Research News Roundup: February 17, 2022

    Use of Marijuana: Effect on Brain Health: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association

    Journal: Stroke, 2022, doi:10.1161/STR.0000000000000396Stroke

    Authors: Fernando D. Testai, Philip B. Gorelick, Hugo J. Aparicio, Francesca M. Filbey, Raul Gonzalez, Rebecca F. Gottesman, Miriam Melis, Mariann R. Piano, Tiziana Rubino & Sarah Y. Song


    Marijuana is perceived as a harmless drug, and its recreational use has gained popularity among young individuals. The concentration of active ingredients in recreational formulations has gradually increased over time, and high-potency illicit cannabinomimetics have become available. Thus, the consumption of cannabis in the general population is rising. Data from preclinical models demonstrate that cannabinoid receptors are expressed in high density in areas involved in cognition and behavior, particularly during periods of active neurodevelopment and maturation. In addition, growing evidence highlights the role of endogenous cannabinoid pathways in the regulation of neurotransmitter release, synaptic plasticity, and neurodevelopment. In animal models, exogenous cannabinoids disrupt these important processes and lead to cognitive and behavioral abnormalities. These data correlate with the higher risk of cognitive impairment reported in some observational studies done in humans. It is unclear whether the effect of cannabis on cognition reverts after abstinence. However, this evidence, along with the increased risk of stroke reported in marijuana users, raises concerns about its potential long-term effects on cognitive function. This scientific statement reviews the safety of cannabis use from the perspective of brain health, describes mechanistically how cannabis may cause cognitive dysfunction, and advocates for a more informed health care worker and consumer about the potential for cannabis to adversely affect the brain.

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

    Intimate Partner Violence as a Predictor of Substance Use Outcomes among Women: A Systematic Review

    Journal: Addictive Behaviors, 2022, doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2021.107214.

    Authors: Shannon N. Ogden, Melissa E. Dichter & Angela R. Bazzi

    Abstract: Although the correlation between experience of intimate partner violence (IPV) and substance use among women has been well-established, there is no consensus on whether or how IPV impacts subsequent substance use behaviors or treatment success. To identify research gaps and implications for substance use treatment, we conducted a systematic review to identify and examine evidence on IPV as a predictor of subsequent substance use behaviors, substance use disorders (SUD), and treatment outcomes among women. We included studies published between 2010 and 2020 that assessed IPV experiences as a predictor of subsequent substance use behaviors (i.e., use initiation, increased use), SUD diagnosis, or treatment outcomes (i.e., incomplete treatment, relapse) among women. From 576 unique records, we included 10 studies (4 longitudinal, 4 cross-sectional, 2 qualitative). Alcohol use and alcohol use disorder were the most commonly studied outcomes (n = 6); findings were mixed regarding the significance of IPV being associated with subsequent alcohol outcomes. Three studies examined illicit drug use, finding that physical and sexual IPV predicted crack/cocaine use and were associated with SUD diagnoses. Four studies examining SUD treatment outcomes found IPV to impede treatment engagement and completion, increasing the likelihood of relapse. To our knowledge, this is the first systematic review of the literature on IPV as a predictor of substance use behaviors and treatment outcomes among women. Findings highlight the need for diverse SUD treatment modalities to incorporate IPV screening and referral to appropriate services into their programming to improve SUD management and the overall health and wellbeing of women.

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

    Substance-Specific and Shared Gray Matter Signatures in Alcohol, Opioid, and Polysubstance Use Disorder

    Journal: Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2022, doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.795299

    Authors: Angela M. Muller, David L. Pennington & Dieter J. Meyerhoff


    Substance use disorders (SUD) have been shown to be associated with gray matter (GM) loss, particularly in the frontal cortex. However, unclear is to what degree these regional GM alterations are substance-specific or shared across different substances, and if these regional GM alterations are independent of each other or the result of system-level processes at the intrinsic connectivity network level. The T1 weighted MRI data of 65 treated patients with alcohol use disorder (AUD), 27 patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) on maintenance therapy, 21 treated patients with stimulant use disorder comorbid with alcohol use disorder (polysubstance use disorder patients, PSU), and 21 healthy controls were examined via data-driven vertex-wise and voxel-wise GM analyses. Then, structural covariance analyses and open-access fMRI database analyses were used to map the cortical thinning patterns found in the three SUD groups onto intrinsic functional systems. Among AUD and OUD, we identified both common cortical thinning in right anterior brain regions as well as SUD-specific regional GM alterations that were not present in the PSU group. Furthermore, AUD patients had not only the most extended regional thinning but also significantly smaller subcortical structures and cerebellum relative to controls, OUD and PSU individuals. The system-level analyses revealed that AUD and OUD showed cortical thinning in several functional systems. In the AUD group the default mode network was clearly most affected, followed by the salience and executive control networks, whereas the salience and somatomotor network were highlighted as critical for understanding OUD. Structural brain alterations in groups with different SUDs are largely unique in their spatial extent and functional network correlates.

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

    Overlapping Needs for Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV Prevention in Women with Substance Use Disorders

    Journal: Women’s Health, 2022, doi: 10.1177/17455065211070543

    Authors: Britton Gibson, Emily Hoff, Alissa Haas, Zoe M. Adams, Carolina R. Price, Dawn Goddard-Eckrich, Sangini S. Sheth, Anindita Dasgupta & Jaimie P. Meyer


    Objectives: Women with substance use disorders have high unmet needs for HIV prevention and drug treatment and face challenges accessing care for other unique health issues, including their sexual and reproductive health.

    Methods: We did a cross-sectional evaluation of sexual and reproductive health behaviors and outcomes among women with substance use disorders, who were enrolled in one of two concurrent clinical trials of pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention. Descriptive analyses and bivariate logistic regression were used to assess factors driving contraceptive use, and other essential sexual and reproductive health services utilization and outcomes.

    Results: Among 226 women, 173 (76.5%) were of reproductive age. Most women had histories of unintended pregnancy (79.2%) or miscarriage (45.1%) and high HIV risk behaviors (53.5%). Most (61%) participants did not use any form of contraception at the time of assessment, although few (15%) reported pregnancy intentions. In bivariate models, ongoing criminal justice involvement was associated with 2.22 higher odds of not using contraception (95% confidence interval = 1.09–4.53; p = 0.03) and hazardous drinking was protective against not using contraception (odds ratio = 0.33, 95% confidence interval = 0.13–0.81; p = 0.02). Contraception use was not significantly associated with any other individual characteristics or need factors.

    Conclusions: This is the first study that identifies the unmet sexual and reproductive health needs of women with substance use disorders who are engaging with pre-exposure prophylaxis. We found that women accessed some health services but not in a way that holistically addresses the full scope of their needs. Integrated sexual and reproductive care should align women’s expressed sexual and reproductive health intentions with their behaviors and outcomes, by addressing social determinants of health.

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

    Adolescent Risk Perceptions of ENDS Use: Room for Change in Tobacco Education

    Journal: Preventive Medicine Reports, 2022, doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2022.101719

    Authors: Matthew W. Walker, Mario Navarro, Maria Roditis & Atanaska (Nasi) Dineva

    Abstract: Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) have surpassed combustible cigarettes as the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. middle and high school students, and research shows that youth do not perceive great risk of harm from regular ENDS use. FDA’s public education campaigns help educate youth about the potential risks of using tobacco products and three separate experimental copy testing/ad testing studies (N = 1907) were conducted in support of the FDAs “The Real Cost” (TRC) Cigarette and ENDS Campaigns. These studies provided data for the current investigation which used harm perception items to assess perceived risks of cigarette or ENDS use among adolescents after viewing a public health education advertisement. Eligible youth aged 13–17 who were susceptible, or experimenting, with cigarettes or vaping products were recruited online and randomized into either an ad viewing exposure group, or a non-ad viewing control group. The ads focused on health effects, addiction, or both. Effect sizeson key harm perception measures between groups were computed and standardized to allow for comparisons.Both TRC Cigarette and TRC ENDS ads were able to change harm and addiction perceptions (p < .05); however, effect sizes were significantly larger for items related to health effects for ENDS vs cigarettes (p < .05). When designing youth focused ENDS education campaigns, practitioners should present novel facts in order to take advantage of large effect sizes. Evaluators of early campaign efforts to educate youth about these products may anticipate significant increases in health-related risk perceptions.

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


    February 2022