Posts Tagged ‘ substance abuse ’

Pro-Marijuana Tweets Connecting with Kids Multiple Times Daily

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

As a growing number of states are legalizing marijuana or considering legislation to do so, pot’s public profile is on the rise–and so is its presence on Twitter and other social media sites.  A new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research has found that a number of those tweets are reaching young people each day, with hundreds of thousands of American youth getting pro-pot messages through their Twitter feeds multiple times a day.

The study, which was conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, followed a Twitter account, Weed Tweets@stillblazintho, which has 1 million followers.  Analyzing data over an 8-month period, during which time the group posted an average of 11 tweets a day, the study reported that 73 percent of the group’s followers were under age 19.

ScienceDaily has more:

“These are risky ages when young people often begin experimentation with drugs,” explained [principal investigator Patricia A.] Cavazos-Rehg, an assistant professor of psychiatry. “It’s an age when people are impressionable and when substance-use behaviors can transition into addiction. In other words, it’s a very risky time of life for people to be receiving messages like these.”

Cavazos-Rehg said it isn’t possible from this study to “connect the dots” between positive marijuana tweets and actual drug use, but she cites previous research linking substance use to messages from television and billboards. She suggested this also may apply to social media.

“Studies looking at media messages on traditional outlets like television, radio, billboards and magazines have shown that media messages can influence substance use and attitudes about substance use,” she said. “It’s likely a young person’s attitudes and behaviors may be influenced when he or she is receiving daily, ongoing messages of this sort.”

The researchers also learned that the Twitter account they tracked reached a high number of African-Americans and Hispanics compared with Caucasians. Almost 43 percent were African-American, and nearly 12 percent were Hispanic. In fact, among Hispanics, Weed Tweets ranked in the top 30 percent of all Twitter accounts followed.

“It was surprising to see that members of these minority groups were so much more likely than Caucasians to be receiving these messages,” Cavazos-Rehg said, adding that there is particular concern about African-Americans because their rates of marijuana abuse and dependence are about twice as high as the rate in Caucasians and Hispanics.

The findings point to the need for a discussion about the pro-drug messages young people receive, Cavazos-Rehg said.

Image: Tween holding a tablet, via Shutterstock

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Early Behavior Interventions May Prevent Later Substance Abuse

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Kindergarteners who exhibit disruptive behaviors in school and receive interventions to help correct the issues may face a lower risk of abusing substances like drugs and alcohol during adolescence, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.  More from

Alcohol and drug use are highly prevalent and problematic among young people, and the link between childhood behaviour problems and adolescent substance misuse is well-recognised. In this study, Canadian researchers set out to examine whether a two-year prevention programme in childhood could stop substance misuse problems in later life.

172 boys with disruptive behaviour participated in the study. They all came from low socio-economic backgrounds, and were a subsample from the Montreal Longitudinal and Experimental Study of Low SES boys, a kindergarten cohort which was initiated in 1984.

46 boys and their parents took part in the two-year intervention programme, when they were aged between 7 and 9 years old. The programme included social skills training for the boys at school, to help promote self-control and reduce their impulsivity and antisocial behaviour, as well as parent training to help parents recognise problematic behaviours in their boys, set clear objectives and reinforce appropriate behaviours. A further 42 boys received no intervention and acted as the control group.

The remaining 84 boys were assigned to an intensive observation group, which differed from the controls in that their families were visited in their homes by researchers, attended a half-day laboratory testing session, and were observed at school. All the boys were followed up until the age of 17, to assess their use of drugs and alcohol.

The researchers found that levels of drug and alcohol use across adolescence were lower in those boys who received the intervention. The reduction in substance use continued through the boys’ early adolescence right up to the end of their time at high school.

Researcher Natalie Castellanos-Ryan, of the Department of Psychiatry at Université de Montréal and Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Sainte Justine, Canada, said: “Our study shows that an two-year intervention aimed at key risk factors in disruptive kindergarten boys from low socioeconomic environments can effectively reduce substance use behaviours in adolescence — not only in early adolescence but up to the end of high school, eight years post-intervention. This finding is noteworthy because the effects are stronger and longer-lasting than for most substance use interventions that have been studied before.”

Image: Boy with adult, via Shutterstock

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Smoking During Pregnancy Raises Kids’ Substance Abuse Risk

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Women who smoke while pregnant may be raising the chance that their children will develop substance abuse problems, ADHD, and risky behaviors like reckless driving later in life, a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry has found.  More from

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 13% of women say they smoked during the last three months of their pregnancy, despite studies that have correlated lighting up with an increased risk of birth defects and heart trouble for their children. Now, a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry adds to that list of risks, showing that exposure to smoke in utero may interfere with proper development of the baby’s reward processing system in the brain.

Researchers from Technische Universität Dresden in Germany compared 177 teens between the ages 13 to 15 who had been exposed to cigarettes prenatally to 177 teens whose mothers did not smoke while expecting. To test how the teens reacted to being presented with a reward — which simulated the need to satisfy an addiction — the participants were placed in a functional MRI (fMRI) scan to record their brain activity while they performed specific computer-based tasks. The teens were asked to press a button indicating on which side of the screen a figure popped up, and they were told there would be a reward if they were able to press the correct button fast enough. The scientists also varied the time that the targets appeared on the screen in order to evaluate how quickly the teens processed the anticipated task. Based on previous work with animals that suggested that activity in a specific area of the brain, the ventral striatum, was depressed by nicotine, the researchers focused their attention on this region of the adolescents’ brains.

Indeed, they saw less activity in this area of the brain among the teens whose were exposed to smoke in the womb compared to those who were not, which resulted in longer times to respond to the target. Similar inhibited responses may be behind some addictions, since muted activity of the brain chemicals that signal satisfaction may prompt people to continue to seek this “high” and become dependent on addictive substances or behaviors. “The weaker responsivity of the ventral striatum to regard anticipation in prenatally exposed adolescents may represent a risk factor for substance use and development of addiction later in life. This result highlights the need for education and preventive measures to reduce smoking during pregnancy,” the study authors wrote.

Image: Pregnant woman smoking, via Shutterstock

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Pediatricians Urged to Watch for ‘Toxic Stress’ in Kids

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement this week urging pediatricians to ask questions–and listen carefully–to identify warning signs that children are suffering under “toxic stress,” a chronic stress condition that can have serious health implications later in life.

Toxic stress is different from everyday stress, as it is the result of prolonged exposure to intensely difficult situations, such as abusive or neglectful family relationships, poverty, or parental substance abuse or mental illness.  Health conditions including mental illness, obesity, diabetes and heart disease are linked to toxic stress.

The Boston Globe’s child development blogger, Dr. Claudia M. Gold, argues that the new statement should be seen as a call to respect–both with time and wages–the work of primary care physicians, particularly pediatricians, as they can be the first line of defense in identifying and easing toxic stress:

As a culture we need to value the primary care clinician, not only in the form of payment equal to the more lucrative subspecialties, but in the form of recognizing the role of relationships in healing. It makes sense that if we are recognizing the importance of family relationships in preventing poor health outcomes, that we should recognize the importance of doctor-patient relationships in supporting these families.

When primary care clinicians take time to carefully listen to stressed parents, parents feel supported in their efforts to carefully listen to their children, thus promoting healthy development. In turn, our culture needs to support and value primary care clinicians ( and its not only pediatricians, the subject of this policy statement, but all those entrusted with primary care of children.)

Image: Upset child, via Shutterstock.

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