How to Treat Drug Addiction With Videos of Drug Use

What’s the News: Retrieving a memory in your brain is a bit like taking an old keepsake off the shelf. If you get startled while holding grandma’s old vase in your hands, you could drop and break it. Memory retrieval is just as vulnerable to disruption, and scientists have tried to exploit this fact to erase PTSD-associated memories with drugs.

A new study in Science tries a different tack, using a behavioral approach to rid people of addictions to drugs. Addiction is sometimes treated with “extinction,” which means showing patients drug-related images while they’re off drugs, so that, for example, they stop associating needles with a high. The researchers found that retrieving drug memories right before an extinction session—basically, giving them a short exposure to drug-related stimulus, followed by a similar but longer exposure session—made the treatment more effective in both rats and humans.

How the Heck:

  • The researchers got rats addicted to either cocaine or morphine and gave them a short memory-retrieval session 10 minutes, one hour, or six hours before the longer extinction session. Memory retrieval was done by giving the rats a light and sound cue they had previously learned to associate with getting high. During the extinction session, the same cues were shown (and again with no drugs given), but for a longer time.
  • Rats who were reminded of drugs 10 minutes or one hour before extinction were less likely to use drugs again, either spontaneously or when presented with drugs. After six hours, however, the memory reconsolidation window had passed and those rats remained addicted.
  • To find a molecular signature, researchers looked at a protein called PMKzeta, which is associated with memory. In rats, extinction will change the expression of PMKzeta in different parts of the brain, and these changes were larger when memory retrieval came 10 minutes before extinction.
  • Human trials are the real heart of this study, since it’s what works in rats doesn’t always translate to humans. The researchers showed videos of neutral natural scenery and heroin use to heroin addicts, who were asked to rate their cravings induced by the videos.
  • Addicts who had the memory-retrieval session 10 minutes before their extinction session had lower cravings than those who had either no retrieval session or one six hours before extinction. This held true over a six-month period.

By Sarah Zhang, Discover

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Smoking, Once Used to Reward, Faces a Ban in Mental Hospitals

Hospitals often used cigarettes as incentives or rewards for taking medicine, following rules or attending therapy. Some programs still do. And smoking was endorsed by advocates for people with mental illness and family members, who sometimes sued to preserve smoking rights, considering cigarettes one of the few pleasures patients were allowed.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the nearly 46 million adults with mental illness have a smoking rate 70 percent higher than those without mental illness, and consume about a third of the cigarettes in the country, though they make up one-fifth of the adult population.

People with psychiatric disorders are often “smoking heavier, their puffs are longer and they’re smoking it down to the end of the cigarette,” said William Riley, chief of the Science of Research and Technology Branch at the National Cancer Institute. With some diagnoses, like schizophrenia, rates are especially high.

A report by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors said data suggested that people with the most serious mental illnesses die on average 25 years earlier than the general population, with many from smoking-exacerbated conditions like heart or lung disease.

by Pam Belluck, The New York Times

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News Coverage of Shootings May Boost Stigma of Mental Illness

Media coverage of mass shootings by people with mental illnesses may heighten the stigma that already surrounds people struggling with mental disorders, a new study suggests.

The researchers also found that public support for policies to reduce gun violence rises after news coverage of mass shootings. Specifically, people who read a news story describing a mass shooting were more likely than those who did not read such an article to support gun restrictions for people with serious mental illness, and for a ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines.

“The aftermath of mass shootings is often viewed as a window of opportunity to garner support for policies to reduce gun violence, and this study finds public support for such policies increases after reading news stories about a mass shooting,” study lead author Emma McGinty, a doctoral candidate with the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a Hopkins news release.

“However, we also found that the public’s negative attitudes toward persons with serious mental illness are exacerbated by news media accounts of mass shootings involving a shooter with mental illness,” she added.

The findings are from an online survey of nearly 1,800 American adults and appear in the April issue of theAmerican Journal of Psychiatry.

The researchers said their study results are important for advocates and lawmakers who promote gun safety policies.

“While our study confirms news stories on mass shootings involving a shooter with mental illness contribute to negative perceptions of mental illness, our study results indicate that discussions of gun policies designed to keep firearms from individuals who have a serious mental illness do not lead to greater stigma,” study co-author Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said in the news release.

“As states across the U.S. consider restrictions on gun access among those with serious mental illness, future research should examine whether such policies deter people with mental illness from seeking treatment,” he added.

Previous research has shown that most people with serious mental illness are not violent, and that the association between serious mental illness and gun violence is complicated and affected by factors such as substance abuse, the study authors noted.

by Robert Preidt, HealthDay News

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Testing A Potential Schizophrenia Drug: Watch Dr. Cortlett’s Interview and Join the Q & A

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After watching the interview, feel free to login and post questions for Dr. Corlett. He will be available to respond daily from Wednesday, March 27 through Friday, March 29, 2013.

Two of the signature symptoms of schizophrenia are delusions (persistent unhealthy unrealistic beliefs) and anhedonia (lack of interest in once-rewarding activities). Having experienced both of these, I can attest that they can make life seem alternately distressing and bleak. What if a scientist developed a neurocognitive theory that could explain how both of these symptoms formed? What if, in testing this theory, he could offer a chance to produce a new drug that could address these symptoms at their root?
Now on Brain Waves, you can watch as 2013 Rising Star Award winner Dr. Phil Corlett explains why he thinks Retigabine might work to ameliorate both delusions and anhedonia. He also describes his plan to conduct a pilot clinical trial of this drug in human patients.

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How A Patient’s Suicide Changed A Doctor’s Approach To Guns

Dumont’s patient shot himself in the head with a rifle. Dumont was stunned, and guilt-ridden.

He says he always asks his depressed patients about suicide, whether they’ve thought about how they’d do it. But he now regrets not asking this patient specifically whether he had guns in the house.

Suicide prevention researcher Dr. Matthew Miller, at the Harvard School of Public Health, says Dumont sounds like a great doctor. “He was doing everything he could to try to keep this guy from making a suicide attempt, but what he didn’t do was the second step, which is make it hard for him to die if he did make an attempt,” Miller says.

The second step, Miller says, is asking patients if they have guns in the house or access to guns. If someone tries to commit suicide without using a gun, they probably won’t succeed.

“The likelihood of their dying is of an order of magnitude lower,” he says. “Instead of there being a 90-plus percent chance of death, there’s a greater than 90 percent chance that they’ll live.”

Miller wants to make it routine for family doctors to ask their patients about guns. One large study found that nearly half of all suicide victims had seen a primary care doctor within a month of killing themselves. So it’s important for them to bring up suicide and possible means.

by Eric Whitney, NPR

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Dr Treisman Invites You to Virtual Psychiatry CME Conference

Complementary Psychiatry Virtual Education Summit, presented by the John Hopkins University School of Medicine

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Live, Online Continuing Medical Education

Thursday April 4, 2013; 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM Eastern Time

Register Here

Watch renowned psychiatrists present online via live streaming video. Choose from four 1-hour interactive sessions and learn about the latest treatment options and new novel therapies:

Cognitive Impairment in Schizophrenia: More than ‘Negative Symptoms’

David Schretien, PhD and Glenn Treisman, MD

Managing Patients with Schizophrenia and Comorbid Neuropsychiatric Disorders

Peter Weiden, MD

New Insights into the Biology of Bipolar Disorder

S. Nassir Ghaemi, MD, MPH

Managing Metabolic Comorbidities in Patients with Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia

David Henderson, MD

More Information

Smoking Rates Higher Among Adults with Mental Illness

Recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) show that as smoking rates decrease among the general public, smoking is a habit among more than two thirds of adults with a mental illness, which is approximately 70% higher than the general population.

Researchers also found that those with a mental illness typically started smoking at a younger age than smokers who do not have a mental illness. As well, those with a mental illness are more likely to be heavy smokers and have more difficulty quitting.

by Magpie Media

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Brain Activity a Possible Test for Schizophrenia

New research says that the brain’s natural electrical currents could possibly be used as a test for schizophrenia.  Currently there is no blood or laboratory test to confirm schizophrenia, meaning a patient must meet specific symptom criteria in order to be diagnosis by a clinician.

Magnetoencephalogram (MEG) technology was used by scientists from the Univesity of Plymouth and Spain. An MEG uses extremely sensitive magnetometers to map brain activity by recording magnetic fields that are produced naturally in the brain by electrical currents. Researchers used this non-invasive MEG to identify two brain features in schizophrenia patients that are significantly different from healthy control subjects.

by Magpie Media

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Nicotine Vaccine Promising for Smoking Cessation

An experimental nicotine vaccine reduces the amount of nicotine that reaches the brain and binds to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), helping to reduce cigarette use and cravings, new research shows. However, at least 1 expert has some misgivings about its potential as an effective treatment.

“It appears that the vaccine may help with smoking cessation, but likely as an adjunct to existing pharmacology or psychological treatments,” Irina Esterlis, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry and diagnostic radiology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, told Medscape Medical News.

The nicotine vaccine is being developed by Nabi Biopharmaceuticals of Rockville, Maryland, under the brand name NicVAX. It consists of a chemical derivative of nicotine linked to a protein to induce an immune response. The nicotine-antibody complexes are too large to cross the blood-brain barrier, reducing the amount and rate of nicotine that enters the brain and, consequently, the reinforcing and addictive effects of nicotine.

By Megan Brooks, Medscape

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Metabolic Abnormalities Possible Result of Poor Diet in Schizophrenia Patients

Poor diets may be a factor leading to metabolic abnormalities in patients with schizophrenia.

Poor diets were defined as being low in fruit and fiber and high in calories and saturated fats.

“Such [a] diet is likely to increase the risk of developing metabolic abnormalities, and may worsen metabolic abnormalities induced by other factors,” commented Mondelli et al. “The diet and factors underlying poor dietary patterns may represent an important therapeutic target to control metabolic abnormalities in patients with schizophrenia.”

by Magpie Media

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