Jul 28, 2007, 02:56 AM
All HealthDay News
Pot Ups Risk for Mental Illness
July 27, 2007 03:55:49 PM PST
By Steven Reinberg
Yahoo! Health: Addiction News
THURSDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking marijuana can raise your risk of developing a psychotic illness by 40 percent, British researchers say.
Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal substance in most countries, including the United States. In fact, some 20 percent of young people report using it at least once a week or more, according to the article in the July 28 issue of The Lancet.
"People who used cannabis had a greater risk of developing psychotic outcome then people who didn't use cannabis," said study author Stanley Zammit, a clinical lecturer in psychiatric epidemiology at Cardiff University.
In the study, Zammit's group analyzed 35 studies that looked at whether marijuana was linked to mental health disorders.
They found that people who had used marijuana were 41 percent more likely to have a psychosis compared with people who had never used the drug. They also found that the risk increased as the amount of marijuana used and the length of time someone used the drug increased.
Those who smoked the most marijuana had a twofold to threefold increase in the risk of developing a psychotic problem, Zammit said.
Part of the explanation for this effect is that people who use marijuana are at higher risk for mental problems even without the drug, Zammit explained. "Nevertheless, even when these factors were adjusted for, there still remained an association between marijuana and psychosis, which suggests that there is a causal relationship there," he added.
Recent estimates are that 40 percent of young adults and adolescents have used marijuana at some time in their lives, the researchers noted.
"People who are thinking about using cannabis or are already using cannabis need to be made aware of this risk," Zammit said. "People who experience any problems when using cannabis -- say if they become anxious or paranoid when they use cannabis -- those are warning signs, and people should be aware that they ought to be considering either stopping use or cutting down how often they use or the amount of cannabis they use."
One expert believes the link between marijuana and the risk for psychosis is real, and needs to be viewed as a problem much like tobacco and its health risks.
"This seems to be the best of studies conducted so far, and although this issue could never be proven directly, due to ethical limitations of a prospective exposure study, it provides a solid evidence that smoking cannabis increases risk for the development of psychosis later in life," said Dr. Adam Bisaga, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry, Division on Substance Abuse, at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York City.
The study should change the view of risks involved in smoking cannabis, which until now has been considered by many to be a relatively benign substance, with low addiction potential and few long-term risks, Bisaga said.
"We should change our approach and screen for cannabis use in the primary-care setting, counsel those who use it about increased risk of developing a potentially devastating psychotic illness and recommend stopping smoking," Bisaga said. "For those that are not able to stop using because of cannabis addiction, we should refer them to treatment."
Cannabis addiction can be effectively treated, which may reduce the risk of psychosis, Bisaga said.
"It appears that we are repeating the process we went through with tobacco use, initially considered to be benign, but as long-term risks were recognized, societal attitudes have changed, effective prevention strategies and treatments were developed, and rates of use and associated risks have diminished," he said. "We should now think about adopting some of these strategies to help cannabis smokers."
To learn more about drug addiction, try the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Jul 29, 2007, 07:34 PM
Related conversation on mental health issues on the square
Aug 1, 2007, 05:54 PM
Features -New York Times (//www.nytimes.com/2007/07/31/health/psychology/31subl.html?em&ex=1186027200&en=52892c94ac29ebde&ei=5087%0A)
July 31, 2007
Who’s Minding the Mind?
By BENEDICT CAREY
In a recent experiment, psychologists at Yale altered people’s judgments of a stranger by handing them a cup of coffee.
The study participants, college students, had no idea that their social instincts were being deliberately manipulated. On the way to the laboratory, they had bumped into a laboratory assistant, who was holding textbooks, a clipboard, papers and a cup of hot or iced coffee — and asked for a hand with the cup.
That was all it took: The students who held a cup of iced coffee rated a hypothetical person they later read about as being much colder, less social and more selfish than did their fellow students, who had momentarily held a cup of hot java.
Findings like this one, as improbable as they seem, have poured forth in psychological research over the last few years. New studies have found that people tidy up more thoroughly when there’s a faint tang of cleaning liquid in the air; they become more competitive if there’s a briefcase in sight, or more cooperative if they glimpse words like “dependable” and “support” — all without being aware of the change, or what prompted it.
Psychologists say that “priming” people in this way is not some form of hypnotism, or even subliminal seduction; rather, it’s a demonstration of how everyday sights, smells and sounds can selectively activate goals or motives that people already have.
More fundamentally, the new studies reveal a subconscious brain that is far more active, purposeful and independent than previously known. Goals, whether to eat, mate or devour an iced latte, are like neural software programs that can only be run one at a time, and the unconscious is perfectly capable of running the program it chooses.
The give and take between these unconscious choices and our rational, conscious aims can help explain some of the more mystifying realities of behavior, like how we can be generous one moment and petty the next, or act rudely at a dinner party when convinced we are emanating charm.
“When it comes to our behavior from moment to moment, the big question is, ‘What to do next?’ ” said John A. Bargh, a professor of psychology at Yale and a co-author, with Lawrence Williams, of the coffee study, which was presented at a recent psychology conference. “Well, we’re finding that we have these unconscious behavioral guidance systems that are continually furnishing suggestions through the day about what to do next, and the brain is considering and often acting on those, all before conscious awareness.”
Dr. Bargh added: “Sometimes those goals are in line with our conscious intentions and purposes, and sometimes they’re not.”
Priming the Unconscious
The idea of subliminal influence has a mixed reputation among scientists because of a history of advertising hype and apparent fraud. In 1957, an ad man named James Vicary claimed to have increased sales of Coca-Cola and popcorn at a movie theater in Fort Lee, N.J., by secretly flashing the words “Eat popcorn” and “Drink Coke” during the film, too quickly to be consciously noticed. But advertisers and regulators doubted his story from the beginning, and in a 1962 interview, Mr. Vicary acknowledged that he had trumped up the findings to gain attention for his business.
Later studies of products promising subliminal improvement, for things like memory and self-esteem, found no effect.
Some scientists also caution against overstating the implications of the latest research on priming unconscious goals. The new research “doesn’t prove that consciousness never does anything,” wrote Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, in an e-mail message. “It’s rather like showing you can hot-wire a car to start the ignition without keys. That’s important and potentially useful information, but it doesn’t prove that keys don’t exist or that keys are useless.”
Yet he and most in the field now agree that the evidence for psychological hot-wiring has become overwhelming. In one 2004 experiment, psychologists led by Aaron Kay, then at Stanford University and now at the University of Waterloo, had students take part in a one-on-one investment game with another, unseen player.
Half the students played while sitting at a large table, at the other end of which was a briefcase and a black leather portfolio. These students were far stingier with their money than the others, who played in an identical room, but with a backpack on the table instead.
The mere presence of the briefcase, noticed but not consciously registered, generated business-related associations and expectations, the authors argue, leading the brain to run the most appropriate goal program: compete. The students had no sense of whether they had acted selfishly or generously.
In another experiment, published in 2005, Dutch psychologists had undergraduates sit in a cubicle and fill out a questionnaire. Hidden in the room was a bucket of water with a splash of citrus-scented cleaning fluid, giving off a faint odor. After completing the questionnaire, the young men and women had a snack, a crumbly biscuit provided by laboratory staff members.
The researchers covertly filmed the snack time and found that these students cleared away crumbs three times more often than a comparison group, who had taken the same questionnaire in a room with no cleaning scent. “That is a very big effect, and they really had no idea they were doing it,” said Henk Aarts, a psychologist at Utrecht University and the senior author of the study.
The Same Brain Circuits
The real-world evidence for these unconscious effects is clear to anyone who has ever run out to the car to avoid the rain and ended up driving too fast, or rushed off to pick up dry cleaning and returned with wine and cigarettes — but no pressed slacks.
The brain appears to use the very same neural circuits to execute an unconscious act as it does a conscious one. In a study that appeared in the journal Science in May, a team of English and French neuroscientists performed brain imaging on 18 men and women who were playing a computer game for money. The players held a handgrip and were told that the tighter they squeezed when an image of money flashed on the screen, the more of the loot they could keep.
As expected, the players squeezed harder when the image of a British pound flashed by than when the image of a penny did — regardless of whether they consciously perceived the pictures, many of which flew by subliminally. But the circuits activated in their brains were similar as well: an area called the ventral pallidum was particularly active whenever the participants responded.
“This area is located in what used to be called the reptilian brain, well below the conscious areas of the brain,” said the study’s senior author, Chris Frith, a professor in neuropsychology at University College London who wrote the book “Making Up The Mind: How the Brain Creates our Mental World.”
The results suggest a “bottom-up” decision-making process, in which the ventral pallidum is part of a circuit that first weighs the reward and decides, then interacts with the higher-level, conscious regions later, if at all, Dr. Frith said.
Scientists have spent years trying to pinpoint the exact neural regions that support conscious awareness, so far in vain. But there’s little doubt it involves the prefrontal cortex, the thin outer layer of brain tissue behind the forehead, and experiments like this one show that it can be one of the last neural areas to know when a decision is made.
This bottom-up order makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. The subcortical areas of the brain evolved first and would have had to help individuals fight, flee and scavenge well before conscious, distinctly human layers were added later in evolutionary history. In this sense, Dr. Bargh argues, unconscious goals can be seen as open-ended, adaptive agents acting on behalf of the broad, genetically encoded aims — automatic survival systems.
In several studies, researchers have also shown that, once covertly activated, an unconscious goal persists with the same determination that is evident in our conscious pursuits. Study participants primed to be cooperative are assiduous in their teamwork, for instance, helping others and sharing resources in games that last 20 minutes or longer. Ditto for those set up to be aggressive.
This may help explain how someone can show up at a party in good spirits and then for some unknown reason — the host’s loafers? the family portrait on the wall? some political comment? — turn a little sour, without realizing the change until later, when a friend remarks on it. “I was rude? Really? When?”
Mark Schaller, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, has done research showing that when self-protective instincts are primed — simply by turning down the lights in a room, for instance — white people who are normally tolerant become unconsciously more likely to detect hostility in the faces of black men with neutral expressions.
“Sometimes nonconscious effects can be bigger in sheer magnitude than conscious ones,” Dr. Schaller said, “because we can’t moderate stuff we don’t have conscious access to, and the goal stays active.”
Until it is satisfied, that is, when the program is subsequently suppressed, research suggests. In one 2006 study, for instance, researchers had Northwestern University undergraduates recall an unethical deed from their past, like betraying a friend, or a virtuous one, like returning lost property. Afterward, the students had their choice of a gift, an antiseptic wipe or a pencil; and those who had recalled bad behavior were twice as likely as the others to take the wipe. They had been primed to psychologically “cleanse” their consciences.
Once their hands were wiped, the students became less likely to agree to volunteer their time to help with a graduate school project. Their hands were clean: the unconscious goal had been satisfied and now was being suppressed, the findings suggest.
What You Don’t Know
Using subtle cues for self-improvement is something like trying to tickle yourself, Dr. Bargh said: priming doesn’t work if you’re aware of it. Manipulating others, while possible, is dicey. “We know that as soon as people feel they’re being manipulated, they do the opposite; it backfires,” he said.
And researchers do not yet know how or when, exactly, unconscious drives may suddenly become conscious; or under which circumstances people are able to override hidden urges by force of will. Millions have quit smoking, for instance, and uncounted numbers have resisted darker urges to misbehave that they don’t even fully understand.
Yet the new research on priming makes it clear that we are not alone in our own consciousness. We have company, an invisible partner who has strong reactions about the world that don’t always agree with our own, but whose instincts, these studies clearly show, are at least as likely to be helpful, and attentive to others, as they are to be disruptive.
Aug 7, 2007, 04:31 PM
Nigerian Guardian retrieved Sunday AUG. 05, 2007
Kids' soda consumption strongly linked to hyperactivity, mental problems
TEENAGERS who drink more soda have more mental health difficulties, including hyperactivity and mental distress, according to a study recently published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Researchers used questionnaires to survey 5,547 Norwegian 10th graders about their eating and soda-drinking habits, as well as hyperactivity and conduct problems in school, and mental health indicators such as anxiousness, dizziness, hopelessness, panic, sadness, sleeplessness, tension, unhappiness with themselves and a sense that everything is a burden.
They found that the teenagers who drank the most soda (an average of four or more glasses a day) scored highest on measures of behavioural difficulties, hyperactivity, mental distress and overall mental health problems.
Norway has the highest rate of carbonated soft drink consumption in the world, with an average of more than 30 gallons per person per year. Among the teenagers surveyed in the study, 45 per cent of boys and 21 per cent of girls drink one or more glasses of soda daily.
Because the study only looked at correlation, the exact reason for the link between soda intake and mental distress is not clear. The researchers pointed out that children with high soda consumption are more likely to skip meals and eat less nutrient-dense foods than children with lower consumption, thus making them more likely to develop nutritional deficiencies. Other potential culprits are sugar and caffeine.
Regardless of the cause of the correlation, it is still well-known that high soda consumption is unhealthy. Sugared sodas have been singled out as major culprits in childhood obesity and related health problems such as diabetes.
"These findings make a strong comment about the need to make soft drinks less available in schools, homes and events for kids," said lead researcher Lars Lien. "Together with all the other compelling evidence of detrimental effects of sugar, I think the evidence from this study strengthens the call to make changes as a society."
Nutritionist Mike Adams, author of The Five Soft Drink Monsters, a book that teaches people how to kick the soda habit, said, "It is very clear that diet strongly impacts mood, mental function and behaviour. Drinking liquid sugars or artificial chemical sweeteners is much like poison to the human body, and it causes an imbalance in the functioning of the body and mind."
Adams added, "Most children diagnosed with ADHD are actually suffering from severe nutritional imbalances that can be easily corrected through changes in diet."
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