Drug Abuse BLOG

An important addiction conference wrapped up recently on the west coast, right here in San Diego.

The 75th Annual Meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence ran June 15 - 20 at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel in San Diego and thanks to some key tweeters, I was able to learn quite a bit about what went on at the conference.

Monitoring the future

For example, Alexandre Laudet (@AlexandreLaudet), an addiction recovery scientist, who herself presented Nationwide survey of collegiate recovery programs: Is there a single model?, was tweeting from the presentation of Dr. Nora Volkow, who is with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (@NIDAnews) and who presented the Report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Thanks to some pics Laudet tweeted, I was able to see that part of Volkow’s presentation included the results from 2012 Monitoring the Future Study, which showed the prevalence of past year drug use among Grade 12 students in the USA by showing the percentage of students who have tried or used each listed drug. The Grade 12 study sample size was approximately 14,300 students from almost 400 schools across the country.

A quick rundown of the list (all medicine listed is for non-medicinal use):

  1. Marijuana/hashish - 36.4%
  2. Small cigars - 19.9%
  3. Hookah - 18.3%
  4. Synthetic marijuana - 11.3%
  5. Snus (a type of tobacco similar to snuff) - 7.9%
  6. Narcotics (other than heroin) - 7.9%
  7. Amphetamines - 7.9%
  8. Adderall - 7.9%
  9. Vicodin - 7.5%
  10. Cough medicine - 5.6%
  11. Tranquilizers - 5.3%
  12. Hallucinogens - 4.8%
  13. Sedatives - 4.5%
  14. Salvia - 4.4%
  15. OxyContin - 4.3%
  16. Hallucinogens other than LSD - 4%
  17. MDMA (Ecstacy) - 3.8%
  18. Inhalants - 2.9%
  19. Cocaine in any form - 2.7%
  20. Ritalin - 2.6%
  21. LSD - 2.4%

Another slide Dr. Volkow used shows that the number of people being prescribed opiate-based painkillers has gone up by more than five times within the past decade, drug overdose deaths have more than tripled in the last two decades and 100 people die of a drug overdose in the US every day.

Dr. Volkow also talked about how marijuana use among adolescents has shown that long-term use results in lower IQ in adulthood, according to the Dunedin Longitudinal Prospective Study, which tested the IQ and tracked the marijuana usage of over 1,000 people born in 1972/73 throughout their lives into adulthood.

Risky drug users

Laudet also sent out a couple of tweets that appeared to be from the workshop Approaches for screening and treating risky drug-using patients in community health centers.

“Attending a workshop on approaches to screening and brief Intervention for risky drug use in community health settings,” she tweeted, along with; “Much more risky than dependent drug users but they don't get treatment so screening risky users especially important.”

Hepatitis C

Another active tweeter was Erin Winstanley (@AODtxWorks), who is the Dissemination Director for the Ohio Valley Node of the NIDA Clinical Trials Network.

From the symposium New Science and Tools to Improve the Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment of Hepatitis C Virus and its Sequelae, Winstanley tweeted this tidbit from Dr. Alain Litwin’s presentation, Intensive hepatitis C treatment; “Approx. 60% of Hep C cases in the U.S. are Intravenous Drug Users & only 1-6% access treatment (Dr. Litwin).”

She also tweeted from Dr. Brian Edlin’s presentation Integrated vs. separate care for hepatitis C, substance abuse, and HIV prevention; “Younger Intravenous Drug Users, within the 1st 6 months of their IV drug use, are at a particularly high risk of hep c (Dr. Edlin).”

Public policy

Winstanley also tweeted up a storm from the Public Policy Forum, which featured speakers William L. Dewey from Virginia Commonwealth University; Ed Long, Vice-President of Van Scoyoc Associates; and Rand Corporation’s Beau Kilmer and Rosalie Pacula.

Some of Winstanley’s tweets from that session attributed to Dr. Kilmer; 

“Marijuana policy elements: 1) production, 2) profit, 3) promotion, 4) prevention, 5) potency, 6) price & 7) permanency (Dr. Kilmer).”

“Mexican marijuana is 4-8%THC whereas marijuana from dispensaries is 10-24% THC (Dr. Kilmer).”

“‘Dabbing’ uses hash oil wax to maximize the potency of THC (Dr. Kilmer).”

“O-Pen is like an e-cigarette for marijuana which vaporizes hash oil (Dr. Kilmer).”

And; “Marijuana legalization is likely to reduce production costs (Dr. Kilmer).”

Sounds like Dr. Kilmer’s talk covered a lot. Some of Winstanley’s other tweets about marijuana from that session included;

“Marijuana policy: it is important to understand the difference between decriminalization versus legalization.”

“Many people think that marijuana was legalized in the Netherlands which is not true, whereas it has been legalized in CO & WA.”

“The world is watching the natural experiment of legalization in Colorado & Washington. What are we going to learn?”

“Can regulatory/taxation policies that reduce the harm of alcohol be applied to marijuana in states with legalization? (Dr. Pacula).”

“In states where marijuana has been legalized, should limits be set on the potency of marijuana?”

“Marijuana advertising & products targeting youth ("Pot Tarts", "Stoney Ranchers") could be regulated by policy.”

All very thought-provoking tweets coming from an obviously thought-provoking public policy discussion.

That makes me wonder if legislators in Colorado and Washington are feeling any pressure with hashing out these new policies seeing as how they might be making a bit of a blueprint for not only other states in this country but other countries, as well.

NIDA funding

And also stemming from the Public Policy Forum was a discussion about NIDA funding shrinking. As tweeted by Winstanley;

“Current debt reduction plan in the house would mean a 26% reduction in NIDA's 2014 budget.”

“‘Tell Congress what the impact of the budget cuts means for addiction science’ -Dr. Long”

“Feeling the impact of sequestration? There has been a 13.7% reduction in extramural competing NIDA grants in 2013.”

“Are you going to be in DC on July 10th? Think about attending the Friends of NIDA briefing on prescription drugs.”

“Friends of NIDA can help you get an appointment with your representatives to communicate the value of addiction science.”

“Friends of NIDA has had 18 educational briefings on Capitol Hill over the past 10 years.”

Some skepticism

Not many events I cover via Twitter have dissenting voices, but this one did in the form of a tweeter who goes by the entertaining moniker of Drug Monkey (@drugmonkeyblog), who was a bit skeptical of some of the things heard (and who also does run a legitimate blog about the medical research field.)

For example, from the aforementioned Dr. Volkow’s presentation; “Volkow mentioned the tragedy of lab closures twice already today. In the context of acting concerned about new initiative whining from peons.”

And he/she also questioned the potency claim from Dr. Kilmer’s presentation with this retweet; “Hmm. seems broad brush RT @AODtxWorks: Mexican marijuana is 4-8%THC whereas marijuana from dispensaries is 10-24% THC (Dr. Kilmer)”

And I’m not sure to which presentation he/she was referring to, but apparently, there was some discussion of mindfulness at the conference. Mindfulness is often associated with spirituality and living in the moment.

“What is this ‘mindfulness’ stuff? I came here for the ketamine therapeutic data homes!” the person who tweets as Drug Monkey tweeted, along with; “Getting back to this ‘mindfulness’ bullshitting, I wonder just what these neoLearyans think is the end game here?”

I’m going to go ahead and make an educated guess that “neoLearyans” is a reference to Dr. Timothy Leary, the psychologist who was famous in the 1960s for his experiments with and advocacy of LSD and other psychedelic drugs, who was also big into spirituality.

Perhaps these tweets were a reaction to some of the presentations that included talk about hallucinogens (just a guess).

Hallucinogens as treatment

From the symposium New Directions in the Pharmacological Facilitation of Psychotherapy for Drug Dependence, Winstanley tweeted;

“Human lab study found that psilocybin is associated with a mystical experience that is dose-dependent & sustained (Dr. Griffiths)”

Dr. Roland Griffiths, with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, presented Psilocybin and quantum change experiences: Implications for treatment of drug dependence.

Psilocybin, by the way, is the naturally occurring psychedelic compound in ‘magic mushrooms.’

Winstanley also tweeted from that same symposium; “The effects of hallucinogens are dependent on dose, set & setting (Dr. Bogenschutz),” and “Hallucinogen use rarely results in addiction, but may be misused (Dr. Bogenschultz).”

Dr. Michael Bogenschutz, with the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, presented  Psilocybin-facilitated treatment of alcohol dependence.

Drug and alcohol addiction treatment seems to be taking a turn for the trippy, but it’s also taking a turn for the technological.

Technology’s role in treatment

Tweeting from the cheekily titled symposium “Tweetment” in the 21st Century was Dr. Gloria Miele (@GloriaMiele), who tweeted the following;

“How is place related to drug craving? Use tech to monitor craving in the moment (Harrell)."

Dr. Paul Harrell with the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health presented Place and drug craving: An Ecological Momentary Assessment study, which found, among other things, that addicts tend to get stronger cravings when they are near places where they purchase drugs rather than at home or work.

Miele also tweeted this from Dr. Jan Copeland with the National Cannabis Prevention and
Information Centre at the University of New South Wales;

“Screenshots of app for cannabis-related problems (Copeland) and the very telling tidbit, “Only 2 apps to help cannabis users change but over 100 to tell you how to grow /use #cpdd via J Copeland,” and, also from that presentation, “Using smartphone apps to increase availability of prescriptions and education and reduce stigma for cannabis use #cpdd.”

Boys are trouble

Just a couple more tweets that I found interesting.

From Dr. Adi Jaffe (@LADocJ); “Approximately 80% of behavioral disinhibition is genetically determined!!! #cpdd http://ow.ly/i/2oRQw,” and “Boys ‘disposed of’ to making riskier and less cautious choices because of neurobiological differences - #cpdd.”

There were many many other presentations on drug and alcohol addiction at this important event and, as always, this is just a snippet of the Twitter activity that can be found at the #CPDD hashtag. For more information, visit the hashtag or the College on Problems of Drug Dependence website.