Jailed Monkeys Use More Cocaine

Monkeys in nicer cages use less cocaine than monkeys in standard cages. That’s one of the more interesting research findings coming out of Wake Forest University Medical School this month. 

Monkeys are used as a good predicative animal model for the administration of drugs in humans. Essentially, if monkeys like something, then we probably will too.

Researchers wondered what effect the monkey’s environment would have on their desire to self administer cocaine. They put some cocaine using monkeys in larger cages for three days and then gave them access to cocaine and food self administration – and the monkeys that were given access to larger (nicer) cages, administered less cocaine than the monkeys that didn’t get the upgrade.

The researchers stress that the environmental improvement was relatively minimal, and suspect that if the monkeys were given access to a larger cage, and also given interesting activities to do while in the cage, the decrease in cocaine self administration would be larger.

The human extrapolation suggests that environment plays a greater than previously thought of influence over drug use, and that people in more pleasant environments are likely better able to reduce their cocaine usage.

On the flip side, and not entirely surprisingly – monkeys that were subjected to three days of more stressful living, instead of more spacious accommodations, used more cocaine than before.

Hmm…

I wonder why putting people in small jail cells doesn’t seem to help them quit drugs very well?

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Monkeys in nicer cages use less cocaine than monkeys in standard cages. That’s one of the more interesting research findings coming out of Wake Forest University Medical School this month. 

Monkeys are used as a good predicative animal model for the administration of drugs in humans. Essentially, if monkeys like something, then we probably will too.

Researchers wondered what effect the monkey’s environment would have on their desire to self administer cocaine. They put some cocaine using monkeys in larger cages for three days and then gave them access to cocaine and food self administration – and the monkeys that were given access to larger (nicer) cages, administered less cocaine than the monkeys that didn’t get the upgrade.

The researchers stress that the environmental improvement was relatively minimal, and suspect that if the monkeys were given access to a larger cage, and also given interesting activities to do while in the cage, the decrease in cocaine self administration would be larger.

The human extrapolation suggests that environment plays a greater than previously thought of influence over drug use, and that people in more pleasant environments are likely better able to reduce their cocaine usage.

On the flip side, and not entirely surprisingly – monkeys that were subjected to three days of more stressful living, instead of more spacious accommodations, used more cocaine than before.

Hmm…

I wonder why putting people in small jail cells doesn’t seem to help them quit drugs very well?

Wanna Know Why It’s So Hard to Quit Drugs?

  • How can you control cravings at the subconscious level?
  • How can you avoid cues that lead to cravings when these cues get processed unconsciously, and it all happens so quickly that you may start craving drugs, with no idea of why?
  • How can you control cravings that stimulate a system of the mind responsible for self preservations acts such as sex and eating, cravings that provoke this system strongly enough to override all other impulses (including towards food or sex)?

Well the answer is that you can, but it’s really really hard! A study released today in PLoS One, funded by NIDA and the National Institute of Health, reveals that cocaine addicts can experience cravings after being shown pictures of drugs for only 33 milliseconds – so fast that the cocaine patients weren’t even aware of having seen them, but were aware of all of a sudden wanting cocaine!

Study authors Dr. Anna Rose Childress and Dr. Charles O’Brien, at the University of Pennsylvania used MRI imaging to observe brain response after cocaine patients were presented with pictures of crack, or a crack pipe, pictures flashing by so fast, that patients were not consciously aware of them. The brain however does see, even when we are not aware of it, and after each provocative stimulus, researchers saw a dramatic response in the limbic system of the brain.

The limbic system is responsible for reward and pleasure, and is known to be involved with addiction.

Cocaine addicts can see things in their environment, not even realize that they see them, and start feeling strong urgings to use cocaine. When a major strategy for early relapse avoidance involves minimizing these types of cravings provoking stimuli, this is obviously very problematic.

Researchers claim that greater understandings of the neurological underpinnings of addiction and craving takes them closer to medications that may work to minimize this effect in the limbic systems, and give cocaine addicts (and likely all addicts) a much better chance at quitting. Willpower is essential for recovery, yet willpower has nothing to do with addiction. We cannot call addicts who relapse weak for failing to manage impulses they can’t control. Willpower keeps addicts in treatment, fighting, but willpower alone is just not enough.

  • How can you control cravings at the subconscious level?
  • How can you avoid cues that lead to cravings when these cues get processed unconsciously, and it all happens so quickly that you may start craving drugs, with no idea of why?
  • How can you control cravings that stimulate a system of the mind responsible for self preservations acts such as sex and eating, cravings that provoke this system strongly enough to override all other impulses (including towards food or sex)?

Well the answer is that you can, but it’s really really hard! A study released today in PLoS One, funded by NIDA and the National Institute of Health, reveals that cocaine addicts can experience cravings after being shown pictures of drugs for only 33 milliseconds – so fast that the cocaine patients weren’t even aware of having seen them, but were aware of all of a sudden wanting cocaine!

Study authors Dr. Anna Rose Childress and Dr. Charles O’Brien, at the University of Pennsylvania used MRI imaging to observe brain response after cocaine patients were presented with pictures of crack, or a crack pipe, pictures flashing by so fast, that patients were not consciously aware of them. The brain however does see, even when we are not aware of it, and after each provocative stimulus, researchers saw a dramatic response in the limbic system of the brain.

The limbic system is responsible for reward and pleasure, and is known to be involved with addiction.

Cocaine addicts can see things in their environment, not even realize that they see them, and start feeling strong urgings to use cocaine. When a major strategy for early relapse avoidance involves minimizing these types of cravings provoking stimuli, this is obviously very problematic.

Researchers claim that greater understandings of the neurological underpinnings of addiction and craving takes them closer to medications that may work to minimize this effect in the limbic systems, and give cocaine addicts (and likely all addicts) a much better chance at quitting. Willpower is essential for recovery, yet willpower has nothing to do with addiction. We cannot call addicts who relapse weak for failing to manage impulses they can’t control. Willpower keeps addicts in treatment, fighting, but willpower alone is just not enough.

Research reduces barriers to drug treatment

Since elected officials have repeatedly proven that they are far more likely to lock up a drug addict then offer needed help, we need to change the way we try to improve access to treatment.

There are tens of millions of Americans with substance abuse problems requiring professional intervention, and only a small percentage of these people are getting the help that they need.

While undoubtedly a significant percentage of these people have the means to afford drug treatment, and for whatever reason choose not to get it; it is estimated that about 30% of these people, or many millions of Americans, have no health insurance coverage nor have the financial capabilities to afford comprehensive drug treatment expenses.

The fact that so many millions of Americans are slipping through the health coverage cracks in our Country should appeal to our humanitarian natures and induce a desire to enact change; but even if we view the issue callously and economically, we still come out far ahead by reducing the barriers to treatment entry.

Substance abuse cost’s Americans hundreds of billions of dollars a year in criminal and justice, health care and reduced productivity costs; and conservative estimates have 1$ spent on treatment reaping an eventual 7$ savings in societal costs. Since the numbers seem so overwhelmingly in favor of enacting social and economic change towards better treatment access, why are we not spending more public tax dollars on the very sound investment of drug treatment?

"Because drug treatments don’t work"

Well actually they do work, and drug rehab programs save countless thousands of lives a year…but the nature of addiction is such that often a single period of drug treatment doesn’t induce permanent change, and thus the treatment statistics per individual rehab visit are not particularly encouraging. It’s hard for public officials to publicly commit great resources to programs with such low success rates, and since incarceration and "getting tough on crime" are so much easier to sell to the electorate, we are continually enacting short sighted and ineffective policies.

I think that ideally we should divert a massive influx of dollars into both treatment programs and addictions research, but since I don’t think that this is likely to occur lacking enormous political will; we should instead concentrate on increasing spending into addictions research. We need to develop better pharmacological and treatment interventions, and once we do have something more concrete to offer, something that does increase the recovery rates per individual rehab visit, then I feel that the political motivation to fund needed substance abuse programming will materialize.

So get out the pen and paper, and if you’ve been touched by addiction either yourself or through the pains of a loved one, empathize with those that still need help, and let your State and Federal elected officials know that the funding of addictions treatment research is important to you.

How many more billions are spent in the development of hair loss, and erectile dysfunction medications than in all addictions research combined? Not that government funded Viagra trials…but still, it’s funny how our priorities can get so distorted.

Since elected officials have repeatedly proven that they are far more likely to lock up a drug addict then offer needed help, we need to change the way we try to improve access to treatment.

There are tens of millions of Americans with substance abuse problems requiring professional intervention, and only a small percentage of these people are getting the help that they need.

While undoubtedly a significant percentage of these people have the means to afford drug treatment, and for whatever reason choose not to get it; it is estimated that about 30% of these people, or many millions of Americans, have no health insurance coverage nor have the financial capabilities to afford comprehensive drug treatment expenses.

The fact that so many millions of Americans are slipping through the health coverage cracks in our Country should appeal to our humanitarian natures and induce a desire to enact change; but even if we view the issue callously and economically, we still come out far ahead by reducing the barriers to treatment entry.

Substance abuse cost’s Americans hundreds of billions of dollars a year in criminal and justice, health care and reduced productivity costs; and conservative estimates have 1$ spent on treatment reaping an eventual 7$ savings in societal costs. Since the numbers seem so overwhelmingly in favor of enacting social and economic change towards better treatment access, why are we not spending more public tax dollars on the very sound investment of drug treatment?

"Because drug treatments don’t work"

Well actually they do work, and drug rehab programs save countless thousands of lives a year…but the nature of addiction is such that often a single period of drug treatment doesn’t induce permanent change, and thus the treatment statistics per individual rehab visit are not particularly encouraging. It’s hard for public officials to publicly commit great resources to programs with such low success rates, and since incarceration and "getting tough on crime" are so much easier to sell to the electorate, we are continually enacting short sighted and ineffective policies.

I think that ideally we should divert a massive influx of dollars into both treatment programs and addictions research, but since I don’t think that this is likely to occur lacking enormous political will; we should instead concentrate on increasing spending into addictions research. We need to develop better pharmacological and treatment interventions, and once we do have something more concrete to offer, something that does increase the recovery rates per individual rehab visit, then I feel that the political motivation to fund needed substance abuse programming will materialize.

So get out the pen and paper, and if you’ve been touched by addiction either yourself or through the pains of a loved one, empathize with those that still need help, and let your State and Federal elected officials know that the funding of addictions treatment research is important to you.

How many more billions are spent in the development of hair loss, and erectile dysfunction medications than in all addictions research combined? Not that government funded Viagra trials…but still, it’s funny how our priorities can get so distorted.

Medical marijuana and the finding that marijuana has been linked to psychosis. Is it Medicine?

The issue surrounding marijuana to me is quite clear…people that need it deserve access to it, and people that don’t…well they don’t!

Marijuana users are 40% more likely to develop psychosis later in life. Long perceived as a relatively harmless drug, marihuana continues to show its complicated colors with yet another study pointing to the dangers of illicit consumption. Yet for every one study that shows the dangers of illicit consumption, it seems there are two that show the benefits of marijuana for medical usage. Perhaps we need to demarcate the lines between treatment and fun a little better, and get this "medicine" into the hands of those that can benefit from it, and this "drug" away from those to which it may do harm.

University of Cardiff researchers analyzed long term clinical data on marijuana usage and later incidences of psychosis, over a period of many years, and have linked the two with the data giving statistically strong causal results. Marijuana users have a 40% greater chance of developing psychosis later in life, and the more marijuana is used, the greater that risk becomes. Psychosis is defined a psychiatric condition in which delusions or hallucinations are present. Marijuana today is a very strong psychoactive substance, and it is not surprising that heavy usage of this substance would have some long term consequences.

We need to educate kids as to the potential dangers of the drug they are smoking, and get people to realize that today’s marijuana is serious stuff, and can cause long and lasting health implications. Too often I see the marijuana issue clouded by those that wish to smoke it illicitly, arguing for the benefits of medical marijuana…and to me this is apples and oranges; and just because something is medically appropriate, it doesn’t mean that’s it’s a good idea to use it on a recreational basis.

Policy makers, out of compassion and mercy, let cancer patients, AIDS wasting sufferers and glaucoma patients have the marijuana they need to make them feel better. To politicize the drug at the expense of these people is shameful. To everyone else, stop using the medical argument when all you really want to do is to use the drug to get high. That’s my 2 cents worth anyway.

The issue surrounding marijuana to me is quite clear…people that need it deserve access to it, and people that don’t…well they don’t!

Marijuana users are 40% more likely to develop psychosis later in life. Long perceived as a relatively harmless drug, marihuana continues to show its complicated colors with yet another study pointing to the dangers of illicit consumption. Yet for every one study that shows the dangers of illicit consumption, it seems there are two that show the benefits of marijuana for medical usage. Perhaps we need to demarcate the lines between treatment and fun a little better, and get this "medicine" into the hands of those that can benefit from it, and this "drug" away from those to which it may do harm.

University of Cardiff researchers analyzed long term clinical data on marijuana usage and later incidences of psychosis, over a period of many years, and have linked the two with the data giving statistically strong causal results. Marijuana users have a 40% greater chance of developing psychosis later in life, and the more marijuana is used, the greater that risk becomes. Psychosis is defined a psychiatric condition in which delusions or hallucinations are present. Marijuana today is a very strong psychoactive substance, and it is not surprising that heavy usage of this substance would have some long term consequences.

We need to educate kids as to the potential dangers of the drug they are smoking, and get people to realize that today’s marijuana is serious stuff, and can cause long and lasting health implications. Too often I see the marijuana issue clouded by those that wish to smoke it illicitly, arguing for the benefits of medical marijuana…and to me this is apples and oranges; and just because something is medically appropriate, it doesn’t mean that’s it’s a good idea to use it on a recreational basis.

Policy makers, out of compassion and mercy, let cancer patients, AIDS wasting sufferers and glaucoma patients have the marijuana they need to make them feel better. To politicize the drug at the expense of these people is shameful. To everyone else, stop using the medical argument when all you really want to do is to use the drug to get high. That’s my 2 cents worth anyway.