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And an apology . . .
Sorry that the first new posting in over a year is a solicitation for (indirect) financial support and for the moral boost knowing that we have supporters willing to take a moment out of their busy schedules to indicate continued support in a tangible form, but the reality of the situation is that limited financial support severely limits the time and resources available to continue development of our website -- both are a zero-sum game with never enough to fulfill all of our needs and good intentions. We plan on posting additional podcasts and new commentaries very soon, but the loss of our main computer used for this work along with the primary backup copies of the podcasts already completed and the availability of only outdated software resources have hampered moving forward when we now must spend time to tool-back-up for this work.
About the Addiction Science Network (ASNet)
Our work involves topics related to drug abuse, drug addiction, drug dependence, and other related topics in psychopharmacology including the biological basis of severe mental disorders. The ASNet Discussion Forum serves our primary missions of disseminating unbiased scientific information about drug addiction and advocacy of better harm-reduction strategies and science-based, rationale drug-regulation policies. We also have a podcast channel and a website that support these missions which is primarily aimed at academic and professional audiences. The free use and distribution (for noncommercial purposes) of the content of our resources is permitted as long as reference is made to the original source (minimum acknowledgement "Addiction Science Network;" preferably a direct link to the original source). We are always pleased to accept donations for our work, but donations do not qualify as charitable contributions according to IRS rules because of our advocacy policy. The limited advertisements we accept are clearly distinguishable from our content by their placement on the top and/or bottom of individual webpages and by the fact that all off-site content should open a new browser window; a small payment is received on a pay-per-click basis without our readers incurring any expense (no purchase of goods or services necessary). Sponsors who make financial or in-kind contributions to support our work are acknowledged on our homepage and sometimes elsewhere on our website. Neither sponsors nor advertisers have any influence on the published content of this website.
There are a lot of speculations floating around Washington and the country regarding likely changes in America’s drug-regulation policies during a second term for President Obama. In fact, there’s talk even outside the U.S. boarders on how highly anticipated changes in America’s traditional hard-line, zero-tolerance anti-drug rhetoric may affect international relations. Those following the depth of the international political scene will recall that the U.S. entered into what threatened to be an all-out trade war with our friends and neighbors in the north over their apparent relaxed attitude regarding marijuana regulations and their progressive harm-reduction strategies in major Canadian cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. For many Americans this was a surprise—Canadians having such independent thought on a topic long dominated by America’s political views—and a wake-up message regarding Canada’s potential status as America’s 51st state. Why, isn’t Canada just a little (albeit geographically MUCH larger) U.S.? For those that don’t get out much, they’re even on metric, eh!
Anybody notice how both candidates are ducking the issue of reformed drug laws? Drug regulation or more aptly de-regulation is not a popular topic for anybody in politics, and either party reformulating a new national policy is slated to be the looser. Of course there is a growing grass-roots movement for medicinal marijuana and even decriminalization which would condone modest “recreational” use (presumably for “adults”), but no one running for office seems to be talking about abandoning “America’s (failed?) War on Drugs.” In fact, the Replications have suggested that they will step it up. What exactly does that mean? We invaded Afghanistan and now (i.e., post our military invasion) they’re the number one producer of heroin in the world. Estimates are that up to three-quarters of the entire world’s supply of heroin is coming from that region now ostensibly ‘under U.S. control.’ How much more could the Republications “step it up” (this merits repeating: we invaded Afghanistan militarily and look at the INCREASE in drug trafficking from that region now )?
There are some new players on the block, probably too poorly organized to make a significant impact in this presidential election but growing fast enough to perhaps enter into mid-term reelections and likely players in the NEXT presidential election. I’m referring, of course, to the baby-boomers who are now dealing with the increasing aches and pains of older, sometimes well-worn bodies as they move into their 60’s and beyond. Recent changes in prescribing guidelines for opioid-based medications are placing further, often harsh restrictions on people in need of this important pain-relieving medication. There is even some evidence that some are being driven to the illicit drug market (the very market the new restrictions are designed to better control) to acquire the drugs which help them endure the unrelenting pains of living with increasing medical ills. Eventually, as the numbers grow even larger with aging baby-boomers, this group is going to push back and push back hard. But that’s probably not until another presidential election or two.
One of the first acts of President Obama’s new administration was to issue orders that relaxed enforcement of marijuana laws by federal prosecutors and provided a de facto green light to medical marijuana for states that have passed such laws. The medical marijuana and the decriminalization lobbies (not always the same ultimate goal) both resonated with optimism on the progressive outlook of our new president, one in the new model needed for a New Millennium. According to many reports this wasn’t to last: federal prosecutors began resuming their prosecution of what would be deemed “medical marijuana” cases even in states which had voted legislature recognizing medicinal marijuana—so much for the short-lived progress.
For those who have read this far eagerly awaiting some prognostications, it seems only right to make a few predictions even if on such thin air as to be about as meaningful as those made by high-priced political analysts around the country. During President Obama’s second term in office, he will probably:
There does seem an interesting Supreme Court issue here: what constitutional right does the federal government have to regulate the medical practices of individual states? This is especially perplexing in an era where medical prescriptions are filled next to displays selling copper and magnetic bracelets and various medicinal elixirs reminiscent of the patent medicine era.
So there it is, our “predictions,” or is it our “want list,” things we hope that our President will push once he’s done running for a second term? Yes, he’s likely to want an active post-presidency life and we wish him the best (see below), but he’ll be free soon to really start pushing some agendas that he has his heart in and which he (and hopefully, we too) fully support. Our “want list” is based on what we believe is demanded by the scientific evidence, and our “predictions” are based on our confidence that our President will strive to do ‘the right thing.’
Our list of predictions is sufficiently long as to increase the chances that we'll hit on at least one or two, and then we can use the epidemiologists logic of claiming cause-and-effect post hoc and brag about our influence on national drug-regulation policy. Of course we did slant our "predictions" (AKA "want list") towards a more rational drug-regulation policy and if we really wanted to ensure a few 'predicted' changes under the new administration we would cover both sides predicting a few more stringent measures too.
Anyone who has read through our predictions this far is probably wondering whether we blatantly and shamelessly exploited the name “Obama” and the keywords “presidential election” to receive more traffic on the ASNet Discussion Forum. Yes, we did! But it’s not as self-centered as it may seem. We noticed that our brief comment on Obama’s shift in marijuana policy was getting a lot of hits (surprise, surprise, it must be election time) and decided that we should exploit this opportunity to increase awareness and debate on the important issues outlined above. Do we have any more insight than the next person on President Obama’s likely changes in drug-regulation policies? Of course we don’t, but that doesn’t stop any number of would-be “expert analysts” from capitalizing on the presidential elections to promote their personal and financial interests (e.g., “look at me, I’m a big-time lobbyist,” “I was on national television”). And we sincerely hope that we effectively add another voice or two to a mandate to develop rational drug-regulation policies based on unbiased scientific evidence not begging-the-question science instructed a priori what to “discover” in the course of “scientific” research directed by some hidden agenda.
President Obama is energetic and driven by his youthful idealism. If he can survive the rigors of another 4 years without the stress-induced aging typical of young men leaving the White House as old men (check the hair colors for before and after photographs of Presidents Bush, Clinton, and yes, even Barack after his first term; there’s a definite aging effect of being president), he is most likely to remain visibly active in world politics in some important way. Perhaps like former President Jimmy Carter he will form an institute and take up a specific cause or two, supporting the rights of the disadvantaged and marginalized people around the world. It’s unlikely he’ll rest on his laurels as former President Clinton appears to have done, nor will he retire quietly to a ranch in Texas out of public life as has former President Bush. He has a long life and his youthful zeal and intellect just won’t let him stop. With this in mind, he has to be somewhat conservative in his reform of America’s drug policies and mindful of the retaliatory action of others once he’s lost the power afforded by the Presidency. Therefore, it’s unlike that we’ll see the ‘real’ Barack even after he’s elected to a second term. But then, hey, you never know; he might just take this last opportunity to try to change things from the top down and let the reformed policies ‘rock-n-roll’ into place (metaphor is to ‘going for it,’ pursuing a course of action with zeal, not to implied open season on recreational drugs in America).
For those expecting something other than a pure conjecture op ed, we recommend a recent article from the Huffington Post and offer their analysis of likely upcoming policy changes for a second-term Obama administration.
Despite our President’s popular portrayal as someone who has substantial soft-drug experience and knows how to party well, he’s a responsible parent and above that a very, very bright person. He is likely to temper his youthful experiences with the concern of a parent balanced by a careful, well-thought-out (and hopefully well advised) course of action. We can only hope that his source of “scientific” information is truly credible and not from the usual “zero-tolerance” camp of agency scientists. President Obama knows how to think and work outside the box of usual Washington politics, and we are optimistic that he will apply his talent and skills to addressing America’s drug problem with an intelligent, coherent plan of action after election to a second term in office.
Now Rock the Vote!
The reason that marijuana is unlikely to ever be approved for medicinal use in the United States is obvious -- so why isn't anybody discussing it? The first step in resolving a problem is usually acknowledging the problem, but the medical community is totally ducking this issue. Do they have a vested interest in it?
This commentary is currently only available as a podcast (length: 24 minute). Click here to listen to the discussion through streaming audio without downloading. Click here to down load the presentation directly. Or click here to visit our full podcast directory.
Usually the written commentaries precede the audio programs on this website, but this one is an exception. I've been discussing this topic for the past 12 or 15 years in my course on drug addiction in relationship to the CSA/DEA Drug Regulation Schedules. A printed version (in rough draft form) has been available for my students' use for probably the past decade. So why haven't I commented on this issue before, especially if "I know the secret"? Simple, I wanted to save SOMETHING for my book. The bigger question is, why hasn't the medical community or even NORML and other marijuana-related lobby groups been discussing it? The first answer to this two-part question is perhaps because the medical community has something to loose. I'll post NORML's reply here when I receive it. OK, you have to listen to the podcast if you want to know more. Or perhaps you already knew this too.
The only reason I'm letting the 'cat out of the bag' here is because I've decided to include the information in a podcast excerpted from one of my impromptu classroom lectures. And once it's out, it's out.
Please be advised that the presentation picks up discussing off-label prescription writing privileges currently enjoyed by American physicians. The context of the presentation is discussing the CSA/DEA Schedules for Controlled Substances in the United States. I was having a bad day, everything had gone wrong up to the presentation including running off to lecture and forgetting to copy the updated slide material I had just hastily finished for my morning lecture. (It wasn't quite [but almost ] as dumb as it sounds -- I thought I was logged onto my USB memory stick, but the file was still being saved on my hard drive.) So, an unscheduled discussion of an 'old topic' (for me) stalled off a little time to ensure that I wouldn't need the forgotten slides (other lecture material was also presented and is included in a separate podcast, part of the Addiction Science Network Addiction Training Series; the class will get the regularly scheduled material during the next lecture period).
OK, I see yet another issue and you won't have to wait for a commentary or even a podcast for this one: if there is no evidence for the medicinal use of marijuana, why did the FDA approve dronabinol (synthetic THC) for medicinal use? Replies from the FDA welcomed and will be posted here.
The FDA has argued that dronabinol can be substituted for smoked marijuana, but this isn't really true for the reasons partially described in the podcast. (And why would the FDA even argue that dronabinol substitutes for something that doesn't work according to them?) Hint: the problem with substituting orally administered dronabinol for smoked marijuana has to do primarily with how pharmacokinetics influence a drug's psychological impact (including its mood-elevating and potentially its pain-relieving properties as well). But a full explanation of how that works is in another podcast (Click here if you really want to learn about how pharmacokinetics affect a drug's psychological impact. Warning: you have to listen through a lot of material before reaching the part which addresses this topic; the presentation is a little over an hour long.)
A central theme that I’ve been teaching in my courses on drug addiction for the past 30 years is that “drug addiction is an equally opportunity affliction.” Unfortunately, this is ‘news’ to too many of my advanced undergraduate psychology students. After just a few weeks of examining the diversity of case studies and then provided with a simple model that unifies the many ‘paths to addiction’ to a single common ‘cause,’ students become excited about the ‘recent progress’ in understanding addiction and fully expect that neuroscientists will find ‘the cure’ in short order. That is, now having recognized what really drives addiction, shouldn’t scientists be able to quickly resolve this disorder which extracts such a horrific toll on the individual, on their friends and families, and on society?
The message is what we (i.e., basic scientists) have known for years, but popular media, many clinicians, and even too many misguided drug-addiction specialists have managed to keep the pond muddied by stirring up the waters with popular discourse and dramatic portrayals played out in endless psychodrama that captivates audiences every time across time. In my primary drug addiction course alone I’ve taught nearly 3,000 400-level students during the past 26 years at the University at Buffalo. Surely there should be a multiplicative effect of my training as they go out and spread-the-word as the next generation physicians, clinical psychologists, counselors, sociologists, and even politicians. And there’s the scores of other professors just like me, some teaching this simple theme even longer. But at last, popular misconceptions like superstitions are just too damn hard to kill off. And “today’s insight” will probably remain a “new discovery” for another 25 years as this professor retires and hopefully the next one caries the torch educating and enlightening thousands more during his/her tenure as a university professor. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The psychobiological model (Bozarth, 1990) that I teach is rather simple; it’s based largely on what is termed the “exposure model of addiction.” Basically, exposure to an addictive substance and the subsequent effect on brain reward and motivation pathways leads to addiction for many people. The varieties of personalities and subcultures that become addicted is also a product of exposure but with the added feature of psychosocial factors which govern such variables as (1) who has access to the drug, (2) who will experiment with the drug, (3) the cost and purity of the drug, (4) which drug or drugs are popular and how are they administered (e.g., “crack” cocaine is probably more addictive in some respects than is powered cocaine because of the routes they are administered despite being two forms of the same active chemical), and (5) who will find sufficient extrinsic rewards in the culture of their drug-taking behavior (e.g., peers who encourage actual drug taking and its ancillary behaviors) and thus continue their drug-taking behavior long enough for the critical neuroadaptive effects to occur which are ultimately responsible for an addiction. This is where the psychological and sociological variables exert an important influence on who is and is not likely to ultimately become an addict—during the early acquisition stage of developing an addiction. There is plenty of room for popular psychosocial and cultural variables to play a role in addiction and to present cyclic variations in “types” of people who become addicts; the role is just much different that commonly perceived. There are also high-risk groups, some genetically predisposed to experience an exceptionally strong motivating effect from their early drug-use experience and there are co-morbid disorders which may introduce a variety of secondary influences on the drug’s pharmacological effects (e.g., ADHD?, psychological depression?). Nonetheless, the “exposure model” provides a point of convergence for the sundry personalities and subcultures that find the allure of the drug irresistible. The drug is guilty; the addict makes one critical mistake—they sustain their initial use of the ‘wrong’ drug sufficiently long for the neurochemical sequel to develop which leads to addiction.
The popular media, from talk shows to Hollywood movies, will probably never get on the page and portray the real story behind addiction. They will continue to promulgate the popular myths about addiction finding better dramatic material in the cases that admittedly have an interesting story to tell about why they began their illicit substance use, while obscuring the fact that it wasn’t actually the perverted “Uncle Albert” but the drug which is the responsible agent for the addiction. The truth simply doesn’t make a good story. Mary sexually abused by her grandfather, Tom bullied as a child, Nancy stressed out by her failed sex-change surgery are much more entertaining to watch and read about, and they elicit much more empathy from viewers who can relate to various aspects of the anguish that leads to their addiction. Watching young people experiencing the intense rush produced by “crack” cocaine, bouncing from stranger to stranger on the street looking for money for the next fix to feed their cocaine craving has the home audience chanting in unison “they get what they deserve” and then quickly turning to another program. The market writes the message.
During Alan Leshner‘s tenure as director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (1994-2001), “addiction is a brain disease” became the mantra of the Institute. Whether it’s a “disease, disorder, or syndrome” may be debatable, but it’s certainly a “brain” something unless one wishes to accept pixie dust as the mechanism behind drives and motivations, lusts and desires. The “patterns” are easy to explain—simply examine the psychological and social-cultural variables that initiate and sustain the period of early drug-use; there your personality types, sociological sub-groups and other patterns will emerge, based on who tries the drug not on why they try the drug, no requisite personality types or pixie dust required. The ‘chemicals’ in the drug interact with the ‘chemicals’ of the brain—it’s that simple.
We have added several more podcasts, including two full-length lectures from an academic course on drug addiction taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Links for listening to the podcasts as streaming audio without downloading are embedded in the podcast titles below (i.e., click on the titles). The podcasts are listed in reverse chronological order, so you should begin on the bottom and work your way up to the latest one on the top if you wish to listen to them in sequence. You can also visit and bookmark the ASNet Podcast Directory which contains the complete listing and will usually be updated faster than our updates are posted here. You should bookmark the ASNet web page because we may discontinue use of the Podomatic hosting service at any time. We're pleased with their service, but they are another expense that we may cut to allocate our resources elsewhere. (See the bottom of the page if you would like to see us continue using their streaming audio service.)
Essential Concepts for Understanding Addiction (part-2)
Essential Concepts for Understanding Addiction (part-1)
Why Distinguishing Drug Dependence from Drug Addiction is Important
Why Distinguishing Drug Abuse from Drug Addiction is Important
Defining Addiction: What are the Necessary Attributes?
E=MC(2) and the Science of Addiction
A Primer on Addiction
We anticipate re-recording many of the 'studio' podcasts as we gain experience with this technology and consider investing in better quality equipment. Meanwhile, we wanted to get as much information out ASAP to a potentially new audience by using this popular media, so please excuse our rather amateurish quality at this time. The live lectures may be capturing the last of such lectures by the "professor" as he continues to battle health problems. Undoubtedly much of the fatigue in the mouth muscles already shows up on the recordings and hey, you never know, these may be the legacy tapes, so enjoy the live 'performances,' or not.
Finally, a donation link appears at the bottom of the ASNet podcast directory page. Our services are free, they always have been and they always will be, but of course you're free to make a donation. The podcasts incur additional expenses in increased bandwidth requirements, server storage space, and hardware upgrades (we've filled up the last few gigabytes on our hard drive; we're considering investing in better quality recording equipment). Some of the material may be of value to professionals who normally pay considerable sums for this type of training, and they are especially encouraged to make a small donation. We do not want any donations, even 'pizza money' from undergraduate or graduate students or from medical students. Save your money; buy a pizza and relax with your friends -- "these are the good old days," so enjoy them a little along the way (study and work hard too). Remember us when you have a little money to spare and consider donating then. Meanwhile, live, love, and learn.
A new category is being started for open discussion and feedback supporting our Addiction Technology Transfer Initiative (ATTI). The purpose of ATTI is to bring state-of-the-art research and 'thinking' to more people regarding drug addiction. The target audience for some presentations is academic and professional, while some presentations are intended for a general, lay audience. Others are more commentaries with a mix for everyone. You may post your comments and suggestions in this category or suggest new threads for more formal discussion (e.g., podcast format, length, or content, organization of our podcast directory). We are still receiving a lot of e-mail which we simply do not have time to reply to individually. Please use our discussion forums for correspondence that is not of a confidential nature. Your questions and our replies are likely to be of interest to many people. Over the years we have not optimized (it was tempting to use the word "wasted" here ) countless hours of work by duplicating lengthy replies to individual e-mails, and we wish to provide a mechanism to share this work and maximize its impact.
This forum is open for comments from the public and from our professional colleagues. We are eager to learn more about how we can better serve our target audiences. You may 'reply' to this commentary or initiate a new thread on a specific topic (e.g., podcasts, professional training series). There is a 24- to 48-hour delay before your comments appear because of the moderation necessary to prevent spamming.
ATTI is an important component of our mission. We have a 'game plan' on how to accomplish our goals, but your feedback can be important in directing which specific component we invest in first. Otherwise, it's 'game on' with our own strategic plan. Click here to view our our earlier statement regarding this topic when our basic research program was still operational at the Addiction Research Unit, State University of New York at Buffalo.
We have added several new podcasts this week which are listed below. We're excited about this technology and we're moving ahead, perhaps a little faster than we should according to the experts. Obviously, there is a learning curve and we hope to steadily improve our podcasts with experience. We may even go back and re-record some as we become a bit more 'professional.'
Please note that we will begin posting podcast links at the bottom of the commentaries when available. We are moving from top to bottom posting to avoid our podcast URL being displayed as the beginning of the commentary in summary tables and RSS feeds. Please scroll to the bottom if you're interested in a podcast of a specific commentary. You can also use our ASNet Podcast Directory from our website. Podcasts will be listed there by date and by several other orders of presentation when the page revisions are complete. We are duplicating the listings in different orders to help people find those of interest to our various listeners. The links below are for streaming audio which does not require download of the podcast. We are using another service for streaming podcast at the moment to keep our bandwidth demand manageable on our regular server while we gauge the interest in this channel. You can view and leave feedback as well as 'rate' our podcasts at our Podomatic home page.
ASNet Essential Concepts for Understanding Addiction (length: 1hr2min)
ASNet Why Distinguishing Drug Abuse from Drug Addiction is Important (length: 7min56sec)
ASNet Einstein and the Science of Addiction (length: 7min14sec)
Defining Addiction: What are the necessary attributes? (length: 11min48sec)
ASNet Commentary on New Opioid Prescribing Guidelines (length: 4min51sec)
ASNet Primer on Addiction (length: 15min37sec)
A new commentary is available:
Defining Addiction: What are the necessary attributes? for those who would prefer reading instead of the podcast listed above.
A new ASNet Discussion Forum category has been added to support our Addiction Technology Transfer Initiative. The new forum is provided to discuss specific issues regarding addiction technology transfer, general suggestions, and other feedback; it's intended more to address the approach, style, or other outreach ideas than the actual content of our presentations, but all topics are open. This discussion forum, our Addiction Science Network website, and our new podcast channel are all components of that program. Your comments are always welcomed. We like to know that we are reaching people and how we can improve our independent voice for Addiction Science.
Finally, we are still working on setting up our RSS feeds directly for the podcasts. In the interim, you can subscribe to the RSS feeds for our Announcements to view our list as it become revised periodically.
Obviously we are "back in the saddle again." We don't know how long we'll be on this ride before falling off our horse again, but we're rolling now. Probably by the end of November we will have to turn our attention to completing a book which has been delayed now for far too long.
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An open, unmoderated discussion forum for the Addiction Science Network, promoting free and open exchange of evidence-based information and promoting scientific analysis of drug addiction and related topics.