“What if Addiction Is Not a Disease?”

For The Chronicle of Higher Education, David Schimke reports on how debate erupted at a substance abuse conference over whether or not addiction should be considered a disease. "Is there a biomarker that tells you that you have a disease? No. Is there a definitive set of circumstances? No," says Hugh Garavan, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont. "There’s no biological test for it. We don’t have a single medical test."

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Study Examines Experience of Long-Term Antidepressant Use

The use of antidepressants has increased substantially in recent years, yet relatively few studies have asked patients about their experiences with these drugs. A new study, published open-access this week, does just that. After interviewing 180 long-term users of antidepressants, the researchers found that while the majority reported an improvement in depression, many also experienced problems with withdrawal symptoms, and others said they “felt addicted.”

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“Is Addiction Really a Disease?”

Neuroscientist and psychologist Marc Lewis, author of “The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not A Disease,” suggests in the Guardian that treating addiction as if it is a learned pattern of thinking, rather than a medical illness, gives addicts the chance to stay clean. “As a neuroscientist, I recognise that the brain changes with addiction, but I see those changes as an expression of ongoing plasticity in an organ designed to change with strong emotions and repeated experiences. Similar changes have been recorded when people fall in love, become obese, gamble compulsively, or overindulge on the internet,” Lewis writes. “And as a developmental psychologist (my other hat), I see addiction as an attitude or self-concept that grows and crystallises with experience, often initiated by difficulties in childhood or adolescence.”

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Most People with Common ‘Mental Disorders’ Get Better Without Treatment, Study Finds

A new study suggests that most people diagnosed with depressive, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders recover without treatment within a year of diagnosis. “This study further supports the argument that meeting diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder does not necessarily indicate a need for mental health treatment,” the researchers, led by Jitender Sareen from the University of Manitoba, write.

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“War, on Drugs”

Historian Peter Frankopan delves into the use of drugs to fuel combat “from berserkers to jihadis.” “Of the US pilots who took part in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, 65 percent used stimulants, with just over half reporting that they were either beneficial or essential to operations,” he writes. “Not all experiences proved positive. Serious side-effects can include confusion and psychosis.”

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“The New Eugenics: Why Genetic Theories of Mental Illness and Addiction Are a Damaging Dead End”

For The Influence, addiction expert Stanton Peele criticizes our current genetic and biological “brain disease” approaches to addiction and mental health.

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New York Times Hosts Debate on Psychiatric Institutionalization

In the Room for Debate section of this weekend's New York Times, specialists in ethics, psychiatry, social work, addiction, and human rights hash out their opinions on the state of inpatient psychiatric treatment.

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“‘You Want a Description of Hell?’ OxyContin’s 12-Hour Problem”

A new LA Times investigation finds that Purdue Pharma’s claims that OxyContin, a chemical cousin of heroin, could relieve pain for twelve hours led some patients to experience excruciating withdrawal, including intense craving for the drug. “Purdue has known about the problem for decades,” the investigators write. “Even before OxyContin went on the market, clinical trials showed many patients weren’t getting 12 hours of relief.”

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“The Drugs That Built a Super Soldier”

"During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military plied its servicemen with speed, steroids, and painkillers to help them handle extended combat,” Lukasz Kamienski writes for The Atlantic. Vietnam was the first “pharmacological war” and the level of consumption of psychoactive substances by soldiers was unprecedented in American history.

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Amphetamines Have Long-Term Effects on Adolescent Brain, Study Finds

A new study published in the journal Neuroscience finds that rats given regular doses of amphetamines during adolescence have brain and behavioral changes in adulthood. When translated into humans, this study suggests that young people using amphetamines may have changes in memory and attention well into their thirties.

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Young Transgender Women Burdened with High Rates of Psychiatric Diagnoses

New research published in JAMA Pediatrics reveals that transgender women have more than double the prevalence of psychiatric diagnoses than the general US population. The study found that the women, who had been assigned male at birth and now identified as female, had a high prevalence of suicidality, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, generalized anxiety and major depressive disorder.

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“Cashing in on Addiction to Alcohol and Illicit Drugs”

For AlterNet, Evelyn Pringle and Martha Rosenberg reveal how addiction psychiatry is becoming big business.  Addiction is thought of “like often-cited diabetes and hypertensive heart disease, with the following logic: chronic conditions need chronic care and we have drugs that can treat those conditions.”

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“A Child’s First Eight Years Critical for Substance Abuse Prevention”

This week, the National Institute of Health (NIH) released a summary of new research on the effects of early childhood on substance abuse and unhealthy behaviors. “Thanks to more than three decades of research into what makes a young child able to cope with life’s inevitable stresses, we now have unique opportunities to intervene very early in life to prevent substance use disorders,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “We now know that early intervention can set the stage for more positive self-regulation as children prepare for their school years.”

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“Study Links Mobile Device Addiction to Depression and Anxiety”

A study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior found that addictions to mobile devices are linked to anxiety and depression in college students. "People who self-described as having really addictive style behaviors toward the Internet and cellphones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales," according to the researchers.

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British Medical Association Takes On Prescription Drug Dependence

Last year the British Medical Association (BMA) released a report on dependence and withdrawal from prescription drugs including benzodiazepines, z-drugs, opioids, and antidepressants. Now, in light of their findings, the BMA is commiting to changes to medical practice, policy, and research.

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“Woman Can Sue Study Sponsor for Suicide Try”

A woman in Texas attempted suicide while in the active group of a clinical trial for smoking-cassation drugs Chantix and Zyban, both known to exacerbate depression. An appeals court ruled Thursday that she is able to sue the University that admitted her into the study.

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“Barry Takes Center Stage for World Benzo Day Launch”

Mad In America contributor and prescription drug addiction reformer Barry Haslam has “taken his fight to the world stage by helping create an international awareness day.” The Oldham Evening Chronicle announces the founding of World Benzo Day, which “aims to highlight the plight of all patients worldwide who have become prescribed drug dependent addicts through no fault of their own, who are denied right of access to dedicated withdrawal clinics and after care, who are left to struggle off these drugs without support.”

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“United States of Adderall (Part II)”

Writing for Huffpost, medical doctor Lawrence Diller looks at the effects of the ever increasing diagnoses for ADHD and the addiction and abuse issues associated with Adderall. "I have had some dark times on this stuff," a student tells Dr. Diller. "Laying in my bed coming down every night, crying to myself, feeling more alone than ever. Pushing people away in my life. Severe depression. The list goes on. Never in my life would I have thought that I'd become addicted to this awful stuff, let alone any kind of drug. I've never been that kind of person - until now."

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“Lawsuits Link Abilify with Compulsive Gambling”

Plaintiffs allege that Bristol-Myers Squibb and Otsuka Pharmaceutical failed to warn doctors and patients about the risk for compulsive behaviors when taking the atypical antipsychotic Abilify.

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Opioid Use in Pregnancy Dangerous and Understudied

Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), authored an editorial for BMJ this month warning that the opioid abuse epidemic could have dangerous consequences for pregnant women. While the effects of opioid exposure on the developing brain are yet unknown, research suggests that infants may suffer from withdrawal syndrome, nervous system defects, and impaired attachment with the mother.

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“Drug Overdoses Propel Rise in Mortality Rates of Young Whites”

“The rising death rates for those young white adults, ages 25 to 34, make them the first generation since the Vietnam War years of the mid-1960s to experience higher death rates in early adulthood than the generation that preceded it,” the ‘Times reports.

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“West Virginia Allows Painkiller Addicts to Sue Prescribing Doctors”

Watch: “CBS News went to West Virginia, a state that is attempting a drastic solution: allowing addicts to sue the doctors who got them hooked.”

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“Addiction is a Response to Childhood Suffering: In Depth with Gabor Maté”

Popular addiction news outlet, the fix, interviews Dr. Gabor Maté on addiction, the holocaust, the "disease-prone personality" and the pathology of positive thinking. “Until people manage to change society so society takes a different approach, suffering is going to happen,” said Maté.  “What people need is a lot of awareness, a lot of consciousness so they can identify stressors and eliminate them when they are capable of doing so and find ways of living with them when they can’t.”

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“Most Who OD on Opioids are Able to Get New Prescriptions”

Felice J. Freyer for the Boston Globe reports on a new study of chronic pain treatment. “More than 90 percent of people who survived a prescription opioid overdose were able to obtain another prescription for the very drugs that nearly killed them.”

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“As Opioid Deaths Reach Record High, Drug Industry Resists Efforts to Rein in Prescriptions”

“In 2014, the number of people who died from drug overdoses in the United States reached 47,055 — an all-time high, according to a disturbing report published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” but “the effort to get physicians to curb their prescribing of these drugs may be faltering amid stiff resistance from drugmakers, industry-funded groups and, now, even other public health officials.”

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