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Addiction Archive

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Could lack of sleep trigger a food “addiction”?

Published April 6, 2016

Many people cite a lack of “motivation” or “willpower” as the reason that overweight people can’t control their eating habits. But a wealth of evidence has come to light that obesity is linked to insufficient sleep. Most recently, an experimental study has found that restricted sleep can increase the levels of brain chemicals that make eating pleasurable. Could it be that insufficient sleep makes the brain addicted to the act of eating?

A monthly shot for opioid addiction: An option for some

Published April 1, 2016

Several long-term treatments can help people overcome opioid addiction. One of them, naltrexone, may help people who have trouble sticking with taking a pill every day. Naltrexone can be offered as a monthly injection called Vivitrol, which has been shown to help more people stay on treatment as compared to the pill form. However, it’s not for everyone, and like all treatments for opioid addiction, it must be used very carefully.

We should be ashamed if we don’t pass Tobacco 21 laws

Published March 29, 2016

Ninety percent of smokers had their first cigarette before turning 18. A movement to raise the legal age to buy tobacco in the United States to 21 hopes that making it more difficult for young people to start smoking may lead to a healthier population overall.

Is addiction a “brain disease”?

Published March 11, 2016

A look into the “brain science” behind substance use disorders highlights the fact that for many people with addictions, “just say no” just doesn’t work. The biological underpinnings of addiction teach the brain to react unusually strongly if deprived of drugs, which can make recovering from an addiction incredibly difficult. Fortunately, it’s possible to teach the brain to rediscover healthier sources of joy and reward.

Prescription pain pills: Worth the risks?

Updated February 19, 2016

Thorough risk assessment and family assistance may help you take them more safely.

Prescription pain pills such as oxycodone (Oxycontin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin) are in a class of drugs known as opioids. They're typically used to treat severe pain after surgery, and sometimes to treat chronic pain. But these drugs come with many risks, including addiction. Does that put you at risk if you take opioids? "You have to look at it on a case-by-case basis," says Dr. Hilary Connery, an addiction psychiatrist at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital.

Risks and benefits

Opioids are powerful painkillers that block messages of pain to the brain and decrease the body's perception of discomfort. They may also create a feeling of euphoria. Opioids are especially useful in the short term, such as the initial weeks following joint replacement. Common side effects include nausea, itching, drowsiness, or constipation.

Why are doctors writing opioid prescriptions — even after an overdose?

Published January 28, 2016

A recent study of nearly 3,000 patients who had an overdose during long-term opioid treatment found that more than 90% of these patients continued to receive opioids — even after their overdose. Poor communication between emergency rooms and prescribing doctors is likely the culprit. What’s more, doctors receive little training in recognizing patients at high risk for overdose, or in treating addiction when they do spot it. An important strategy to address the current opioid crisis is to improve how doctors are educated about opioids.

Prescription drug use continues to increase, survey shows

Updated January 16, 2016

Research we're watching

A nationwide survey conducted by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health indicates that prescription drug use rose from 51% of U.S. adults in the 1999–2000 calendar year to 59% in 2011–2012. In 2012, women were taking more prescription medications than men, with 65% taking at least one drug and 16% taking more than five.

Although the use of postmenopausal hormones declined, women's prescriptions for blood pressure medication, cholesterol-lowering drugs, antidepressants, and diabetes medications rose significantly. The study was published in the Nov. 3, 2015, issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

The “right” goal when managing pain

Published December 18, 2015

When it comes to pain management, focusing only on reducing the intensity of pain may lead to treatments that do as much harm as good. Ideally, pain-management plans should be tailored to each patient and include a range of therapies that not only reduce pain but also help improve pain-related quality-of-life problems.

Study suggests scant increased risk of breast cancer from alcohol intake

Updated December 12, 2015

Research we're watching

A study published Oct. 15, 2015, in the International Journal of Cancer adds to evidence that the risk of breast cancer increases—but not very much—with every drink a woman takes. Researchers from five Spanish universities followed 334,850 women, ages 35 to 70, from 10 European countries. During an 11-year period, 11,576 were diagnosed with breast cancer.

When the researchers compared alcohol intake among women who developed breast cancer and those who didn't, they found women who averaged two drinks a day had a 4% higher risk than those who limited their consumption to one daily drink. Those who averaged three drinks a day had a 6% higher breast cancer risk.

The problem with prescription painkillers

Published October 26, 2015

Opioids are effective pain relievers. But sometimes people can develop a tolerance to these drugs, requiring increasingly higher doses of medication to achieve the same pain relief. And physical dependence — withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped — is also common. The increased availability of these drugs has put many people at risk for addiction, overdose, and even death.

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