Tag Archives: Substance Abuse

Bitter Truth About Betel

Indian researchers have discovered that areca nut is quite addictive and, when combined with tobacco, can lead to cancer.

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If you thought only the tobacco in chewing pan is addictive, think again. Researchers in Bangalore have found that betel nut (Areca catechu or supari), too, is addictive and long-term users develop a dependency on it.

According to a team of researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans), the chances of those chewing areca nut — with or without tobacco — developing oral submucous fibrosis (OSF) are much higher than in smokers. OSF is a medical condition that leads to cancers of the oral cavity and throat.

The relative risk of those who use areca nut along with tobacco developing OSF is nearly 400 times more than plain tobacco users, Nimhans psychiatrist Vivek Benegal and his colleagues at the institute’s Deaddiction Centre said in a study reported online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“Traditionally, it is thought that areca nut is not addictive and hence safe to consume. For this reason, even children, for whom other stimulants such as tobacco are taboo, are allowed to use it,” observed Benegal. It is a matter of concern as a significant portion of the younger generation in India consumes areca products, he said.

“Our study shows that it is not just gutka (which contains tobacco along with areca nut and several spices) that is harmful; even plain pan masala is injurious to health as it, too, develops a dependence syndrome on persistent use,” he said.

Tobacco in areca nut mixtures — although not a causative factor of OSF — is believed to be more responsible for the disease as it increases addiction, leading to a greater yearning for nut chewing.

Areca nut, which is said to be the fourth most commonly used psychoactive stimulant, makes more than 70 per cent of its users addicted to it. Popular in South Asia and South-east Asia, it is used by nearly 10 per cent of the world’s population. Though there could be subtle variations in its effects on people, the consumption of areca nut generally produces a sense of well being, euphoria, warm sensation in the body and heightened alertness.

The scientists said that long-term areca users may develop the same kind of dependence syndrome as those indulging in other substances of abuse do. They hoped that the work might highlight a public health problem that has hitherto been ignored.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Body’s Natural Painkillers Can Block Phobias

Magnetic resonance image showing a median sagittal cross section through a human head.

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Human body’s own pain-relief system has the ability to block phobias, claims a new study which is likely to soon throw light on the neural mechanisms behind anxiety and stress.

A international team, led by researchers at the University Medical Centre of Hamburg-Eppendorf, has found that the way humans are conditioned by fearful stimuli is to some extent damped down by the body’s own pain-relief system.

For their study, the researchers recruited 30 male volunteers who were asked to watch green triangles and blue pentagons on a screen inside an MRI scanner. One symbol was followed half the time by a moderately painful application of heat to the forearm; the other was never followed by pain.

Half the volunteers were infused with a drug that blocks the effects of opioids, while the others got saline solution as a control. The brain scans showed that in people whose opioid systems had been blocked, the amygdala showed a fear response that did not diminish with exposure. Every time they saw the symbol associated with pain, their amygdalas reacted strongly.

In the control group, however, the activation decreased over the course of the experiment. As the group receiving the drug was reacting fearfully, the researchers speculate, they were learning the association intensively.

At the beginning of each trial, volunteers had to perform a reaction time task – pressing a button to indicate on which half of the screen the symbol had appeared. Overall, the subjects reacted more quickly to the cue signalling pain than the cue signalling nothing – but the opioid-free subjects reacted significantly faster.

The team speculates that opioid deficiency could be a contributing factor to anxiety disorders and exaggerated fear responses.

Sources:The Times Of India

Dangers Of Prescription Drug Abuse

Although teens are turning away from street drugs, now there’s a new threat and it’s from the family medicine cabinet: The abuse of prescription (Rx) and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

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Parents and caregivers are the first line of defense in addressing this troubling trend.

What’s the problem?
Teens are abusing some prescription and over-the-counter drugs to get high. This includes painkillers, such as those drugs prescribed after surgery; depressants, such as sleeping pills or anti-anxiety drugs; and stimulants, such as those drugs prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Teens are also abusing over-the-counter drugs, such as cough and cold remedies.

Every day 2,500 youth age 12 to 17 abuse a pain reliever for the very first time. More teens abuse prescription drugs than any illicit drug except marijuana. In 2006, more than 2.1 million teens ages 12 to 17 reported abusing prescription drugs. Among 12- and 13-year-olds, prescription drugs are the drug of choice.

Because these drugs are so readily available, and many teens believe they are a safe way to get high, teens who wouldn’t otherwise touch illicit drugs might abuse prescription drugs. And not many parents are talking to them about it, even though teens report that parental disapproval is a powerful way to keep them away from drugs.

What are the dangers?
There are serious health risks related to abuse of prescription drugs. A single large dose of prescription or over-the-counter painkillers or depressants can cause breathing difficulty that can lead to death. Stimulant abuse can lead to hostility or paranoia, or the potential for heart system failure or fatal seizures. Even in small doses, depressants and painkillers have subtle effects on motor skills, judgment, and ability to learn.

The abuse of OTC cough and cold remedies can cause blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, coma, and even death. Many teens report mixing prescription drugs, OTC drugs, and alcohol. Using these drugs in combination can cause respiratory failure and death.

Prescription and OTC drug abuse is addictive. Between 1995 and 2005, treatment admissions for prescription painkillers increased more than 300 percent.

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Sources:http://www.theantidrug.com/drug_info/prescription_dangers.asp#foot