Daughters of Heroin-Addicts more Resilient against
Having a parent addicted to heroin and being exposed to substance abuse and its effects can
be detrimental to children. But a new study found that “girls are four times more resilient than
boys” in overcoming the adverse events that are caused by exposure to heroin addiction in their
Adverse events refer to having a parent that is addicted to heroin, the occurrence of mental
illness in the family, domestic violence, a parent getting incarcerated or dying. The study found
that 70 percent of its young respondents have been exposed to at least one of these events.
Only three percent of the subjects reported to not experiencing any of these events aside from
having a parent or guardian dependent on opiates.
“These are very high-risk kids with at least one parent who is addicted to heroin,” says research
scientist Martie Skinner of the University of Washington’s Social Development Group. Skinner is
the lead author of the said study and explains resilience as the child’s ability to reach adulthood
without substance abuse or being in the wrong side of the law as well as being able to work or
stay in school just like any normal individual would. While these sound like ordinary
expectations, Skinner and his team found that only 30 adults of the 125 subjects were able to
She noted that females appeared to be more resilient mainly due to the fact that men were more
likely to face criminal charges.
The study used data collected from young adults who belonged to families recruited through
Seattle-based methadone clinics. They were first interviewed between 1991 and 1993 and then
again in 2005 and 2006.
Factors that can promote or interfere with a child’s resiliency against detrimental events
associated with drug abuse where also identified. Those who exhibited lower childhood scores
on certain behaviors such as being fearful, nervous or depressed as well as those that didn’t
exhibit pronounced characteristics such as being temperamental or cruel were more likely to be
able to overcome the lure of substance abuse as young adults.
According to Skinner, the study serves to emphasize just how vulnerable children can be. “It
also indicates that there are early warning signs, and if children get the attention they need to
meet early problems, it can reduce the burden on society later on in caring for them.”
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Marijuana Use a Risk Factor for Testicular Cancer
According to a recent study by researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research
Center, frequent or long-term use of marijuana can increase the risk of developing testicular
cancer in its most aggressive form. The findings of the research were published in this month’s
issue of the journal Cancer.
The study found that marijuana smoking increases the risk of testicular cancer by 70 percent. It
was more pronounced among those who used cannabis at least once weekly or those who have
been exposed to the substance since their adolescent years. The results of the study also
suggest “that the association with marijuana use might be limited to nonseminoma, a
fast-growing testicular malignancy.” The cancer is known to strike at an early age – usually
between the ages of 20 and 35 – and also accounts for at least 40 percent of all cases of this
type of cancer.
According to lead author and epidemiologist Stephen M. Schwartz, MPH, PhD of the Public
Health Sciences Division of the Hutchinson Center, while this study is not the first to suggest
that environmental factors can affect risk of testicular cancer, it is the first one that actually
focused on marijuana use.
Risk factors for this cancer include family history, abnormal testicular development and
undescended testes. Previous research suggest that the condition may begin in the womb and
later manifests during adolescence and adulthood as the fetal germ cells are exposed to sex
hormones which can make them cancerous.
“Just as the changing hormonal environment of adolescence and adulthood can trigger
undifferentiated fetal germ cells to become cancerous, it has been suggested that puberty is a
‘window of opportunity’ during which lifestyle and environmental factors also can increase the
risk of testicular cancer,” says senior author Janet Daling, PhD, another epidemiologist from the
same division. “This is consistent with the study’s findings that the elevated risk of
nonseminoma-type testicular cancer in particular was associated with marijuana use prior to
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Proper Parenting Can Neutralize Genetic
Predisposition for Substance Abuse
According to a recent study by scientists from the University of Georgia, proper parenting can
help neutralize a particular genetic risk that makes a young individual more likely to use drugs or
alcohol. The findings of the said research were published in this month’s issue of the Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology. This is the first study that examines a group of young
individuals over time to find out the how the combination of the genetic risk factor with a child’s
environment would influence his behavior.
“We found that involved and supportive parenting can completely override the effects of
a genetic risk for substance abuse,” says co-author Gene Brody of the UGA College of
Family and Consumer Sciences. “It is a very encouraging finding that shows the power of
Brody and his team focused on the gene, 5HTT, which is associated with the transport of
serotonin, a brain chemical. Most people have two copies of the gene’s longer version. Those
who have one or two of the shorter one have been found to be more likely to consume alcohol
and drugs according to studies. These individuals are also at a higher risk of engaging in
The study was composed of an interview with 253 African-American families living in rural
Georgia. The researchers also collected saliva samples from the parents and youth for genetic
testing. Among those found with two copies of the long gene, the use of substances was found
to be low among youth aged 11 years old but the rate increased as they grew older. “By age 14,
21 percent of the youth had smoked cigarettes, 42 percent had used alcohol, five percent drank
heavily and five percent had used marijuana.”
For those with the genetic risk factor, on the other hand, the young individuals who did not
receive sufficient levels of supportive parenting “increased their substance use at rate three
times higher than youth with high levels of parental support.”
According to co-author Research professor Steven Beach of the UGA Institute for Behavioral
Research, the effect of the genetic risk factors among children who are closely supervised by
their parents was next to none. “With this study and previous studies looking at environmental
risk factors such as poverty, we’re finding that in many cases, the best way to help children is to
help families become more resilient.”
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Drug effects greater among mental ill individuals
Living with a mental illness is in itself a very great burden and it is burden to which the findings
of a new study from the University of Montreal add another weight. According to Dr. Stephane
Potvin of the said university, narcotics affects brains of the mentally ill in a more serious
manner than they do the brains of people without psychiatric disorders.
In his study, Dr. Potvin found that around 33 to 50% of patients treated for psychiatric problems
are also suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. He further noted that mentally ill individuals
are more susceptible to the effects of drugs, which is why they tend to get addicted more easily.
Drug use, he added, can also aggravate the symptoms of most mental diseases. “The odds that
a mental disorder manifests itself in an individual can increase if he or she consumes drugs.”
Potvin revealed the effect of narcotics is greatest among people suffering from schizophrenia
and similar problems where the incidence of drug addiction among such patients about 50%.
This, the doctor noted, is very alarming because drug use can lead to brain deterioration in
people with mental disorders. Potvin’s study showed the how the brain’s pleasure/reward
center, deteriorates in drug-using schizophrenic individuals and how the same region was not
affected among patients who did not use drugs.
This brain anomaly, the doctor noted, can be seen from two sides. It is one possible
explanation to why people with schizophrenia are more vulnerable to the effects of drugs and
alternatively, it is can be a proof that drug use changes brain structures.
The doctor also clarified that the relationship between schizophrenia and drug abuse is not very
clear. “But drug use is known to be a risk factor for those suffering from schizophrenia,” he
added. “Not everyone who smokes a joint will become schizophrenic. Many people smoke pot
without suffering psychosis. But a schizophrenic who has one joint or even one puff, that’s
enough to send them to the ER.”
Based from the results of his study, Dr. Potvin is advocating more support to be given to people
with co-occurring drug addiction problem and mental illnesses. At present, a lot of individuals
with co-occurring disorders do not receive effective treatment because there are few drug and
alcohol addiction treatment centers who offer an integrated program for co-occurring disorders.
Miramar Recovery Center is one the few rehabilitation facilities who offer comprehensive
treatment programs for people suffering from co-occurring disorders. Along with holistic drug
and alcohol addiction treatment program, we also have a special treatment plan for drug
dependents suffering from psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and others.
Clinicians Implement New Opioid Prescription
A panel composed of experts from the American Academy of Pain Medicine and the
American Pain Society came out with a new set of guidelines to assist doctors with regards to
the prescription of potent pain medications for management of chronic pain unrelated to cancer.
The said clinical practice guidelines are the first of their kind as they have been created based
on comprehensive studies. The guidelines are currently published in The Journal of Pain.
The clinical practice guideline was a product of collaboration between Oregon Health & Science
University’s Evidence-based Practice Center and the APS with the AAPM over the past two
years. The said organizations went through over 8,000 unpublished studies and published
abstracts to find more clinical evidence that will work as basis for these recommendations.
The guidelines were aimed at addressing the various issues that clinicians are faced with when
it comes to prescribing opioids for chronic pain, says Roger Chou, MD of the American Pain
Society Clinical Practice Guidelines Program. Chou is the director and principal investigator of
the project and is a scientific director at the EPC.
“A key part of this process was performing a comprehensive literature review to inform the
recommendations – though an important take home message is that even though the
recommendations represent the best judgment of the panel based on currently available
literature, there is still a lot of research that needs to be done.”
The panel concluded that, “opioid pain medications are safe and effective for carefully
selected, well-monitored patients with chronic non-cancer pain.”This gave rise to 25
recommendations that gained the unanimous consent of most of the panel’s members.
The practice of prescribing opioids for pain management has become increasingly prevalent as
many clinicians have already accepted their effectiveness. The set of recommendations worked
to remind everyone that, while opioids are indeed effective, there are still looming threats of
abuse and addiction that should be addressed in relation to the practice.
The panel encourages clinicians to continuously monitor patients under opioid medication in
terms of functioning, behavior and pain intensity. Drug screens should be conducted regularly to
identify any warning signs of aberrant drug behaviors.
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