In particular, parents say cell phones allow their families to stay more regularly in touch. And many parents say they are now using the Internet to view material online together.
Are you using technology to its best advantage? Before you put your trust in the latest gadgets, make sure you set a few ground rules for your family:
• Limit your teens’ time spent online and keep computers in a common area of the house;
• Monitor your teens’ digital devices regularly, checking Internet history and cell phone call logs; and
• Talk to your teens about their Web sites, profiles, blogs, etc., and ask them to show you what they’re doing online.
Many parents are still unaware of the risks their teens may be exposed to online or through their cell phones, many of which have Internet access. In fact, a Nielsen study conducted for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign found that in a one-month period, nearly one million teens were exposed to one or more drug-related videos online. And more than a third of teens viewing drug-related content are under the age of 16. Before your family can reap the rewards of technology, it’s important to understand the risks.
Long-term heavy use of marijuana may cause two important brain structures to shrink, Australian researchers said.Brain scans showed the hippocampus and amygdala were smaller in men who were heavy marijuana users compared to nonusers, the researchers said on Monday.
The men had smoked at least five marijuana cigarettes daily for on average 20 years. The hippocampus regulates memory and emotion, while the amygdala plays a critical role in fear and aggression.
The study also found the heavy cannabis users earned lower scores than the nonusers in a verbal learning task – trying to recall a list of 15 words.
The marijuana users were more likely to exhibit mild signs of psychotic disorders, but not enough to be formally diagnosed with any such disorder, the researchers said. “These findings challenge the widespread perception of cannabis as having limited or no harmful effects on (the) brain and behavior,” said Murat Yucel of ORYGEN Research Centre and the University of Melbourne, who led the study.
“Like with most things, some people will experience greater problems associated with cannabis use than others,” Yucel said. “Our findings suggest that everyone is vulnerable to changes in the brain, some memory problems and psychiatric symptoms if they use heavily enough and for long enough.”
Researchers have made a breakthrough in uncovering the mystery behind why teens get hooked on cocaine more easily than adults by finding that developing brains are more powerfully motivated by drug-related cues.
The study found that adolescent rats given cocaine were more likely than adults to prefer the place where they got it.
Epidemiological studies confirm that of people in various age groups who experiment with drugs, teens are by far the most likely to become addicted as they are driven by drug related cues.
During the study psychologists Heather Brenhouse, PhD, and Susan Andersen, from McLean’s Developmental Psychopharmacology Laboratory introduced rats that were 38 or 77 days old which is equivalent to 13 or 20 human years, to an apparatus with one central and two larger side chambers that had different flooring, wall colours and lighting.
The injected the rats with saline solution in the morning for three days in a row and placed them in one side chamber for an hour.
Four hours later, they injected them with a preference-forming dose of cocaine and placed them in the opposite-side chamber for an hour.
To test the “conditioned place preference” for the chamber where they got cocaine, the rats were let free to explore the entire apparatus in a drug-free state for 30 minutes on the 4th day
Brenhouse and Andersen calculated how long each rat spent in the drug-paired side relative to total time spent on either side. They repeated the procedure every 24 hours until each animal’s place preference was extinguished, when the time they spent in the drug-paired chamber was cut in half – suggesting no lingering preference for either side.
Relative to adults, adolescent rats required around 75 percent more trials to extinguish a preference for the place where they were given the drug.
After each rat’s last extinction trial, the researchers waited 24 hours, injected a low 5 mg/kg “priming” dose of cocaine, and put it back in the apparatus to test for place preference.
During this test for “reinstatement” of extinguished preferences, adolescent rats showed a significantly greater renewed preference than did adults for the drug-paired chamber. Those that had originally learned on a 10 mg/kg dose of cocaine showed 40 percent greater reinstatement than the few adult rats that showed a place preference at the lower dose.
Brenhouse and Andersen view this as a sign that adolescents form stronger memories for even less potent rewards.
“Adolescent vulnerability to addiction involves robust memories for drug-associated cues that are difficult to extinguish.”
They believe that this is because their brains are still developing.
The researchers believe that the new findings may help in developing new treatments for youthful addiction.
The study appears in Behavioral Neuroscience, published by the American Psychological Association.
Parents are used to hearing their teens speak in code – from the trendy catchphrase of the week to the popular acronyms used for text messaging and online chatting. But one term that might come up more frequently this time of year is “420” (pronounced “four-twenty”).
Those familiar with popular drug culture might recognize the code as a reference to the annual pot-smoking holiday on April 20 (or 4-20). There are many theories explaining the origin of the term and the date – from the supposed number of active chemicals in marijuana to an alleged police crime code for drug arrests to the time of day a group of California teens congregated to smoke up in the 1960s.
Whatever the actual origins of 420, many teens now know April 20th as the day to smoke marijuana. So parents should be especially mindful of monitoring for drug use on this day in particular.
So you tried pot at some point in your life and think you’ll feel like a hypocrite telling your teen not to use? Get over it. It’s important to talk about your experiences to help your children learn from them. Be honest and emphasize that this discussion is about your child’s future and not about your past. Marijuana today is more potent than it was a generation ago and more kids are using it at a younger age, when their bodies and minds are still developing. Talk to your teens. Kids who learn about marijuana and other drugs from their parents are less likely to use them.
How can you monitor for marijuana use? Follow these four easy steps:
1. Look online. Talk to your teen about pro-drug messages they might find on sites like Facebook and YouTube. Many teens form groups and recruit members online who are proponents of certain drugs or risky behaviors .
2. Listen for slang and look out for paraphernalia. If you hear terms like 420, bake, Mary, bud, blunt, etc., or see them in text messages, call your teen on it. Likewise if you see makeshift pipes or bongs disguised to look like harmless trinkets, it’s time for a larger discussion about drug use.
3. Ask who, what, where, and when. You should always know the details about your teen’s whereabouts, but pay special attention on April 20 as many teens plan to meet for the “holiday celebration.”
4. Watch and smell for signs of use. Red and bloodshot eyes are a symptom of marijuana use, so be on the lookout for recently opened eye drops. A distinct odor is another sign – even if your teen was just hanging out with other people who were smoking. If you detect smoke, alcohol, etc., on your teen’s breath or clothes, it’s time to talk about the dangers of such risky behaviors
Athletes who take human growth hormone may not be getting the boost they expected. While growth hormone adds some muscle, it doesn’t appear to improve strength or exercise capacity, according to a review of studies that tested the hormone in mostly athletic young men.
“It doesn’t look like it helps and there’s a hint of evidence it may worsen athletic performance,” said Dr. Hau Liu, of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif., who was lead author of the review.
Growth hormone, or HGH, is among the performance enhancers baseball stars Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte were accused of taking in the blockbuster Mitchell Report. Clemens denies using the hormone, while Pettitte admits using it.
But the new research has some limitations and sheds no light on long-term use of HGH. The scientists note their analysis included few studies that measured performance. The tests also probably don’t reflect the dose and frequency practiced by athletes illegally using the hormone. Experiments like that aren’t likely to be conducted.
“It’s dangerous, unethical and it’s never going to be done,” said Dr. Gary I. Wadler, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency and a spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine.
Consequently, those in the field have to depend on such reviews or “what we hear on the ground,” he added.
Human growth hormone is made by the pituitary gland and promotes growth. A synthetic version has been available since the 1980s and its use is restricted for certain conditions in children and adults, including short stature, growth hormone deficiency and wasting from AIDS.
Although banned for other uses, growth hormone has been used by a variety of athletes and was cited along with steroids as one of the performance-enhancing drugs abused by baseball players in the report in December by former Senate majority leader George Mitchell. Several athletes, including Pettitte, have said they used HGH while recovering from an injury, an issue not covered in the review.
“There are a lot of claims that it’s this wonder drug,” said Liu.
Wadler said one of the appeals of growth hormone for athletes is that it can’t be detected in a urine test. A blood test will be available soon, and another is in development, he said.
“They think they are getting a free ride â€” they aren’t getting a drug test,” he said. “They believe they are stronger and bigger.”
Liu and his colleagues at Stanford University sought to find out if growth hormone really could improve performance. They looked for the best published tests, those comparing participants who got the hormone to those who didn’t get the treatment.
They analyzed 27 studies involving 440 participants. The results were released Monday by the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Researchers found that those who got the hormone put on about 5 pounds more of muscle, and lost about 2 pounds more of fat, although the fat loss wasn’t statistically different. The researchers said some of the extra body mass could just be fluid buildup.
There was no difference found in strength or exercise stamina between the two groups, but there were only two strength studies and eight that measured exercise. Those who got the hormone had more side effects including swelling and fatigue.
The review couldn’t consider long-term effects, since the longest study was three months, and most were much shorter.
The researchers also said the doses used in the research may be lower than those used by athletes, who may be combining growth hormone with other performance-enhancing drugs.
Dr. Alan Rogol of the University of Virginia and the Indiana University School of Medicine, said the work was a good review but had to rely on inadequate research.
“There are just tons of things we don’t know,” said Rogol.
The California researchers had support from Stanford, government agencies and Genentech Inc., which makes growth hormone; none of the groups had a role in the study. Two researchers also have been consultants or received grants from Genentech and other drugmakers.