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    Research News Roundup: February 1, 2024

    Ecological Momentary Assessment of Self-Reported Kratom Use, Effects, and Motivations Among US Adults

    Journal: JAMA Network Open, 2024, doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.53401

    Authors: Kirsten E. Smith, Leigh V. Panlilio, Jeffrey D. Feldman, Oliver Grundmann, Kelly E. Dunn, Christopher R. McCurdy, Albert Garcia-Romeu, & David H. Epstein


    Importance: Kratom products, which are sold legally in most of the US, contain alkaloids with opioidergic, adrenergic, and serotonergic activity. Millions of people use kratom to relieve pain, improve mood, or self-manage substance use disorders (SUDs). Kratom use has primarily been examined via surveys, in which recall biases among satisfied users may lead to minimization of transient negative outcomes. Further prospective study of kratom use, such as with ecological momentary assessment (EMA), is needed.

    Objective: To characterize proximal motivators, effects, and patterns of kratom use and to assess whether use frequency is associated with motivations, effects, past-year criteria for SUD for kratom (KUD), or other substance use.

    Design, Setting, and Participants: For this prospective cross-sectional study, an intensive longitudinal smartphone-based EMA in which participants’ current behaviors and experiences were repeatedly sampled in real time was conducted between July 1 and October 31, 2022. Participants comprised a convenience sample of US adults who used kratom at least 3 days per week for at least 4 weeks at the time of online screening. Criteria for past-year KUD were based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Data analysis was performed between November 2022 and November 2023.

    Exposure: The exposure was 13 401 kratom-use events across 15 days.

    Main Outcomes and Measures: A baseline survey covering demographics, health, kratom attitudes and behaviors, use motivations, other substance use, and KUD was administered before EMA. Data for the following EMA entries were then collected: event-contingent entries for kratom use (product, dose, and proximal motivations), follow-up entries (short-term effects and consequences of use events), random-prompt entries (mood), beginning-of-day entries (effects of kratom on sleep), and end-of-day entries (daily subjective descriptions of kratom effects). Bayesian regression was used to estimate means and credible intervals.

    Results: A total of 357 participants completed the EMA. Their mean (SD) age was 38.0 (11.1) years; more than half were men (198 [55.5%]). Participants reported overall motivators of use on the baseline survey that involved managing psychiatric and SUD problems, but proximal motivators evaluated during the EMA involved situation-specific needs such as increasing energy and productivity and decreasing pain. Acute effects were considered congruent with daily obligations. Use patterns, despite having some distinguishing features, were generally similar in their motivators and effects; participants used kratom predominantly during the daytime and seemed to find use frequencies that suited their needs. Higher use patterns were associated with symptoms of physical dependence (eg, withdrawal or tolerance). Co-used substances included caffeine, nicotine, vitamins, and cannabis.

    Conclusions and Relevance: Most participants in this study reported using kratom in a seemingly nonproblematic way. When such use appeared problematic, the key element was usually that withdrawal avoidance became a proximal motivator. Longitudinal studies examining changes in kratom use patterns and effects over time are needed.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Journal: Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2024, doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2024.111083

    Authors: David Adzrago, Saanie Sulley, & Faustine Williams


    Introduction: E-cigarette and cannabis use has been linked to various health risks, including respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. Yet, extant knowledge about the risk factors for exclusive and dual use of e-cigarettes and cannabis is limited, especially among immigrants. We examined exclusive e-cigarette and cannabis use and their dual use associated with mental health disorders among immigrants and U.S.-born.

    Methods: We analyzed national cross-sectional data collected between May 13, 2021, and January 9, 2022, among adults aged >18 years (n= 4766) living in U.S. Multinomial logistic regression analyses were conducted to model the associations of exclusivity and dual-use (reference group= non-use) with anxiety/depression.

    Results: The dual-use prevalence was higher than exclusive e-cigarette and cannabis use, especially among U.S.-born (dual use= 14.79% vs. cannabis use= 13.53% vs. e-cigarette use= 7.11%) compared to immigrants (dual use= 8.23% vs. cannabis use= 5.03% vs. e-cigarette use= 6.31%). Immigrants had lower risks of exclusive cannabis and dual use compared to U.S.-born. Anxiety/depression was associated with higher risks of exclusive cannabis use and dual use across immigration status, but was associated with exclusive e-cigarette use among only immigrants. While effect sizes of dual-use associated with anxiety/depression were higher among U.S.-born, the effect sizes of exclusive e-cigarette and cannabis use associated with anxiety/depression were higher among immigrants.

    Conclusions: The findings revealed significant mental health risks for e-cigarette, cannabis, and their dual use among immigrants and U.S.-born, especially among U.S.-born. These findings highlight the need for public health research and interventions to consider immigration status-related disparities in substance use.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    IUPHAR Review: New Strategies for Medications to Treat Substance Use Disorders

    Journal: Pharmacological Research, 2024, doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2024.107078

    Authors: Ivan D. Montoya, & Nora D. Volkow


    Substance use disorders (SUDs) and drug overdose are a public health emergency and safe and effective treatments are urgently needed. Developing new medications to treat them is expensive, time-consuming, and the probability of a compound progressing to clinical trials and obtaining FDA-approval is low. The small number of FDA-approved medications for SUDs reflects the low interest of pharmaceutical companies to invest in this area due to market forces, characteristics of the population (e.g., stigma, and socio-economic and legal disadvantages), and the high bar regulatory agencies set for new medication approval. In consequence, most research on medications is funded by government agencies, such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Multiple scientific opportunities are emerging that can accelerate the discovery and development of new medications for SUDs. These include fast and efficient tools to screen new molecules, discover new medication targets, use of big data to explore large clinical data sets and artificial intelligence (AI) applications to make predictions, and precision medicine tools to individualize and optimize treatments. This review provides a general description of these new research strategies for the development of medications to treat SUDs with emphasis on the gaps and scientific opportunities. It includes a brief overview of the rising public health toll of SUDs; the justification, challenges, and opportunities to develop new medications; and a discussion of medications and treatment endpoints that are being evaluated with support from NIDA.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Journal: Harm Reduction Journal, 2024, doi: 10.1186/s12954-024-00939-6

    Authors: Laura R. Marks, Michael J. Durkin, Kelly Ayres, & Matthew Ellis


    Background: The rise in injection drug use in the USA has led to an increase in injection site infections. We performed a national survey of people who use drugs to evaluate common drug use preparation, harm reduction practices, and experiences with injection site infections.

    Methods: A survey was disseminated to members of the Survey of Key Informants’ Patients Program from 2021 to 2022 and distributed to patients 18 years or older newly entering one of 68 substance use disorder treatment programs across the USA with a primary diagnosis of an opioid use disorder. Participants were surveyed about practices when preparing and using drugs, along with self-reported infections and drug use complications.

    Results: 1289 participants responded to the survey. Sexually transmitted infections were common, with 37.6% reporting ever having had any sexually transmitted infection. Injection-associated infections had affected 63.4% of participants who had ever used injection drugs. Many respondents reported not seeking professional medical assistance for infection management, including 29% draining abscesses without seeking medical care and 22.8% obtaining antibiotics through non-healthcare sources. Non-sterile injection practices included sharing needles with others who were febrile or ill (18%), using needles previously used to drain wounds/abscesses (9.9%) for subsequent injection drug use, and licking needles (21.2%).

    Conclusion: Patients entering treatment for opioid use disorder reported a high burden of infectious diseases. A number of easily-modifiable high risk behaviors for developing injection-related infections were identified. Efforts are needed to disseminate targeted harm reduction education to PWID on how to reduce their risks for injection-related infections.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.

    Prenatal Tobacco Smoke Exposure and Risk for Cognitive Delays in Infants Born Very Premature

    Journal: Scientific Reports, 2024, doi: 10.1038/s41598-024-51263-9

    Authors: E. Melinda Mahabee-Gittens, Nusrat Harun, Meredith Glover, Alonzo T. Folger, … Nehal A. Parikh


    Prenatal tobacco smoke exposure (TSE) and prematurity are independent risk factors for abnormal neurodevelopment. The objectives were to compare differences in Bayley-III cognitive, language, and motor scores at 2 years corrected age (CA) in 395 infants born very preterm (≤ 32 weeks gestation) with and without prenatal TSE. We performed multivariable linear regression analyses to examine associations between prenatal TSE and neurodevelopmental outcomes and a mediation analysis to estimate direct effects of prenatal TSE on outcomes and indirect effects through preterm birth. In total, 50 (12.6%) infants had prenatal TSE. Infants with prenatal TSE had lower mean [95% CI] Cognitive score (82.8 [78.6, 87.1]) vs. nonexposed infants (91.7 [90.1, 93.4]). In children with and without prenatal TSE, there were significant differences in mean [95% CI] Language scores (81.7 [76.0, 87.4] vs. 92.4 [90.2, 94.6], respectively) and mean [95% CI] Motor scores (86.5 [82.2, 90.7] vs. 93.4 [91.8, 95.0], respectively); scores remained significant after controlling for confounders. Preterm birth indirectly mediated 9.0% of the total effect of prenatal TSE on Cognitive score (P = NS). However, 91% of the remaining total effect was significant and attributable to TSE’s direct harmful effects on cognitive development (β = – 5.17 [95% CI – 9.97, – 0.38]). The significant association is largely due to TSE’s direct effect on cognitive development and not primarily due to TSE’s indirect effect on preterm birth.

    To read the full text of the article, please visit the publisher’s website.


    January 2024