Saturday, December 30, 2017

For New Year's Eve: Impaired Driving 911

image of a blurred roadway at night

Use of illicit* drugs or misuse of prescription drugs can make driving a car unsafe—just like driving after drinking alcohol. Drugged driving puts the driver, passengers, and others who share the road at risk.

Why is drugged driving dangerous? The effects of specific drugs differ depending on how they act in the brain. For example, marijuana can slow reaction time, impair judgment of time and distance, and decrease coordination. Drivers who have used cocaine or methamphetamine can be aggressive and reckless when driving. Certain kinds of sedatives, called benzodiazepines, can cause dizziness and drowsiness.

Get the facts on drugs and the brain.

All of these impairments can lead to vehicle crashes. Research studies have shown negative effects of marijuana on drivers, including an increase in crashes. Which drugs are linked to drugged driving? After alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often found in the blood of drivers involved in crashes.

Tests for detecting marijuana in drivers measure the level of delta­9­ tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s mind­altering ingredient, in the blood. But the role that marijuana plays in crashes is often unclear. THC can be detected in body fluids for days or even weeks after use, and it is often combined with alcohol. The risk associated with marijuana in combination with alcohol, cocaine, or benzodiazepines appears to be greater than that for either drug by itself.

Several studies have shown that drivers with THC in their blood were roughly twice as likely to be responsible for a deadly crash or be killed than drivers who hadn't used drugs or alcohol. However, a large NHTSA study found no significant increased crash risk traceable to marijuana after controlling for drivers’ age, gender, race, and presence of alcohol. More research is needed.

Along with marijuana, prescription drugs are also commonly linked to drugged driving crashes. A 2010 nationwide study of deadly crashes found that about 47 percent of drivers who tested positive for drugs had used a prescription drug, compared to 37 percent of those had used marijuana and about 10 percent of those who had used cocaine. The most common prescription drugs found were pain relievers. However, the study didn't distinguish between medicallysupervised and illicit use of the prescription drugs.

How often does drugged driving cause crashes? It's hard to measure how many crashes are caused by drugged driving. This is because: a good roadside test for drug levels in the body doesn't yet exist police don't usually test for drugs if drivers have reached an illegal blood alcohol level because there's already enough evidence for a DUI charge many drivers who cause crashes are found to have both drugs and alcohol or more than one drug in their system, making it hard to know which substance had the greater effect.

One NHTSA study found that in 2009, 18 percent of drivers killed in a crash tested positive for at least one drug. A 2010 study showed that 11 percent of deadly crashes involved a drugged driver.

Why is drugged driving a problem in teens and young adults? Teen drivers are less experienced and are more likely than older drivers to underestimate or not recognize dangerous situations. They are also more likely to speed and allow less distance between vehicles. When lack of driving experience is combined with drug use, the results can be tragic. Car crashes are the leading cause of death among young people aged 16 to 19 years.

A 2011 survey of middle and high school students showed that, in the 2 weeks before the survey, 12 percent of high school seniors had driven after using marijuana, compared to around 10. Drugged Driving in Older Adults In 2010, more than one­quarter of drugged drivers in deadly crashes were aged 50 years or older. Illicit drug use in adults aged 50 to 59 has increased, more than doubling from 3 percent in 2002 to 7 percent in 2010. Mental decline in older adults can lead to taking a prescription drug more or less often than they should or in the wrong amount. Older adults also may not break down the drug in their system as quickly as younger people. These factors can lead to unintended intoxication while behind the wheel of a car.

A study of college students with access to a car found that 1 in 6 had driven under the influence of a drug other than alcohol at least once in the past year. Marijuana was the most common drug used, followed by cocaine and prescription pain relievers. What steps can people take to prevent drugged driving? Because drugged driving puts people at a higher risk for crashes, public health experts urge people who use drugs and alcohol to develop social strategies to prevent them from getting behind the wheel of a car while impaired. Steps people can take include: offering to be a designated driver appointing a designated driver to take all car keys getting a ride to and from parties where there are drugs and alcohol discussing the risks of drugged driving with friends in advance

In 2014, 10 million people aged 12 or older reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs in the past year. It's hard to measure how many crashes drugged driving causes. After alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often linked to drugged driving. In 2010, more than one­quarter of drugged drivers in fatal crashes were aged 50 years or older. When lack of driving experience is combined with drug use, the results can be tragic. People who use drugs and alcohol should develop social strategies to prevent them from getting behind the wheel of a car while impaired.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Drug Abuse and LGBT Community: Social Anxiety on Steroids

People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) often face social stigma, discrimination, and other challenges not encountered by people who identify as heterosexual. They also face a greater risk of harassment and violence. As a result of these and other stressors, sexual minorities are at increased risk for various behavioral health issues.

Many federally funded surveys have only recently started to ask about sexual orientation and gender identification in their data collections. Surveys thus far have found that sexual minorities have higher rates of substance misuse and substance use disorders (SUDs) than people who identify as heterosexual. Therefore, it is not yet possible to establish long-term trends about substance use and SUD prevalence in LGBT populations.

Substance Use and Misuse

Understand social anxiety and stress in the LGBT community.
According to 2015 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, adults defined as "sexual minority" (in this survey, meaning lesbian, gay, or bisexual) were more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults (39.1 percent versus 17.1 percent) to have used any illicit drug in the past year. Nearly a third of sexual minority adults (30.7 percent) used marijuana in the past year, compared to 12.9 percent of heterosexual adults, and about 1 in 10 (10.4 percent) misused prescription pain relievers, compared to 4.5 percent of heterosexual adults.

A 2013 survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau found that a higher percentage of LGBT adults between 18 and 64 reported past-year binge drinking (five or more drinks on a single occasion) than heterosexual adults. LGBT people in treatment for SUDs initiated alcohol consumption earlier than their heterosexual counterparts.

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adolescents also reported higher rates of substance use compared to heterosexual adolescents. In one meta-analysis, LGB adolescents were 90 percent more likely to use substances than heterosexual adolescents, and the difference was particularly pronounced in some subpopulations; bisexual adolescents used substances at 3.4 times the rate of heterosexual adolescents, and lesbian and bisexual females used at four times the rate of their heterosexual counterparts.

Substance Use Disorders and Comorbidities

LGBT persons also have a greater likelihood than non-LGBT persons of experiencing a substance use disorder (SUD) in their lifetime, and they often enter treatment with more severe SUDs. Some common SUD treatment modalities have been shown to be effective for gay or bisexual men including motivational interviewing, social support therapy, contingency management, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Addiction treatment programs offering specialized groups for gay and bisexual men showed better outcomes for those clients compared to gay and bisexual men in non-specialized programs; but in one study, only 7.4 percent of programs offered specialized services for LGBT patients. Research is currently limited on rates of SUD among transgender populations, although research shows that transgender individuals are more likely to seek SUD treatment than the non-transgender population. Current research suggests that treatment should address unique factors in these patients' lives that may include homophobia/transphobia, family problems, violence, and social isolation.

Sexual minorities with SUDs are more likely to have additional (comorbid or co-occurring) psychiatric disorders. For example, gay and bisexual men and lesbian and bisexual women report greater odds of frequent mental distress and depression than their heterosexual counterparts. Transgender children and adolescents have higher levels of depression, suicidality, self-harm, and eating disorders than their non-transgender counterparts.Thus it is particularly important that LGBT people in SUD treatment be screened for other psychiatric problems (as well as vice versa) and all identifiable conditions should be treated concurrently.

LGBT people are also at increased risks for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) due to both intravenous drug use and risky sexual behaviors. HIV infection is particularly prevalent among gay and bisexual men (men who have sex with men, or MSM) and transgender women who have sex with men. SUD treatment can also help prevent HIV transmission among those at high risk. For example, addiction treatment is associated not only with reduced drug use but also with less risky sexual behavior among MSM, and those with HIV report improvements in viral load.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Opioid crisis cuts U.S. life expectancy

Opioid crisis trims U.S. life expectancy
The opioid crisis is rippling through the U.S. healthcare system, causing a spike in rates of hepatitis C related to increased opioid injections and reducing overall life expectancy among Americans, which has fallen for the second year in a row, U.S. health officials said.

Addiction is a brain disease. Learn about it in clear language.

Heroin, an illegal opioid that is typically injected, accounted for around 15,500 deaths, and prescription painkillers were involved in about 14,500, the CDC reported.
“These are not simply numbers - these are actual lives,” said Benjamin F. Miller, chief policy officer of Well Being Trust, a non-profit foundation focused on mental health issues. “Seeing the loss of life at this dramatic rate calls for more immediate action.”
President Donald Trump in October declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, which senior administration officials said would redirect federal resources and loosen regulations to combat abuse of the drugs. However, he stopped short of declaring a national emergency, a move he had promised months before and which would have freed up more federal money.
Overdose rates rose in 40 states and in Washington, D.C., between 2015 and 2016, with 17 states seeing increases of 25 percent or more, according to the TFAH analysis.
“Every community has been impacted by this crisis,” Auerbach said, adding that the government was not making the investments needed to “turn the tide.”
The surge in overdose deaths has depressed recent gains in U.S. life expectancy, which fell to an average age of 78.6, down 0.1 year from 2015 and marking the first two-year drop since 1962-1963.
In a separate report, the CDC linked the recent steep increases in hepatitis C infections to increases in opioid injection.
Researchers used a national database that tracks substance abuse admissions to treatment facilities in all 50 U.S. states. They found a 133 percent increase in acute hepatitis C cases that coincided with a 93 percent increase in admissions for opioid injection between 2004 to 2014.
“Hepatitis C is a deadly, common, and often invisible result of America’s opioid crisis,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. Mermin urged testing people who inject drugs for hepatitis C infection to prevent new transmissions.
As the opioid epidemic has worsened, many state attorneys general have sued makers of these drugs as they investigate whether manufacturers and distributors engaged in unlawful marketing behavior.
Reuters, Inc.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Holiday e-book special


Healing the Brain

Stress, Trauma and LGBTQ


By David Balog

  • Books for parents, teachers, counselors, clergy and concerned individuals.
  • Presents easy-to-understand coverage of the brain's role in stress and health.
  • Enquire about workshops on each title
"An invaluable resource for those working in the trenches with LGBTQ youth in 
foster/adoptive care but equally important serves as a primer for those in the community
at large who are largely unaware of this subset in our population who are in 
such desperate need!" --Dr. Ray Werking, professor, GLSEN educator and host, 
WRPI Radio

Healing the Brain e-Books
$5.95 per e-book
$12.95 for all e-books set
Make donation at
  • Indicate book(s) on donation form.  
We will email you the link to the book(s) in easy-to-use PDF/flipbook format. 

Also available:
Alcohol and Drugs                   Concussions and CTE      Depression & Mood Disorders

Domestic Violence & TBI           Fetal Alcohol Disorders        Development

Print books also available on

A Thousand Moms
Building Community Support for LGBTQ Youth
2367 Curry Road
Schenectady NY  12303

518 322-0607

Holiday e-book special!

Healing the Brain  blogger-image-324137989.jpg

Stress, Trauma and LGBTQ Youth

By David Balog
  • Books for parents, teachers, counselors, clergy and concerned individuals.
  • Presents easy-to-understand coverage of the brain's role in stress and health.
  • Enquire about workshops on each title
"An invaluable resource for those working in the trenches with LGBTQ youth in foster/adoptive care but equally important serves as a primer for those in the community at large who are largely unaware of this subset in our population who are in such desperate need!" --Dr. Ray Werking, professor, GLSEN educator and host, WRPI Radio
"Provides comfort and learning to the reader. Flows easily from one topic to the next and knits tidbits of information together in a unifying mosaic. Easy to read. Difficult to put down." --Michael J. Colucciello, Jr., New York State Dept. of Mental Health researcher, retired.
Author David Balog has done an excellent job of creating a book for educators (or anyone working with youth) that explains the complicated workings of the brain in an easy to understand manner. Balog goes on to discuss various types of trauma and how the adolescent brain responds to trauma such as depression, stress, addiction, risk taking, PTSD, etc. I highly recommend this book!--Carol Dopp, M.Ed.
"David Balog understands the strain of alienation, so he tackles this subject with compassion and concern. Mr. Balog draws on his knowledge of brain science to give readers insight into what happens to people under tremendous stress, and he offers practical advice on how to help and cope."--Gary Cottle, author
"Wonderfully written by Mr. Balog. A book that can help medical professionals as well as the general public, Mr Balog has tackled a subject that is complex and he makes it quite approachable. It has added and enriched my own practice of medicine by making me more aware of issues not often discussed in medical circles.”

Healing the Brain e-Books
$5.95 per e-book
$12.95 for all e-books set
   Make donation at
Indicate book(s) on donation form.      


Print books also available on

Thursday, December 14, 2017

5 ways to reverse SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Seasonal Affective Disorder: What You Should Know

Woman sitting in front of a light box

The bright lights of the holiday season aren’t just for decoration; they can also help regulate your mood.

In late fall and winter, shorter daylight hours leave many people with little to no sun exposure, signaling the brain to create too much of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin.
This overproduction of melatonin leads to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a mood disorder that affects an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the population. 

SAD Differs from Depression

Major depression is a disease in which your brain’s pleasure responses are broken. You may have a loss of appetite, fatigue, trouble sleeping and feelings of hopelessness. Depressed people often have a harder time managing their symptoms in the winter. But when depressive symptoms are only affecting you in the winter, it’s considered seasonal affective disorder (SAD). 

SAD Affects Men and Women Equally

Historically, researchers have considered women to be more likely to experience seasonal depression. But psychiatrists are increasingly finding that’s not the case. “The classic crying and melancholic depression is more the norm of expression in women. But men express things differently, showing depression with more irritability, anger or frustration,” said Dr. Andrew Angelino, director of psychiatry at Howard County General Hospital.

Ways to Reverse SAD

If you can’t get outside during daylight hours, there are ways to help reverse your body’s creation of too much melatonin.
“If you find that you’re prone to getting the blahs in the winter months or you know you have depression and are taking your medicine, you can also get a light box,” says Dr. Angelino.
Absorbing natural, full-spectrum light regulates hormones in the brain, and helps keep your moods stabilize. In addition to obtaining a light box, Dr. Angelino recommends these five tips to help chase away the seasonal blues:
Drug abuse can follow addiction. Learn more.

    1. Keep your holiday expectations realistic. Don’t let your hopes for perfection spoil your holiday spirit. Learn how to embrace things as good enough, like food, company and gifts.
    2. Practice wellness. A daily routine of at least 7 hours of sleep, a 30-minute exercise routine and limiting your alcohol intake can go a long way in fighting the blues.
    3. Stand in the sun. Take a break from your desk. At least 15-30 minutes of sunlight, especially in the early morning, helps to regulate your internal clock.
    4. Cultivate some winter hobbies. The chilly weather may freeze your weekend gardening plans but it may be the best time to catch up on your reading list or tackle a new project in the house. Adjust your leisure activities to fit the seasons.
    5. See a doctor if natural interventions are not successful. If your symptoms are regularly interfering with your everyday life, make an appointment with your doctor. ---Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Healthy cell structure could stop Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and neurodegeneration worldwide. A major hallmark of the disease is the accumulation of toxic plaques in the brain, formed by the abnormal aggregation of a protein called beta-amyloid inside neurons.
Still without cure, Alzheimer's poses a significant burden on public health systems. Most treatments focus on reducing the formation of amyloid plaques, but these approaches have been inconclusive. As a result, scientists are now searching for alternative treatment strategies, one of which is to consider Alzheimer's as a metabolic disease.

Taking this line of thought, Johan Auwerx's lab at EPFL looked at mitochondria, which are the energy-producing powerhouses of cells, and thus central in metabolism. Using worms and mice as models, they discovered that boosting mitochondria defenses against a particular form of protein stress, enables them to not only protect themselves, but to also reduce the formation of amyloid plaques.
During normal aging and age-associated diseases such as Alzheimer's, cells face increasing damage and struggle to protect and replace dysfunctional mitochondria. Since mitochondria provide energy to brain cells, leaving them unprotected in Alzheimer's disease favors brain damage, giving rise to symptoms like memory loss over the years.
The scientists identified two mechanisms that control the quality of mitochondria: First, the "mitochondrial unfolded protein response" (UPRmt), which protects mitochondria from stress stimuli. Second, mitophagy, a process that recycles defective mitochondria. Both these mechanisms are the key to delaying or preventing excessive mitochondrial damage during disease.
While we have known for a while that mitochondria are dysfunctional in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, this is the first evidence that they actually try to fight the disease by boosting quality control pathways. "These defense and recycle pathways of the mitochondria are essential in organisms, from the worm C. elegans all the way to humans," says Vincenzo Sorrentino, first author of the paper. "So we decided to pharmacologically activate them."
The team started by testing well-established compounds, such as the antibiotic doxycycline and the vitamin nicotinamide riboside (NR), which can turn on the UPRmt and mitophagy defense systems in a worm model (C. elegans) of Alzheimer's disease. The health, performance and lifespan of worms exposed to the drugs increased remarkably compared with untreated worms. Plaque formation was also significantly reduced in the treated animals.
And most significantly, the scientists observed similar improvements when they turned on the same mitochondrial defense pathways in cultured human neuronal cells, using the same drugs.
The encouraging results led the researchers to test NR in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Just like C. elegans, the mice saw a significant improvement of mitochondrial function and a reduction in the number of amyloid plaques. But most importantly, the scientists observed a striking normalization of the cognitive function in the mice. This has tremendous implications from a clinical perspective.
According to Johan Auwerx, tackling Alzheimer's through mitochondria could make all the difference. "So far, Alzheimer's disease has been considered to be mostly the consequence of the accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain," he says. "We have shown that restoring mitochondrial health reduces plaque formation -- but, above all, it also improves brain function, which is the ultimate objective of all Alzheimer's researchers and patients."
The strategy provides a novel therapeutic approach to slow down the progression of neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease, and possibly even in other disorders such as Parkinson's disease, which is also characterized by profound mitochondrial and metabolic defects.
The approach remains to be tested in human patients. "By targeting mitochondria, NR and other molecules that stimulate their 'defense and recycle' systems could perhaps succeed where so many drugs, most of which aim to decrease amyloid plaque formation, have failed," says Vincenzo Sorrentino.
Story Source:

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Take the distracted driving quiz.

Learn about drugs and the brain.
  1. Of the top five causes of death for teens in the U.S., where do motor vehicle crashes belong on the list?
  2. For high school seniors, what’s more common: driving after using drugs, or driving drunk?
  3. Fill in the blank: ____ percent of all drivers aged 15 to 19 who were involved in fatal crashes were distracted (not focusing on the main task of driving) at the time of the crashes.
  4. Are teens more likely to take risks when they’re driving alone or when they have passengers in the car?
  5. True or false: Marijuana impairs a person’s ability to drive.
  6. The average car’s weight is closest to that of a:
    1. Tyrannosaurus rex
    2. Black bear
    3. Beluga whale
    4. None of the above
  7. If you text while you’re driving, how long on average do you take your eyes off the road while texting?
  1. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. Each year, enough teens die in car crashes to fill 50 school buses. 
  2. More high school seniors are now driving after using drugs than are driving after drinking. 
  3. Ten percent of all drivers aged 15 to 19 were distracted at the time they were involved in a fatal crash. 
  4. One study found that teens are more likely to take risks when driving with their friends in the car, even if their friends aren’t talking. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  5. True! Even a single marijuana cigarette can make it harder for a person to drive safely.
  6. The answer is c., a beluga whale. The average car or truck weighs about 4,000 pounds—even more than a beluga whale. Driving one is a big responsibility! 
  7. Almost five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When you’re driving at 55 miles per hour, that's enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.
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