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Impacts of Drugs on Neurotransmission

March 2017

Drugs can alter the way people think, feel, and behave by disrupting neurotransmission, the process of communication between brain cells. This article discusses the central importance of studying drugs’ effects on neurotransmission and describes some of the most common experimental methods used in this research. 

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Why Are Our Brains So Big and Powerful?

March 2017

Research suggests that unique patterns of gene regulation have contributed to the differences in brain size and capacity that distinguish humans from other animals.

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Promising Advances in the Search for Safer Opioids

February 2017

New studies show that two novel compounds powerfully suppressed animals’ pain responses, while producing little or none of the respiratory depression and liability for misuse and abuse associated with morphine and other typical opioids.

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Prevention Program Reduces Substance Use By Participants' Friends

January 2017

The Strengthening Families Program for Youth 10-14 (SFP10-14), an evidence-based intervention that reduces teen substance use, also reduced participants’ friends’ substance use. Two factors that accounted for the nonparticipants’ reductions were less time spent by nonparticipants with their participating friends without adult supervision and improvements in nonparticipants’ attitudes toward substance use. The findings suggest that researchers should consider the potential for diffusion of benefits in designing and implementing prevention programs.

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Nonmedical Treatment for Cocaine Addiction Shows Promise in Pilot Trial

November 2016

Patients who received transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) were more likely to abstain from cocaine than patients who received medications for symptoms associated with abstinence. Researchers concluded that TMS appears to be safe and its efficacy as a treatment for cocaine addiction deserves to be evaluated in a larger clinical trial.

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Messages Shore Up Support for Making Life-Saving Anti-Overdose Medication Widely Available

October 2016

Public health messages can increase public approval for making naloxone legally available to friends and relatives of opioid users to administer if an overdose occurs.

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Why Do People Lose Control Over Their Cocaine Use?

September 2016

Researchers monitored the activity of two types of neurons in mice: “urge” neurons, which promote feelings of reward and repeating behaviors that have produced rewards, and “control” neurons, which dampen those feelings and inhibit behavior.

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Quinine as a Tracer for Medication Adherence

September 2016

Patients who don’t take their medications as prescribed often put themselves at risk for problems including misdiagnoses, complications, and death. A study suggests that adding low doses of quinine to patients’ medications could provide an inexpensive, reliable, and safe method of monitoring whether patients are taking their medications as directed.

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A Case for Studying Brain Asymmetry in Drug Use

September 2016

A new study proposes that research into the discrete roles played by the brain’s two hemispheres could yield important and actionable insights into drug use and addiction. Evidence indicates that two risk factors for substance use, impulsivity and craving, primarily reflect activity in the right and left hemispheres, respectively.

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Regular Marijuana Use Is Associated With Differences in Brain Gray Matter and Connectivity

September 2016

A brain imaging study strongly suggests that regular users of marijuana have smaller orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) volumes. Such a deficit could make it more difficult to change counterproductive behaviors, including drug use.

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