Neuroscience and Society: The Opioid Epidemic

opioid_deaths_2color

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/index.html

“We’ve moved from an epidemic to a crisis” in opioid abuse in the United States, said Daniel Ciccarone, M.D., MPH, during a panel discussion at AAAS in Washington, DC, this week. Ciccarone, a doctor at University of California, San Francisco, who treats addicted people and does research, described a pattern of intertwined waves involving abuse of prescription pills, heroin, and synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

For example, while overdose deaths due to prescription pill use are spread relatively evenly across the country, “this is not true for heroin,” Ciccarone said. The Northeast has had troubles with opioid abuse for a generation, while in the Midwest, numbers have jumped just recently. And while older folks (50-64) are using pills in greater numbers, it’s younger people (20-35) driving heroin use.

“Heroin itself is becoming more and more dangerous,” he said, especially when it is laced with synthetic drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil (used to tranquilize elephants). People who stop breathing after using these stronger concoctions often don’t respond to emergency treatments like naloxone.

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Free Public Event: The Opioid Epidemic

Addiction

Image: Shutterstock

Opioid addiction has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, with overdoses and deaths caused by prescribed and “street” drugs on the rise. The accelerating abuse of opioids includes not only painkillers that have legitimate uses, but heroin and the synthetic opioid fentanyl as well. The epidemic is not limited to inner city pockets of poverty; small-town America is also overcome by a tsunami of opioid addiction, putting strains on state and local social services and criminal justice systems. Join us for an event that will address the demographics and sociology of the opioid epidemic, the science of opioid addiction, and treatment options.
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Closing the Language Skills Gap Among Children

Here’s the full video from the latest #neuroseries forum, in September; it was so rich in data and ideas that I watched it twice before writing a story about the event for our website. One of my favorite parts is researcher Anne Fernald’s’s description and video showing how fast language-processing speed improves from when a child is 18 months old to when he is 30 months old. Not only is it an easy-to-follow example of how to test language ability in preverbal children, but I love the boy’s attitude when he knows he’s got it right.

I have the short clip with my story; in this video it starts at the 15:05 mark.

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The Impact of Aging: June 15 Public Event

Aging

Image: Shutterstock

Growing Older, Cognition, and What Science Has to Offer

A Free Event
Hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Through the Support of the Dana Foundation

Wednesday, June 15
5:30 – 8:00 p.m. (ET)

AAAS Headquarters
1200 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC, 20005

*RSVP: https://www.cvent.com/c/express/84aef939-c5e8-46ef-9b55-68b7323c66b0

If we live long enough, aging is inevitable, and more people in the U.S. are living longer than ever before. Yet, age is a major risk factor for most common neurodegenerative diseases, so its consequences for individuals, families and society are anything but trivial. But how we age is not fixed. There are things we can do to mitigate the harsh effects that aging can have on our brains, on the way we think, understand, learn and remember. Continue reading

Exploring the Adolescent Brain

Neuroscientists say adolescence is “a wonderful time.” Beleaguered parents may disagree.

“The adolescent brain isn’t broken or defective,” Dr. Jay Giedd told an audience at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on Wednesday. “It’s different from the child’s brain, and it’s different from the adult’s brain, but those differences have many upsides.”

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