raw opium into highly refined heroin. Doing so adds value and lethality to the product they export.

American, European, Afghan and United Nations officials have sabotaged their mission by continuing to bicker over why poppy cultivation has skyrocketed, what to do about it and who should act. In a particularly damning indictment in The Times Magazine, Thomas Schweich, a former State Department official, blamed corrupt Afghan officials, internal policy divisions and the reluctance of American and NATO military to take on counternarcotics roles, as much as the Taliban.

Mr. Schweich should have pointed a finger at President Bush for the fundamental failure in Afghanistan. Mr. Bush put too few resources into the country after 9/11, then left the aftermath to NATO and various warlords while America shifted focus to the disastrous war of choice in Iraq. The results: a Taliban and Al Qaeda resurgence coupled with historic poppy crops.

It is very good news that 20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces may soon be free of poppy cultivation, but that means production is overwhelmingly concentrated in the south, largely in Helmand Province, where the Taliban are strongest and the government is weakest.

Mr. Schweich’s main recommendation — to aggressively eradicate poppy crops by aerial spraying — is politically untenable and of questionable value. Other things can be done, or done better, including building a criminal justice system that can prosecute major drug traffickers and having American and NATO forces play a more robust role in interdiction. The Afghan and American governments have broken ground on a new airport and agricultural center in Helmand — an encouraging attempt to help farmers shift from poppies to food crops.

Allegations that President Hamid Karzai protects officials and warlords in the trade are troubling. Washington and its allies must press him to address this problem. They also should seize assets and ban visas for major traffickers who have homes outside Afghanistan.

Longer term, the answer lies in a consistent, integrated and well-financed plan to establish security throughout Afghanistan, put kingpins in jail, develop a market economy and a functioning government in Kabul, and rapidly expand incentives for smaller farmers to stop growing poppies. It is all one more daunting Bush administration legacy that will be left for the next president to fix.
source: The New York Times

Monday, August 4, 2008

When one drink just isn't enough

One drink leads to another, and another . . .

This weekend alcoholics from around the South Island will be in Ashburton for an Alcoholics Anonymous assembly. They come from all walks of life, but they share a common desire to stay sober. Reporter Michelle Nelson tells the story of two women affected by alcoholism. Rita is a recovering alcoholic, and Jane talks of the impact her alcoholic father had on her childhood.

My name is Rita, I’m an alcoholic.
Many of you know me, few of you know about my alcohol and drug addiction.

I live among you, work with you, stand alongside you in the queue outside parent-teacher interview rooms, chat with you in the corner dairy and deal with you in a professional capacity.

That’s the odd thing about alcoholics – you just can’t pick us. There are those in our ranks whose drunken behaviour ends in the mayhem and violence that attracts media attention, but the majority of us are living right alongside you. These days, with the support of AA, I am a recovering alcoholic.
For me, only another addict can understand the despair of addiction.

One of the first AA slogans I took on board was “don’t pick up the first one and you can’t get drunk.” It took a while, but therein lies the essence of my “problem.” Cliché; it’s not what we drink – it’s how we drink.

Have you ever told yourself you won’t drink tonight? This week? Until your birthday? Until someone else’s birthday?

Or that you deserve a drink because you had a bad day? Because you had a good day? Because a bird flew overhead?

I made a lot of promises to myself and to those who cared about me. I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister and a friend – and I am an alcoholic, I have a disease and my addiction to alcohol is symptom of that disease.

Nobody in their right mind would choose to be an addict. But there is something wrong in my mind; when I pick up a drink I don’t stop until I’m pissed.
There are scientific theories to explain my disease ranging from a genetic predisposition to drink like a fish to my upbringing in a family of boozers – both of which open a stupid chicken or the egg debate, and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.

The fact is I am an alcoholic. And these days I’m okay with that. In fact I really wonder why I was so scared of being sober.

You see, I never could live life on its own terms. I was an insecure kid and alcohol was a magic potion for confidence - and fear of being exposed kept me drinking.

And that’s one of the things that bond us alcoholics. Underneath the social trappings we all battle common demons and insecurity and fear are a common thread.

By the luck of the gods I found myself in Queen Mary rehab some years ago now.

There I heard a dear old lady speak of stabbing her husband. I ate with a man who tried to cut his girlfriend’s throat.

The stories of the multi-millionaire, who owned a helicopter, the doctor who never prescribed anything he hadn’t tried himself, the accountant, the teacher, the truck driver, the transvestite sex worker, the priest, the gang member and the nurse have much in common.

Alcoholism, or any other addiction for that matter, plays no favourites. It takes no account of race, colour or creed, whether you are rich or poor, or educated and powerful. If it’s going to get you it will. The question is – what can be done about it?

AA is the only thing that worked for me. I tried counselling and saw psychiatrists, walked out the door and got pissed. Today I am sober and that’s what matters.

An eight-year-old child and her little sister sit in a car parked outside a pub. They have been there for a long time.

They are arguing about who will go in to drag their father out of the pub. Both children are frightened of drinking men – and with good reason.
Eventually Jane goes. She is fobbed off with a packet of chips and her father’s promise not to be long.

Hours later he staggers from the bar and gets behind the wheel. The girls know better than to argue.

“He would sit me on his knee so I could steer the car, then I learned to drive and soon I was driving a drunk home, I was only eight or nine years old.”
Soon Jane’s father began taking her on ‘trips’ – which were in fact pub crawls, on which she was frequently abused.

“His hands would be up my dress and he’d say your mother’s doing the same thing to your brother.

“I was disgusted, I loved my mother and I thought what he was saying was true.”

Jane was fed many lies as her father set about isolating her by maligning her mother’s character.

“He told me my mother was having an affair with the headmaster, I thought that was true too.”

Jane doesn’t remember a childhood. Her story is more about her survival in a warzone awash with alcohol.

“I know now that my mother had to beg for money to feed us, but there were always flagons. I never felt like a little girl, I was always worried about what would happen next. I was always trying to keep mum safe, keep my sister safe, keep myself safe.”

When Jane was in her teens her parents separated and her mother learned of the sexual abuse.
“She had a nervous breakdown, it was terrible.”

Again Jane picked up the pieces, setting a pattern she would carry into adulthood.

“All my life I’ve been trying to save people.”

But while Jane was trying to save others she was bent on a path of personal self-destruction. Not surprisingly she left school with few qualifications; she began binge drinking, developed eating disorders and formed a succession of unsuccessful relationships with men.

Two years ago Jane ended a violent relationship and was diagnosed with traumatic stress disorder; she thinks it is responsible for the panic attacks she has long suffered.

“It’s always been there, all my life that I can remember I just never had a name for it.”

Emotionally and physically battered and determined to turn her life around, she made contact with an abused women’s support group then Al-anon, a support group for family members whose lives have been blighted by alcoholism.

“There was no where else to go. Being raised by an alcoholic almost destroyed my life.

“I’m learning to put my needs ahead of others, I can’t save them but I can save myself.”
source: Ashburton Guardian,

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Aspen is now Colorado’s outlet for a controversial new addiction treatment

What if there was a magic pill that alcoholics and addicts could take to stop their cravings?

Steve Ayers, an Aspen doctor, and Annie Brown, an Aspen nurse with a clinical specialty, don't claim to have a magic pill.

But they do claim to have something almost as useful: a drug cocktail that can relieve cravings, reduce sleeplessness, restore normal brain function, and help patients feel better so that they can fully engage in recovery.

Since November, the two have been providing a controversial treatment called Prometa to alcoholics, cocaine addicts and a few methamphetamines addicts in the Aspen area.

Brown and Ayers, who also is chief of staff at Aspen Valley Hospital, an emergency room physician, and the Pitkin County coroner, are convinced the program does what it claims, and they are backed by several studies. But nationwide, some critics have argued that the treatment, needs more study and/or approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A combination of three drugs (flumazenil, hydroxyzine, and gabapentin), nutritional therapy, and psycho-social counseling, the Prometa treatment program was developed by a Spanish doctor in the 1990s. Since Terren Peizer bought the protocols and began marketing it, approximately 3,000 patients have been treated in the United States, according to Brown.

Treatment begins with a three-day infusion of flumazenil, given intravenously for three- to five-minute intervals while the patient's cardiac state is monitored.
The flumazenil infusion is followed by dosages of hyroxyzine, gabapenin and nutritional supplements over a 39-day period.

The drugs help change the anatomy and chemistry of the brain to return addicts to a pre-addiction state in which they do not have a physiological dependence on the drug, said Ayers. In short, it allegedly reduces cravings.

“You can remodel [brain tissue] quickly with the right influence. That's how you learn a new skill, like throwing a Frisbee. Your brain tissue is actually forming new cells,” explained Ayers.

The partners, who are the only people licensed to administer the protocol in Colorado or Wyoming, say the program has been even more successful than they'd hoped. While not all their clients have achieved sobriety without relapse, all patients claim their cravings have been reduced, they say.

“I've been working 25 years with addiction — this is the most robust intervention, the best tool I've had,” Brown said.

Their clients, in e-mails forwarded by Brown, are equally glowing.

“What Prometa did for me I cannot put into words,” wrote one recovering alcoholic.
Another patient, who earned a college scholarship after kicking his cocaine addiction, cautioned that Prometa is not a magic pill, but is “the wind in the sails of those that are ready.”

A third testified to its effect on his psyche: “Before Prometa I had cravings all the time. All I could think about was drinking. After Prometa the cravings have decreased … if I am at lunch and I see someone drinking, I think about ordering a drink and then I don't.


Not everyone in the medical community has given wholehearted support for the treatment. Prometa has had several public-relations challenges, perhaps chief among them the fact that Terren Peizer, who owns and markets the treatment program through his company Hythiam, is former junk bond salesman.

Given the cost of the treatment, Peizer — who visited Aspen last summer as an Aspen Institute panelist for a bioethical dilemmas seminar — stands to become a very wealthy man. Aspen treatments, for example, cost $12,000 to $18,000, a portion of which is returned to Peizer as a “licensing fee.”

Also, Peizer has not sought approval from the FDA for the treatment protocol. Technically, he does not have to, as the drugs have individually received FDA approval for other uses.

Opponents have also argued the protocol hasn’t been thoroughly and independently studied. An October 2007, Hythiam-funded study, led by Dr. Harold C. Urschel and published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings medical journal, was criticized for not having a control group or placebo. The television show 60 Minutes later reported that Dr. Urschel's clinic sold the Prometa treatment during the trial, suggesting that doing so was a conflict-of-interest.

Several other “double-blind” studies have since been held with control groups and placebos, and have found that Prometa reduces cravings. But none have yet been peer-reviewed in a medical journal, note critics.

But Ayers and Brown say that not all the criticisms are valid.

Ayers countered that many medical protocols have never been studied. For example, he said, every alcoholic who is admitted to an emergency room in America gets a shot of thiamine, the dosage of which has never been studied.

“There's a million things in medicine that are considered standard of care and scientifically founded that are not double-blind studied,” he said.

Having said that, he did acknowledge that Prometa should be “if people are going to pay that much for it.”

On the topic of FDA approval, he argued that the FDA doesn't approve protocols, only drugs. Many drugs are now prescribed for a use other than their approved use, he said.

Brown countered concerns about cost by noting that Hythiam has said its first priority this year is to convince managed care programs to pay for Prometa. Acknowledging that some never will (many insurance companies don't cover drug and alcohol treatment), she also pointed out the high cost of addiction, a number that can easily top the cost of Prometa, given time.

Brown also noted that $1,500 of the fee goes toward therapy in the person’s hometown.


Prometa is revolutionary, say Brown and Ayers, because it claims to reduce cravings. But for years, treatment centers have used drugs to help manage addiction.
Perhaps the most famous is Antabuse, which makes the alcoholic very ill if he or she drinks. Vivitrol, a short-term immunization that blocks alcohol's ability to work on the brain, has also been used with some success.

But Ayers argues that Prometa, and the drug protocols that will likely follow it in the next few years, are the future of addition medicine. Within two years, he predicted, all addictions will likely be treated medically — and the medical community will laugh about the fact that it ever considered addiction to be simply a behavioral problem.
“The addiction medical community is all over this concept of treating [addiction] medically and finding different ways to treat it,” he said.

He even predicted that doctors might be able to provide immunizations to protect children with a family history of addiction, some day. Immunized people would be able to snort cocaine, but it would have no effect on their brain.

“All these things are going to create ethical dilemmas in medicine,” he said. “How do you immunize someone? How do you take away their ability to experience cocaine?”
The Aspen Times

Saturday, August 2, 2008

NIDA Study Sheds Light on why Addiction is a Chronic Disease

Drug addiction dramatically shifts a person's attention, priorities, and behaviors towards a focus almost entirely on seeking out and taking drugs. Now, an animal study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health, has identified some of the specific long-term adaptations in the brain's reward system that may contribute to this shift. These long-lasting brain changes may underlie the maladaptive learning that contributes to addiction and to the propensity for relapse, even after years of abstinence from the drug. The study was published in Neuron on July 30, 2008.

Investigators from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) using an animal model of addiction, were able to distinguish brain changes in rats trained to self-administer cocaine, versus those animals that were trained to self-administer natural rewards such as food, or sucrose for several weeks. The investigators also were able to look at how much the "expectation" of receiving the drug influenced those brain changes by comparing rats trained to self-administer the drug versus animals who received the same amount of cocaine, but received it passively, i.e. they could not control their own drug taking by self-administration.

It has been hypothesized that persistent drug seeking alters the brain's natural reward and motivational system. The current study focuses on how drug seeking alters the communication between brain cells in this critical circuitry. In the normal processes of learning and memory formation there is a well documented strengthening of communication between brain cells, this process is known as "long-term potentiation" (LTP). The new study reports that LTP was similar in the rats that had learned to self administer cocaine, food or sucrose, but with a critical distinction. The increase in LTP due to cocaine persisted for up to three months of abstinence, but the increase in response to natural rewards dissipated after only three weeks. Importantly, the nature of the cocaine experience had a strong effect on the outcome, since rats exposed to cocaine when they did not expect it (passive infusions) displayed no LTP, neither transient nor long lasting. Finally, the study showed that LTP in rats that self-administered cocaine persisted after they were trained to stop drug self-administration behaviors. This indicates that, once established, it is very difficult to reverse the "memory trace" associated with drug reward.

"This research provides a better characterization of the variables, at the cellular, circuit, and behavioral level that contribute to the persistent nature of addictive disorders," said Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, NIH director.

"The researchers were able to illuminate why drug related memories are so stable," said NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow. "Their persistence is highly refractory to new learning, which makes our jobs that much tougher, and reminds us that treatment must recognize and address the high propensity for relapse almost anywhere down the road."

"These results indicate that the LTP induced by self administered cocaine is more persistent than that produced by natural rewards, such as food; and that the LTP is not just a result of exposure to cocaine, but also is linked to the drug's effects and the animal's learning to obtain the drug," said Dr. Billy Chen, postdoctoral fellow at UCSF's Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center and lead author of the study. "These are important distinctions that will help us better understand how addiction develops, and why drugs can overshadow other natural rewards and become the mainstay of an addicted person's life."

In 2006, six million Americans age 12 and older had abused cocaine in any form. There are currently no medications for cocaine addiction, therefore standard treatments typically rely on behavioral interventions. However, relapse after treatment for cocaine addiction is common.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to ensure the rapid dissemination of research information to inform policy and improve practice. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and further information on NIDA research can be found on the NIDA web site at

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) - The Nation's Medical Research Agency - includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit
source: NIDA