Heroin now kills more people than guns.

Heroin now kills more people than guns: Drugs overdoses claimed 50,000 lives in the US last year

  • The number of heroin deaths rose 23% to 12,989, more than gun homicides
  • Fentanyl – a synthetic opiate – claimed 16,000 lives, equivalent to 44 per day
  • Heroin claimed the life of Hollywood actor Philip Seymour Hoffman in 2014 
  • But the majority of those killed are ordinary people in smalltown America

More than 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, the highest figure ever.

The tally has been pushed to new heights by soaring abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers, especially fentanyl.

Heroin deaths rose 23 per cent in a year, to 12,989, slightly higher than the number of gun homicides, according to government data released yesterday.

The total number of gun deaths – which included suicides and accidents – rose seven per cent to 36,252.

It comes only days after another report which showed fentanyl, a synthetic opiate which is 40 times stronger than heroin, has become the largest drug threat to the United States, and causes 44 deaths every day.

Which is more deadly? A gun is pictured next to 154 pounds of heroin worth $50million which were recovered by police in New York last year. More people died from heroin overdoses than by gunshot wounds last year

Which is more deadly? A gun is pictured next to 154 pounds of heroin worth $50million which were recovered by police in New York last year. More people died from heroin overdoses than by gunshot wounds last year

Deaths from fentanyl rose 73 per cent to 9,580.

Overdoses – often accidental – of Oxycontin and Vicodin killed 17,536, an increase of four per cent.

‘I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this. Certainly not in modern times,’ said Robert Anderson, who oversees death statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In October this year Erika Hurt was pictured in the driver's seat of her car, with a syringe hanging out of her arm, as her 10-month-old son cried in the back seat. She recovered and was later arrested

In October this year Erika Hurt was pictured in the driver’s seat of her car, with a syringe hanging out of her arm, as her 10-month-old son cried in the back seat. She recovered and was later arrested

The ‘war on drugs’ was a term coined by the press in 1971 after President Richard Nixon held a press conference to publicize the growing menace of narcotics flooding the country.

In July 1973 the Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA) was set up in a bid to combat drug smugglers and pushers.

In the 1980s crack – a highly addictive form of cocaine – created a new generation of drug addicts but deaths began to fall in the 1990s.

But they have been rising steadily since 2001 and heroin in particular has seen a massive spike in the last six years.

In February 2014 Hollywood actor Philip Seymour Hoffman (left) died of a heroin overdose at his apartment in Manhattan. But most drug deaths are low profile and rarely make the news

In February 2014 heroin claimed the life of Hollywood actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who overdosed in the bathroom of his apartment in Manhattan.

But the vast majority of those being killed by heroin and fentanyl are ordinary people in smalltown America.

Statista.com compiled a table comparing drug deaths state by state and it showed that West Virginia was the drug death capital of America with 32.4 per 100,000 people, almost three times the national average. Another Appalachian state, Kentucky, was third on the list.

But opiates are ravaging the entire country and almost every day there are stories and photographs of horrific incidents.

Last week Amanda Riley, (left), allegedly injected herself with heroin in the bathroom of a gas station in Sarasota, Florida as a four-year-old child watched on. She survived

Last Friday Amanda Riley, 30, allegedly overdosed on heroin in the bathroom of a gas station in Sarasota, Florida, while a four-year-old child watched. She survived and has since been charged with child neglect.

In September this year a photograph showing a couple unconscious in the front of their car, while their child sat in the back, went viral with people suggesting it looked like something from a zombie film.

The ‘zombies’ were Rhonda Pasek – the boy’s grandmother – and her boyfriend James Acord, who were off their heads on heroin. The pair, from East Liverpool, Ohio, have since been sentenced to jail time.

And in October a 25-year-old woman, Erika Hurt, was pictured lying in the driver’s seat of her car with a syringe hanging out of her arm. Her 10-month-old son was crying in the backseat.

In the same month more than a million people watched a video posted on Facebook in Memphis, Tennessee, of a couple collapsed in the street after taking heroin.

In June 1971 President Richard Nixon (pictured) announced that narcotics had become 'enemy number one' in the United States. It was the start of the 'war on drugs'

In June 1971 President Richard Nixon (pictured) announced that narcotics had become ‘enemy number one’ in the United States. It was the start of the ‘war on drugs’

The new numbers were part of the agency’s annual tally of deaths and death rates in 2015.

Overall, overdose deaths rose 11 per cent last year, to 52,404.

By comparison, the number of people who died in car crashes was 37,757, an increase of 12 per cent.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4015536/A-grim-tally-soars-More-50-000-overdose-deaths-US.html#ixzz4SOLWI85W

Rising homelessness and lack of psychiatric care beds are cited in surge of mental competency cases

A lack of psychiatric care beds and rising homelessness are fueling a dramatic increase in mental competency cases in Los Angeles County, a new study has found.

The county launched a review after The Times reported on a surge in the number of competency cases in Los Angeles’ mental health court over the last five years. The number of cases referred to the mental health court’s Department 95 to determine defendants’ competency had swelled from 944 in 2010 to 3,528 in 2015.

According to the report released this week by county health officials, the number is on pace to increase to about 4,500 in 2016. Judge James Bianco of the mental health court gave an even higher projection, saying the cases are expected to reach 5,000 for the year.

The growth has taxed the court and the county jail system, where the number of mentally ill inmates grew by more than 60% from 2011 through early 2016.

The increase has been driven largely by referrals in misdemeanor cases.

In a review of cases referred to mental health court in the first two months of 2016, county officials found that “a significant percentage of the defendants were in custody for offenses such as trespassing, resisting arrest, vandalism, and restraining order violations,” the report said. “Additionally, a significant percentage either had a prior drug history or the pending case was drug-related.”

The report noted that many of the defendants were homeless and the crimes that landed them in court were “quality of life” offenses associated with homelessness.

The officials wrote that more “structured housing options” and more acute and sub-acute psychiatric beds are needed to stop people with mental illnesses from landing in the court system, and by extension in Department 95. After many years of decline, the number of psychiatric beds has begun to increase in recent years, but not enough to keep up with demand.

“When persons with serious mental disorders are in clinical crisis, they are sometimes placed on a hold and brought to a treatment center and other times, due to their behaviors, they are arrested and charged with a crime,” the report said. “The availability of more treatment resources for persons in crisis is critical to reduce bookings.”

Robin Kay, acting head of the county Department of Mental Health, said the agency contracts for about 2,300 acute-care beds now and is working to expand the number. She and Peter Espinoza, head of the county Office of Diversion and Reentry, said it is unclear how many more are needed.

The report found that, in part, the increase may have been due to a “change of culture” among defense attorneys who “in times past had been reluctant to expose their clients to long periods of time in jail by declaring a doubt as to competency,” but are now more willing to refer clients with mental health issues who are accused of low-level crimes.

An earlier version of the county report, released in May, attributed the increase in competency cases in large part to criminal justice reforms that downgraded certain crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and shifted responsibility for supervising nonviolent felons from the state to the county. The reforms may have had the “unintended consequence” of ending post-release support services and court-mandated drug and alcohol treatment for many offenders with mental health and substance abuse issues, the May report said.

But the new report concluded that the impacts of those reforms was difficult to assess and probably minimal.

Along with more psychiatric beds, the report recommended expansion of various forms of “highly supervised and court-ordered mental health treatment” and increased funding for licensed clinical social workers in the courts who can help lawyers and judges decide which defendants should be referred to mental health court and which should be referred to treatment programs.

Mildred Williams said her brother, Warren Griggs, was part of the surge.

Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, he has been homeless since he left the board and care where he was living in 2014, Williams said. After being arrested in Inglewood and charged with misdemeanor vandalism in February, he was referred to Department 95. Williams said she hoped it might be the entry point into the treatment he had resisted for years.

“I just want him to get proper psychiatric treatment and a safe place to be,” she said. “…He’s not safe on the streets. I’m amazed he’s still alive.”

Her brother was found incompetent to stand trial in June, which for misdemeanor defendants can mean going through treatment either in jail or in community facilities. But a few days later, the charge against him was dismissed. He was released from jail and went back to the streets.


Source:: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-competency-cases-report-20160908-snap-story.html

Why Drug Rehab Is Outdated, Expensive, and Deadly

The U.S. will spend $40 billion this decade fighting addiction, yet little of it will be used based on science. We wouldn’t deny medicine for cancer or depression, so why do we deny it for addiction?

Prince wanted the best medical treatment money could buy when he decided to tackle his addiction to opioid painkillers. So he was planning to go to a rehab clinic known for using evidence-based practices—including medication—to treat his painkiller habit, according to local press reports.

The star died too soon for this approach to save him, but it could save millions of Americans. Unfortunately, for years opioid addicts seeking treatment in rehab have largely been denied this same level of care. And that’s led to deadly consequences.

“People who die of overdoses, if you look at their history, they were most likely recently in rehab or jail,” said addiction counselor Dave Malloy, shaking his head in frustration over lunch recently near the drug treatment facility where he works.

Malloy, who is 42, used heroin for years and lost many friends to the drug. He’s been clean since 2004 and is now an administrative supervisor at an outpatient program in North Philadelphia that prescribes the opiate substitute buprenorphine to roughly 50 clients.

Buprenorphine is what’s known as a “partial opioid agonist” meaning it stimulates some of the same brain receptors as drugs like heroin and oxycodone. In proper doses it eliminates craving for opiates. Together with methadone (which has been in use much longer) buprenorphine is one of the two most effective treatments for opioid dependency.

But you wouldn’t know that from how little those two drugs have actually been used to treat opioid dependence.

Unless you’ve been in treatment yourself (as I have) or have a friend or family member who’s been addicted to opiates, you probably have no idea what a mess America has made of treating opioid addiction. The vast majority of addicts who enter treatment programs fail multiple times—not because they are incapable of recovery, but because they’ve been largely denied the therapeutic interventions most likely to produce success.

Public officials in Congress and the Obama administration are now promoting several major initiatives focused on expanding treatment, but taxpayers have already shelled out $1 trillion over the past four decades fighting illicit drug use. The National Institutes for Health estimates that by the end of the decade annual expenditures for drug and alcohol treatment will exceed $42 billion, almost as big as the entire medical diagnostic and laboratories industry.

We can’t afford another failure.

To understand where America went wrong, The Daily Beast spoke with insurers, treatment professionals, and some of the nation’s leading addiction experts. They describe a legacy of treatment in which a small number of effective programs based on scientific principles of opioid dependence have been supplanted by an ideologically driven system that is uninformed by medical best practices and continues to operate largely without any oversight.

“There’s a total lack of accountability, not just from program to program, but even within treatment systems, from counselor to counselor,” said Malloy. “For years, there’s been a blank check, and when the money runs out, guess what? You’re better.”

For the better part of 40 years the recipient of that check has almost exclusively been a drug or alcohol treatment facility based on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous—a self help-style system developed by and for alcohol abusers more than 80 years ago, when neuroscience was in its infancy.

Nevertheless these programs have a virtual monopoly on the provision of addiction treatment, so much so that even the most astute observer is unable to distinguish abstinence-only rehab from more effective treatment modalities.

For example, last month in a follow up report on heroin abuse in suburban Ohio, 60 Minutes profiled a single treatment provider called New Beginnings Outreach Ministries without asking a single question about the program’s treatment protocol—which it describes as being “based on faith in Jesus Christ, and [centered] on Christian teachings from the Bible as well as cognitive behavior methods of understanding addiction and recovery.”

It hardly needs mentioning, but that’s not considered an acceptable therapeutic approach for most diseases. It’s little wonder drug treatment fails at such a high rate.

The prevailing treatment system generally claims success rates of 30 percent—a figure many experts view as dubious. But even if we take it at face value, by the industry’s own admission 70 percent of people who go into drug rehab come out no better than they went in. And some cases even worse. One 2015 study found opioid dependent patients receiving only psychological support were twice as likely to suffer a fatal overdose than those being treated with opioid replacement medications.

By contrast, dozens of studies show improved outcomes for opiate addicts who use medication in recovery.

This includes a World Health Organization report that found that when Spain eased laws governing medication-assisted treatment, and began using methadone to treat opiate addiction instead of abstinence-based programs, it experienced a significant reduction in overdose deaths, fewer instances of HIV, and an overall improvement in quality of life for drug users.

Yet three quarters of all opioid dependent patients in the U.S. are still treated without the use of medication, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

In light of their ideological position, abstinence-based treatment programs are reluctant to educate unsuccessful patients about alternatives like medication-assisted treatment.

Instead, the standard 12-steps response to relapse is encapsulated in a deflating motto that is repeated daily in drug rehabs across the country: “Keep coming back, it works if you work it.”

Try to imagine hearing that from a cardiologist.

Thomas McLellan, founder and chairman of the Treatment Research Institute, calls this “unethical.”

“In any other area of medicine, to not mention medication at all, that is a breach of ethics,” he told The Daily Beast during an interview at the organization’s headquarters in Philadelphia. “They’re obligated to act in the patient’s interest and they don’t, always.”

McLellan founded the Treatment Research Institute in 1992 to advance the science of addiction and has become a prominent voice in the field of addiction medicine. In 2009 President Obama named him to serve as his deputy drug czar, a role he held until 2012.

Both McLellan and his colleague at TRI, senior researcher Adam Brooks, acknowledge that residential treatment providers can be an important component of the continuum of care for treating people suffering from addiction. But there are big profits to be made in treating drug addicts; and since rehabs aren’t required to counsel patients on alternative therapies, many of them don’t.

“If you show up at my treatment facility, I don’t care what’s going on with you, you are right for me,” Brooks said.

That’s an important observation, and reflects a problem that has been facilitated to some degree by the disease theory of addiction. This line of thinking, which views addicts as suffering from a distinct and diagnosable chronic illness that can be managed but not cured, has helped remove some of the stigma from addiction. However, it has also led many clinicians to view addiction through a narrow therapeutic lens that treats all substance abusers as essentially the same regardless of their drug of choice.

But all addicts are not the same, any more than all cancer patients are the same. This one-size-fits-all approach to recovery, unique to the field of addiction medicine, has contributed to the high rates of failure in treating opioid addicts.

We know from brain science that people who are addicted to opioids like heroin and OxyContin require a level of care that is distinctly different from someone who abuses cocaine or alcohol.

Until recently, the only recourse for opioid addicts seeking truly effective treatment was one of the roughly 1,400 Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) across America that dispense methadone. Those who did manage to find it were forced to either pay for it themselves, or apply for public assistance.

According to a study from the RAND Corporation, while access to medication-assisted treatment is improving, as recently as 2013 five of 37 surveyed states did not extend Medicaid coverage to addicts seeking MAT.

Patients with private insurance have had an even harder time. An insurance industry insider who spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity said that most of the plans administered by her company only started covering methadone last year, when the opioid crisis reached a pinnacle.

But even with thinking on medication-assisted treatment evolving she says her company still approves “a ton of medically unnecessary admissions” to inpatient rehabs due to a lack of available medication-assisted treatment providers in its network.

Thankfully this is beginning to change. The Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 made it possible for the first time for opiate addicted individuals to receive medication-assisted treatment outside the clinic system by approving approximately 7,000 doctors to treat up to 100 patients from their office practices using the Schedule III drug buprenorphine (often sold under the brand named Suboxone).

With opioid deaths on the rise, Suboxone, which has a low overdose risk, is quickly becoming a first-line treatment for opiate addiction.

But the dominant 12-Step definition of “recovery” has excluded anyone who uses medication to address their addiction. This has created a trickle-down stigma against MAT that for years has made addicts reluctant to embrace it.

Mark Parrino, president of the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, has spent the better part of four decades fighting this stigma. He describes pleading with family members of patients who were being pressured to end methadone treatment, which he describes as “corrective pharmacology.”

“The idea that methadone is not recovery dates back 30 years,” he said. “The concept was you don’t take any kind of medication for your addiction because that was a ‘crutch,’ [but] methadone, when incorporated with a standardized continuum of care that includes counselling is an extremely effective means of stabilizing an opioid-addicted individual.”

An overly restrictive regulatory environment is also to blame for low utilization rates. A scathing 1990 report from the Government Accountability Office forced the federal government to confront the high rates of failure that resulted from its restrictive policies; and in 2001 major changes were enacted that completely reshaped methadone treatment.

Today, federal guidelines are relatively progressive. They call for a range of ancillary services, including counselling, and encourage providers to prescribe methadone in doses high enough to reduce cravings, not just stave off withdrawal. The regulations also allow for patients to receive 30 days of medication to ingest at home after two years of successful treatment.

However, states—and even individual providers—are free to enact stricter guidelines. Two states, Wyoming and North Dakota, don’t have a single methadone provider, and until recently Indiana enforced a ban on new OTPs.

Many programs cap the maximum number of “take home” doses a patient can receive at far below the federally recommended 30-day supply—requiring patients to visit their clinic even on major holidays.

“I watched my daughter open presents on Christmas morning and then had to leave her at home with my mother to get to the clinic and dose,” one methadone patient in Philadelphia said.

Buprenorphine treatment is providing an outlet for the opiate dependent to succeed in recovery without being chained to a clinic. Earlier this year President Obama proposed lifting the cap on the number of patients a single doctor can treat with buprenorphine from 100 to 200. But treatment experts say that some patients still do better on methadone.

Also, unlike OTPs, doctors authorized to prescribe buprenorphine are not bound to standards of care nearly as comprehensive as those required for methadone. That has addiction specialists like McLellan and Parrino worried that people seeking treatment will begin receiving substandard care.

“What’s happening is that as federal authorities say medication-assisted treatment is the thing, we’ve got to save these people from death or other consequences, don’t worry about anything else, just push the medication,” said Parrino. “We think it’s great to use medication-assisted treatment for opiate addiction, but what’s the assisted part? It’s more than just medication. We support balanced, evidence-based standards.”

McLellan agrees, and says he opposes lifting the Suboxone patient cap to 300.

“I’d rather see 30 qualified doctors treating ten patients than one doctor treating 300,” he said. Ideally this would involve getting more doctors qualified to assess and treat opioid abuse in office-based settings using a set of therapies suitable for each individual.

Lawmakers are looking in that direction. The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act, sponsored by Sen. Edward Markey, a Democrat, and Rand Paul, a Republican, would create a new class of “substance abuse treatment specialists” with credentials for treating opiate addiction in an office setting using medication, and it would give nurse practitioners the authority to dispense buprenorphine.

However things play out, it’s a foregone conclusion that the old way of doing business will no longer be standard protocol. Adam Brooks, a senior researcher at the Treatment Research Institute explained.

“At the gate-keeping point these insurance companies are basically saying you’re going to have to meet much higher standards for why somebody should be in your program,” he said. “And honestly that’s a good thing. There are a lot of people who can be treated more effectively and at lower cost in outpatient settings.”

The abstinence-based treatment industry responded early to the push toward evidence-based practices back, convening a special meeting in 2012 to develop a response to what they rightly perceive as a market threat. But by then, the Hazelden Foundation—one of the nation’s oldest abstinence treatment centers—had already caved to science and began integrating buprenorphine into its treatment programs for opioid addiction.

But the vast majority of rehabs still adhere to a drug-free treatment regimen for opiate addiction, or else only incorporate buprenorphine into detox protocols but reject maintenance. Many more halfway and so-called “sober” houses refuse to admit recovering addicts on maintenance drugs.

It remains to be seen if and how these facilities will change their treatment protocols as more payers demand quality care based on evidence-based best practices. An even more compelling question is whether a universal acceptance of opioid addiction as a bona fide medical condition could create ethical, or even legal problems for 12-step facilities that advertise their services as “medically sound” care.

While there is widespread acknowledgement that many clients may not be getting what they pay for in abstinence-based drug treatment, there has been little movement from a consumer protection standpoint. In 2008 the magazine Consumers Digest published an investigative report titled “Dirty Little Secrets” that exposed unethical trade practices in the marketing of inpatient rehab services.

The report surveyed a number of treatment providers and found advertised success rates exceeding 80 percent, far higher than anything found in peer-reviewed literature on addiction.

According to Consumers Digest, at one provider in Arizona:

“[P]atients are charged $28,000 a month for a ‘whole person approach’ treatment that includes a grab-bag of what generally sound like touchy-feely techniques. Patients receive nutritional counseling, life-coaching, neurofeedback and inner-child work, and they spend time in a Native American sweatlodge. But there’s little evidence that any of these practices aid in the treatment of addiction.”

In its promotional materials, that rehab boasted a 70 percent success rate, based on its own patient surveys.

These providers make little effort to qualify variations in success based on what substance is being abused. And for the most part no one has been asking—not even the insurance companies that have been financing multiple stays in veritable failure factories.

Brooks describes a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy among providers and payers.

“There is really not an alignment of financial incentives to tie quality to what you’re doing,” Brooks said. “Treatment providers don’t want to do it, and payers still don’t necessarily want or need the information. Only recently has there been an effort to find ways to evaluate treatment and it’s limited to small pockets of the market. Usually where the payer notices they are shelling out a lot of money for this one type of care that produces repeated failures.”

Thanks to recent healthcare reforms that is happening more than ever before. Under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 insurance companies are now required to provide the same level of coverage for substance abuse treatment as they do for other medical conditions. McLellan says this is forcing more accountability including greater attention to treatment outcomes.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is trending away from supporting inpatient rehabs as standard protocol for opioid addiction. And the private insurance market isn’t far behind.

A manager in the behavioral health arm of one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies told The Daily Beast that her company is paying closer attention to empirical evidence in deciding what substance abuse treatments they will cover.

“Insurance is actually on the right side of this,” said the manager, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions from her employer. “It’s not because we are being altruistic, [it’s because] it hurts our pockets when people get costly treatment that doesn’t work.”

Showing that a particular treatment approach is of value is about more than cost, it also requires positive outcomes. Yet the conversation on recovery has been driven for so long by the 12-step philosophy of total abstinence that the default metric for success in recovery has become how long a person maintains sobriety from all mood-altering substances—regardless of which of those substances were actually problematic—rather than quality of life metrics such as job stability and strong family connections.

Forward-thinking treatment providers are starting to see the problem with that, and are gradually engaging their peers in a conversation about how we should be measuring success in treatment.  With more and more middle-class Americans seeking access to treatment, and officials expecting addiction treatment to model other forms of healthcare, pressure will be on providers to ensure treatment outcomes reflect medical goals, not ideological ones.

Updated, 5/9/16, 10:15am to correct an error.  The executive order proposed by President Obama will raise the suboxone patient cap to 200 not 300.

Source: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/05/09/why-drug-rehab-is-outdated-expensive-and-deadly.html

The Real Cause of Depression May Have Nothing at All to Do With Your Mind

Depression is epidemic in our society, and the mainstream solution is a trip to the psychiatrist and an indefinite prescription for pharmaceuticals. Dependent on psychotropic drugs to get by is no way to live, and in the search for happiness, both individuals, doctors and scientists alike are beginning to crack the code of depression, and to question if the pharmaceutical solution even works.

George Slavich, a clinical psychologist at the University of California in Los Angeles, has for decades been working to learn more about how our bodies and our minds work, or don’t work, together to regulate the emotional system and mood. His findings have led him to the conclusion that depression is not a condition that is isolated in the mind, and that the body may play a primary role in causing or preventing depression.

“I don’t even talk about it as a psychiatric condition any more. It does involve psychology, but it also involves equal parts of biology and physical health.” –George Slavich

Is Depression All in the Mind?

A simple observation about life has formed the foundation of his conclusions, and that is, ‘everyone feels miserable when they are ill.‘ Labeled ‘sickness behavior,’ the common symptoms of feeling tired, irritable, bored, fed up, and not wanting to move, these symptoms looked a lot like depression to Slavich, who wondered if there might be a common cause for these symptoms for both people who are ill, and for people who are suffering from depression.

“The answer to that seems to be yes, and the best candidate so far is inflammation – a part of the immune system that acts as a burglar alarm to close wounds and call other parts of the immune system into action. A family of proteins called cytokines sets off inflammation in the body, and switches the brain into sickness mode.” [Source]

If this is true, and there is mounting evidence to support his theory, then, treating depression with foods that fight inflammation may very well be far more effective in treating anxiety and depression than expensive addictions to dangerous pharmaceuticals, many of which have been linked to terrible side-effects such as suicide and even psychotic rages that spur violent episodes such as school and public mass shootings.

“Both cytokines and inflammation have been shown to rocket during depressive episodes, and – in people with bipolar – to drop off in periods of remission. Healthy people can also be temporarily put into a depressed, anxious state when given a vaccine that causes a spike in inflammation. Brain imaging studies of people injected with a typhoid vaccine found that this might be down to changes in the parts of the brain that process reward and punishment.

If cytokines and inflammation are seen to rise dramatically during depressive episodes, then it may very well be that this is a crucial piece in understanding these emotional conditions and why the mind simply cannot seize control over thought processes and force itself to feel happy. The next question then becomes, ‘what is causing such serious inflammation in the first place?’

Interestingly, researcher Turhan Canli of Stony Brook University in New York believes that the source of inflammation is related to infections, and he thinks we should consider re-labeling depression as an infectious, although not contagious, disease, instead of a mental disorder.

He may be onto something, but other researchers have pointed out that infection is not the only way for inflammation to set in, and that foods and foods ant toxic environmental agents may play a role.

“A diet rich in trans fats and sugar has been shown to promote inflammation, while a healthy one full of fruit, veg and oily fish helps keep it at bay. Obesity is another risk factor, probably because body fat, particularly around the belly, stores large quantities of cytokines.” [Soure]

To support this theory, several clinical trials have so far found that antidepressants when supplemented with anti-inflammatory medicines both improve symptoms and increases the likelihood that a patient will respond to treatment. Two supplements that show tremendous promise for naturally fighting inflammation are curcurmin, an extract of the potent rhizome turmeric, and omega3 fatty acids, both of which are commonly available over-the-counter.

If this really is the key to unlocking depression, then the best solution, both to prevent it and to fight it if it becomes a health problem, might very well be food instead of antidepressants. This gives individuals much more control over their health, but will the corrupt pharmaceutical industry allow food to be presented as an alternative to their medications?

Read the article straight from the source – http://themindunleashed.org/2015/11/the-real-cause-of-depression-may-have-nothing-at-all-to-do-with-your-mind.html

Depression’s ‘Dimmer Switch’ Discovered

Scientists have discovered a “dimmer switch” in the brain that can not only help them better understand the brain chemistry behind mood disorders like depression, but how to treat them, too, according to new research published in the journal Science.

“The idea that some people see the world as a glass half empty has a chemical basis in the brain,” senior author Roberto Malinow, said in a news release. “What we have found is a process that may dampen the brain’s sensitivity to negative life events.”

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified a control mechanism for an area of the brain that processes sensory and emotive information that humans experience as “disappointment.” Specifically, through experiments with rodents, they found that neurons feeding into a small region above the thalamus known as the lateral habenula (LHb) secrete both a common excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate, and its opposite, the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA.

Previous studies have only identified two other systems in the brain where neurons had been observed to co-release excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters.

“Our study is one of the first to rigorously document that inhibition can co-exist with excitation in a brain pathway,” explained lead author Steven Shabel. “In our case, that pathway is believed to signal disappointment.”

Proper functioning of the LHb is believed to be important in much more than just disappointment. It has been implicated in regulating pain responses and a variety of motivational behaviors, and has also been linked to psychosis.

Depression, in particular, has been linked to hyperactivity of the LHb, but until this study, researchers had little evidence as to why this overstimulation occurred in some people and not others.
Researchers were also able to show that neurons of rodents with hints of human depression produced less GABA, relative to glutamate. When these animals were given an antidepressant to raise their brain’s serotonin levels, their relative GABA levels increased.

“The take-home of this study is that inhibition in this pathway is coming from an unusual co-release of neurotransmitters into the habenula,” Shabel said.

“We may now have a precise neurochemical explanation for why antidepressants make some people more resilient to negative experiences.”


To learn more, view the full source: By Jenna Iacurci –  http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/9122/20140919/depressions-dimmer-switch-discovered.htm

A new app and blood test can predict suicide risk with startling accuracy, study says

By Ariana Eunjung Cha, The Washington Post August 24, 2015

One of the most promising — and most terrifying — areas of medical research these days is technology designed to try to guess your mental health and predict what you’ll do next.

Proponents of such tools say that they’ll help doctors get to individuals in need faster and prevent tragedies like suicide, which claims the lives of more than 40,000 Americans each year, while others fear that such developments will lead to the nightmarish future of “Minority Report.”

Scientists took a major step forward in predictive technology this week with the development of a system of blood tests and an app that they say can predict with more than 90 percent accuracy whether someone will start thinking about suicide or attempt it.

In a study published Tuesday, researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine presented details of an app that measures mood and anxiety and that asks people a series of questions about life issues, things like: How high is your physical energy and the amount of moving about that you feel like doing right now? How good to you feel about yourself and your accomplishments right now? How uncertain about things do you feel right now?

They purposely avoided asking any questions about suicide directly. Writing in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the researchers said that “predicting suicidal behavior in individuals is one of the hard problems in psychiatry, and in society at large.”

“One cannot always ask individuals if they are suicidal, as desire not to be stopped or future impulsive changes of mind may make their self-report of feelings, thoughts and plans to be unreliable,” Alexander B. Niculescu III, a professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at Indiana University, and his co-authors wrote.

The researchers separately studied a group of 217 males who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia and other psychiatric issues. About 20 percent went from no suicidal thoughts to a high level of suicidal thoughts while they were being seen at a clinic at the university.

By analyzing their blood samples, the researchers were able to identify RNA biomarkers that appeared to predict suicidal thinking.

They wrote that it’s unclear how well the biomarkers would work in the larger population due to the fact that the study was limited to high-risk males with psychiatric diagnoses, but that the app is ready to be deployed and tested on a wider group in real-world settings such as emergency rooms.

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What If Erasing Drug-Related Memories Was All It Took To Treat Addiction?

Imagine being able to have your mind wiped clean of your negative memories, offering you a fresh start. While it may not be that easy for everyone, researchers are now working on erasing drug-related memories in former addicts to prevent them from relapsing. Their study, published in the journal Molecular Psychology, may just give recovering addicts a true chance at a drug-free life.

For most addicts, the biggest problem they face when trying to live a sober life is the danger of triggers. Memories attached to certain objects, or events, will often make addicts feel the need to use their drug of choice, even after long periods of undergoing rehabilitation therapy. By erasing the memories attached to these triggers, researchers at The Scripps Research Institute feel they can destroy any temptation a drug may have on a previous addict. But how are they doing it? It all boils down to finding and blocking the right pathway in the brain, subsequently vanquishing the memory.

“We now have a viable target and by blocking the target, we can disrupt, and potentially erase, drug memories, leaving other memories intact,” TSRI Associate Professor Courtney Miller said in a recent press release. “The hope is that, when combined with traditional rehabilitation and abstinence therapies, we can reduce or eliminate relapse for meth users after a single treatment by taking away the power of an individual’s triggers.”

To fully figure out how to target drug-related memories without erasing others, the team called on prior research conducted in 2013. From this previous study, Miller told Medical Daily they learned that the protein actin could be a possible solution to this issue. When a memory is created, actin molecules are believed to combine, creating a long strand of protein pieces that contribute to the storage of a memory. Researchers believe that by stopping actin from combining, known as polymerization, they can destroy the memory altogether. However, early efforts to do this proved to be complicated, as actin is also located in other places of the body, like the spine, and thus, a pill targeting actin could prove fatal.

Going back to the drawing board this time around, researchers turned their attention to nonmuscle myosin II (NMII), a component in the brain known to drive actin polymerization. They decided to “go upstream of actin one step,” by instead targeting NMII through injecting a compound known as blebbistatin. They hoped this compound would stop the process from happening altogether, and tested it by injecting it into animal models along with methamphetamine. They found that with only one injection of this compound, long-term, drug-related memories were completely blocked. What’s more, these animals did not relapse for at least a month after receiving the injection.

The team was enthusiastic about its results, finding that this new pathway helps to erase triggers that often lead to relapses. Even more promising is that the injection of blebbistatin can be administered to any part of the body, whereas previous compounds targeting actin had to be injected into the brain.

Because their treatment did not impact the storage of other, vital memories, the researchers are hopeful that blebbistatin will soon be used to help treat methamphetamine addictions beyond rehabilitation therapy. “We’re very excited about the potential of actually helping people,” Miller said. “Right now we’re applying for grants and speaking with potential investors in order to take blebbistatin and make it safe for use in people. We’ve got all of the expertise at Scripps to do that, we just need the funds.”

Source: Young E, Miller C, Blouin A, et al. Nonmuscle myosin IIB as a therapeutic target for the prevention of relapse to methamphetamine use. Molecular Psychiatry. 2015.

Most Likely Culprit For Schizophrenia Found – New Treatment Options For Mental Disorders On The Horizon?

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Schizophrenia, the mental disorder that has always perplexed doctors and psychologists, seems to have been demystified. Continue reading “Most Likely Culprit For Schizophrenia Found – New Treatment Options For Mental Disorders On The Horizon?”