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The Science Behind Blacking Out

The Science Behind Blacking Out

Have you ever woken up panicked and confused, wondering how you got home after a night out drinking with friends? If this has happened, you might have experienced an episode of alcohol induced amnesia, also known as a blackout. This is different than passing out or losing consciousness. Your friends may report drinking and talking with you during the evening and you may have even driven home – but your memory of some or most of the night is wiped away.

Although blacking out is not uncommon – particularly among young people who drink heavily – it is poorly understood. Alcohol-induced impairment is dangerous and can be unpredictable.

What is a Blackout?Researchers have identified two types of blackouts:

En bloc, or complete blackout: when a person who had been drinking has an inability to recall entire events during the drinking period of timeFragmentary-memory loss: when a person who had been drinking can only recall some portion of the events during the drinking period of timeEn bloc blackouts happen when information is not successfully transferred from short-term to long-term storage during a drinking episode. The person who is drinking can sufficiently keep information in short-term memory to engage in conversations, drive a car, and participate in other complicated activities. However, all this information is completely lost as the brain fails to transfer the person’s short-term memory information to long-term memory storage. Indeed, “the defining characteristic of a complete blackout is that memory loss is permanent and cannot be recalled under any circumstances,” according to a summary study looking at alcohol-induced blackouts.Fragmentary blackouts are more common and occur when memory formation – the transfer from short- to long-term storage – is partially blocked. Unlike en bloc blackouts, fragmentary blackouts allow for recall of all memories that were stored during the drinking event, but successful recall may involve a bit of effort and prompting.

What Causes a Blackout?Early studies on blackouts demonstrated that although alcohol is necessary for initiating a blackout, a large quantity of alcohol alone is not sufficient to cause a blackout. In fact, people sometimes have a blackout even when not drinking at their highest level. Factors such as how alcohol is ingested, gender, and genetic susceptibility all play a role in determining a person’s propensity for blackouts. Although having a single blackout by itself may not be sign of alcoholism, repeated blackouts are very often associated with having an alcohol use disorder and being at risk for chronic alcoholism.

According to researchers, gulping drinks and drinking on an empty stomach could also increase a person’s risk of a blackout, as these behaviors raise an individual’s blood alcohol concentration. Additionally, there are gender differences in alcohol-induced blackouts. Women are at greater risk than men of experiencing a blackout even with lower levels of alcohol consumption. This risk is higher in women because:

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Julie Dostal Honored As A True “Woman Of Distinction”

Julie Dostal Honored As A True “Woman Of Distinction”

Julie Dostal is Executive Director of the LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions. LEAF, based in Oneonta, New York

State Senator James L. Seward (R/C/I-Oneonta) has announced that Julie Dostal of Oneonta has been selected as a 2017 New York State Senate “Woman of Distinction.”

“Women like Julie Dostal make a profound, positive difference in the lives of others and are a prime reason why New York is so special,” said Senator Seward. “Julie has made it her life’s work to help others through the LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions and it has been my privilege to work with her on a number of occasions. In recent years, through my role on the Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid, I have frequently partnered with Julie as we work together to beat this public health epidemic. She is devoted to her work and the community and brings professionalism and energy to every challenge she tackles. Julie truly embodies the essence and spirit of this award and I am extremely proud to honor her as a senate Woman of Distinction.”

Julie Dostal said, “I am deeply honored to be recognized by Senator Seward as a 2017 Woman of Distinction. Working with him over the years to help bring about positive change in our community has always been a pleasure. It is overwhelming to be counted among the amazing, impactful women who have preceded me as Women of Distinction. Many of them are still out there changing the world and I can only hope to do the same.”

Julie Dostal, Ph.D., is the executive director of the LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions and has been with the organization since 1998. She is also the chair of the Otsego County Opiate Task Force, actively working with agencies, businesses, healthcare organizations, and individuals to help stem the tide of our current opioid epidemic.

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First-Time Marijuana Use Among College Students is at Highest Level in Three Decades

First-Time Marijuana Use Among College Students is at Highest Level in Three Decades

First-time marijuana use among college students is at the highest level in three decades, a new study finds.

Among 19- to 22-year-olds who had never used marijuana by 12th grade, those who go to college are 51 percent more likely to try the drug than those who do not attend college, HealthDay reports.

“These days if you’re in college, about 1 in 5 students will become first-time marijuana users. If you don’t go to college, your chances are more like 1 in 10,” said lead researcher Richard Miech of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

The findings appear in the American Journal of Public Health.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Patients Treated for Opioid Addiction in General Health System at Higher Risk of Death

Patients Treated for Opioid Addiction in General Health System at Higher Risk of Death

Patients treated for an opioid use disorder in a general healthcare system instead of an addiction treatment center face a higher risk of death, a new study concludes.

Researchers at UCLA found patients treated for opioid addiction in primary care offices or hospitals are more than twice as likely to die than those treated in addiction treatment centers, according to HealthDay.

“The high rates of death among patients with opioid use disorder in a general health care system reported in this study suggest we need strategies to improve detection and treatment of this disorder in primary care settings,” study lead author Yih-Ing Hser said in a UCLA news release.

She noted that as opioid addiction has grown in the United States, people with opioid use disorders are increasingly being treated in primary care provider offices.

The findings are published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Some Opioid-Related Deaths May be Missed When People Die from Infectious Diseases

Some Opioid-Related Deaths May be Missed When People Die from Infectious Diseases

A new government study suggests some opioid-related deaths may not be counted when people die from pneumonia or other infectious diseases that are worsened by drug use.

In these cases, the death certificate may only list the infection as the cause of death, according to the researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Opioids at therapeutic or higher than therapeutic levels can impact our immune system, actually make your immune system less effective at fighting off illness,” lead researcher Victoria Hall told HealthDay.

She added that the sedative effect of opioids also affects a person’s respiratory system, causing breathing to become slow and shallow. This makes a person less prone to cough, which allows pneumonia to develop.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Drivers Killed in Crashes More Likely to Have Used Drugs Than Alcohol

Drivers Killed in Crashes More Likely to Have Used Drugs Than Alcohol

For the first time, U.S. drivers killed in crashes in 2015 were more likely to have used drugs than alcohol, according to a new study.

The study found 43 percent of drivers tested in fatal crashes in 2015 had used a legal or illegal drug, compared with 37 percent who showed alcohol levels above a legal limit, Reuters reports.

Among drivers who died in crashes who tested positive for drugs, 36.5 percent had used marijuana, while 9.3 percent used amphetamines.

The report was released by the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, a nonprofit funded by distillers.

“People generally should get educated that drugs of all sorts can impair your driving ability,” said Jim Hedlund, a former official at the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, who wrote the report. “If you’re on a drug that does so, you shouldn’t be driving.”

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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College Students at Increased Risk for Smoking Marijuana

College Students at Increased Risk for Smoking Marijuana

An analysis of national survey data indicates that students attending college are at a significantly higher risk of beginning to use marijuana than those not enrolled in college, underscoring the need for improved prevention efforts.

The research, conducted by scientists at the University of Michigan, was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The study found that the increased probability of past-year marijuana use for those enrolled in college versus not enrolled was 51% in 2015, 41% in 2014, and 31% in 2013.

Prior to 2013 (between 1977-2012), youth in college who had never used marijuana in high school were 17-22% more likely to use marijuana in the past year than their peers not in college.

The researchers examined marijuana use before and after 2013, the first full year after recreational marijuana use was legalized in Colorado and Washington state.

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Massachusetts Prosecutors Drop More than 21,000 Drug Cases Due to Lab Scandal

Massachusetts Prosecutors Drop More than 21,000 Drug Cases Due to Lab Scandal

Prosecutors in Massachusetts have dropped more than 21,000 low-level drug cases because of a drug lab scandal.

A chemist at the lab admitted to tampering with evidence, forging test results and lying about it.

The chemist, Annie Dookhan, served three years in prison and was released last year, NBC News reports.

There is a second scandal at another drug lab in Massachusetts, involving a chemist who admitted to using drugs on the job, which has threatened thousands more convictions, the article notes.

Thousands of convictions have been undermined by lab scandals in eight states in the last decade, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Drug Companies Seeking to Develop Less Addictive Pain Drugs

Drug Companies Seeking to Develop Less Addictive Pain Drugs

Pharmaceutical companies are working to develop less addictive pain drugs, according to the Associated Press.

Companies are researching drugs that target specific pathways and types of pain, instead of acting broadly in the brain. One example of this type of drug is Enbrel, which treats a key feature of rheumatoid arthritis.

Other drugs being tested would prevent the need for opioids. One numbs a wound for several days and reduces inflammation, thereby decreasing pain after surgery. The hope is these drugs will lessen the chance of developing chronic pain that might require opioids.

Researchers are also looking for new sources for pain medicines, including drugs from silk, hot chili peppers and the venom of snakes and snails. They are also testing existing seizure and depression medicines for their ability to treat pain.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Documents About Prince’s Death Show He Hid Opioid Pills in Vitamin and Aspirin Bottles

Documents About Prince’s Death Show He Hid Opioid Pills in Vitamin and Aspirin Bottles

Newly released court documents related to the investigation into Prince’s death reveal he hid some opioid pills in over-the-counter vitamin and aspirin bottles.

The New York Times reports that in at least one instance, Prince procured an opioid prescription in the name of a personal friend and employee.

Prince was found dead in his home in April 2016, after he ingested a fatal amount of fentanyl, an opioid often used to make counterfeit pills that are sold illegally as oxycodone and other pain relievers.

Prince reportedly suffered hip pain after decades of strenuous performances. He regularly jumped onstage in platform heels.

He began taking painkillers for his hip pain years ago, and had hip surgery in the mid-2000s. He was then prescribed more pain medicine.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Task Force Aims to Impose Standards on Addiction Treatment Field

Task Force Aims to Impose Standards on Addiction Treatment Field

A group of addiction treatment experts and insurance company executives have formed a task force that aims to impose standards on the addiction treatment field, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Substance Use Treatment Task Force will evaluate treatment approaches shown to be most effective, and draft a plan to ensure that state agencies and insurance companies require addiction treatment centers to use those approaches as a condition for licensing and payment.

The group includes Penny Mills, Chief Executive of the American Society of Addiction Medicine; Michael Botticelli, former Director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy; and officials from Cigna and UnitedHealth Group. Gary Mendell, founder of the addiction advocacy group Shatterproof, is organizing the task force.

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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Federal Government Will Provide $485 Million for Opioid Prevention, Treatment

Federal Government Will Provide $485 Million for Opioid Prevention, Treatment

The Trump Administration will soon provide $485 million in grant money to states for prevention and treatment programs aimed at addressing the nation’s opioid crisis, the Associated Press reports.

The funding is the first of two rounds provided for in the 21st Century Cures Act, signed by President Obama in December. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price said another half-billion dollars in state grants will follow in 2018.

According to a HHS news release, “Funding will support a comprehensive array of prevention, treatment, and recovery services depending on the needs of recipients. States and territories were awarded funds based on rates of overdose deaths and unmet need for opioid addiction treatment.”

To view a breakdown of first year funding by states and territories, click here

Original linkOriginal author: Ezra
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