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    Research News Roundup: January 18, 2024

    Journal: Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2024, doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2023.111079

    Authors: Sarah Raifman, M. Antonia Biggs, Corinne Rocca, & Sarah C. M. Roberts


    Background: Among pregnant and recently pregnant people we investigated whether legal recreational cannabis is associated with pregnancy-related cannabis use, safety beliefs, and perceived community stigma.

    Methods: In 2022, we surveyed 3571 currently and recently pregnant English- or Spanish-speaking adults in 37 states. Primary outcomes included cannabis use during pregnancy and two continuous scale measures of beliefs about safety and perceived community stigma. Using generalized linear models and mixed effects ordinal logistic regression with random effects for state, we assessed associations between legal recreational cannabis and outcomes of interest, controlling for state-level and individual-level covariates and specifying appropriate functional form.

    Results: Those who reported cannabis use during pregnancy were more likely to believe it is safe and to perceive community stigma compared to those who did not report use during pregnancy. Legal recreational cannabis was not associated with cannabis use during pregnancy, continuation or increase in use, frequency of use, or safety beliefs. Legal recreational cannabis was associated with lower perceived community stigma (coefficient: -0.07, 95% CI: -0.13, -0.01), including among those who reported use during (coefficient = -0.22, 95% CI: -0.40, -0.04) and prior to but not during (coefficient = -0.19, 95% CI: -0.37, -0.01) pregnancy.

    Conclusion: Findings do not support concerns that legal recreational cannabis is associated with cannabis use during pregnancy or beliefs about safety. Legal recreational cannabis may be associated with lower community stigma around cannabis use during pregnancy, which could have implications for pregnant people’s disclosure of use and care-seeking behavior.

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

    Experiences of and Recommendations for LGBTQ+-Affirming Substance Use Services: An Exploratory Qualitative Descriptive Study with LGBTQ+ People Who Use Opioids and Other Drugs

    Journal: Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 2024, doi: 10.1186/s13011-023-00581-8

    Authors: Margaret M. Paschen-Wolff, Avery DeSousa, Emily Allen Paine, Tonda L. Hughes, & Aimee N. C. Campbell


    Background: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other LGBTQ populations (LGBTQ+; e.g., asexual individuals) have higher rates of substance use (SU) and disorders (SUD) compared to heterosexual and cisgender populations. Such disparities can be attributed to minority stress, including stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings. LGBTQ+-affirming SU treatment and related services remain limited. The purpose of this exploratory qualitative descriptive study was to characterize LGBTQ+ people’s experiences in SU services and recommendations for LGBTQ+- affirming care.

    Methods: We conducted demographic surveys (characterized using descriptive statistics) and individual qualitative interviews with N = 23 LGBTQ+ people. We employed flexible coding and a thematic analysis approach to describe participants’ experiences with stigma, discrimination, and support within SU services at the patient-, staff-, and organizational-level; and participant recommendations for how to make such services LGBTQ+-affirming. We highlighted components of minority stress and mitigators of adverse stress responses throughout our thematic analysis.

    Results: Patient-level experiences included bullying, name-calling, sexual harassment, and physical distancing from peers; and support via community-building with LGBTQ+ peers. Staff-level experiences included name-calling, denial of services, misgendering, lack of intervention in peer bullying, and assumptions about participants’ sexuality; and support via staff advocacy for LGBTQ+ patients, holistic treatment models, and openly LGBTQ+ staff. Organizational-level experiences included stigma in binary gendered program structures; and support from programs with gender-affirming groups and housing, and in visual cues (e.g., rainbow flags) of affirming care. Stigma and discrimination led to minority stress processes like identity concealment and stress coping responses like SU relapse; support facilitated SU treatment engagement and retention. Recommendations for LGBTQ+-affirming care included non-discrimination policies, LGBTQ+-specific programming, hiring LGBTQ+ staff, routine staff sensitivity training, and gender-inclusive program structures.

    Conclusions: LGBTQ+ people experience stigma and discrimination within SU services; supportive and affirming care is vital to reducing treatment barriers and promoting positive health outcomes. The current study offers concrete recommendations for how to deliver LGBTQ+-affirming care, which could reduce SU disparities and drug overdose mortality overall.

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

    Childhood Trauma, Emotional Awareness, and Neural Correlates of Long-Term Nicotine Smoking

    Journal: JAMA Network Open, 2024, doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.51132

    Authors: Annika Quam, Kathryn Biernacki, Thomas J. Ross, Betty Jo Salmeron, & Amy C. Janes


    Importance: Temporal dynamic measures provide insight into the neurobiological properties of nicotine use. It is critical to determine whether brain-based measures are associated with substance use risk factors, such as childhood trauma-related emotion dysregulation.

    Objective: To assess temporal dynamic differences based on smoking status and examine the associations between childhood trauma, alexithymia, nicotine smoking, and default mode network (DMN) states.

    Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional study was conducted in the Baltimore, Maryland, area at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Participants included individuals aged 18 to 65 years who smoked nicotine long term and matched controls with no co-occurring substance use or psychiatric disorders. Participants were enrolled from August 8, 2013, to August 9, 2022. Analysis was conducted from August 2022 to July 2023.

    Exposure: Long-term nicotine smoking.

    Main Outcomes and Measures: The main outcome was temporal dynamic differences based on smoking status. Coactivation pattern analysis was conducted based on 16-minute resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging; total time in, persistence of, and frequency of transitions into states were evaluated. The associations between childhood trauma (Childhood Trauma Questionnaire), alexithymia (20-item Toronto Alexithymia Scale), and DMN temporal dynamics were assessed.

    Results: The sample included 204 participants (102 individuals who smoked nicotine and 102 control individuals) with a mean (SD) age of 37.53 (10.64) years (109 [53.4%] male). Compared with controls, individuals who smoked nicotine spent more time in the frontoinsular DMN (FI-DMN) state (mean difference, 25.63 seconds; 95% CI, 8.05-43.20 seconds; η2p = 0.04; P = .004 after Bonferroni correction). In those who smoked nicotine, greater alexithymia was associated with less time spent in the FI-DMN state (r, -0.26; 95% CI, -0.44 to -0.07; P = .007). In a moderated mediation analysis, alexithymia mediated the association between childhood trauma and time spent in the FI-DMN state only in individuals who smoked nicotine (c’ = -0.24; 95% CI, -0.58 to -0.03; P = .02).

    Conclusions and Relevance: Compared with controls, individuals who smoked nicotine spent more time in the FI-DMN state. Among those who smoked nicotine, childhood trauma-related alexithymia was associated with less time spent in the FI-DMN state, indicating that considering trauma-related factors may reveal alternative neurobiological underpinnings of substance use. These data may aid in reconciling contradictory findings in prior literature regarding the role of FI-DMN regions in substance use.

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

    Journal: BMC Public Health, 2024, doi: 10.1186/s12889-023-17563-x

    Authors: Marwa Rawy, Gergis Abdalla, & Kevin Look


    Background: Psychoactive drug combinations are increasingly contributing to overdose deaths among White and Black Americans. To understand the evolving nature of overdose crisis, inform policies, and develop tailored and equitable interventions, this study provides a comprehensive assessment of polysubstance mortality trends by race and sex during the opioid epidemic.

    Methods: We used serial cross-sectional US mortality data for White and Black populations from 1999 through 2018 to calculate annual age-adjusted death rates (AADR) involving any opioid, opioid subtypes, benzodiazepines, cocaine, psychostimulants, or combinations of these drugs, stratified by race and sex. Trend changes in AADR were analyzed using joinpoint regression models and expressed as average annual percent change (AAPC) during each period of the three waves of the opioid epidemic: 1999-2010 (wave 1), 2010-2013 (wave 2), and 2013-2018 (wave 3). Prevalence measures assessed the percent co-involvement of an investigated drug in the overall death from another drug.

    Results: Polysubstance mortality has shifted from a modest rise in death rates due to benzodiazepine-opioid overdoses among White persons (wave 1) to a substantial increase in death rates due to illicit drug combinations impacting both White and Black populations (wave 3). Concurrent cocaine-opioid use had the highest polysubstance mortality rates in 2018 among Black (5.28 per 100,000) and White (3.53 per 100,000) persons. The steepest increase in death rates during wave 3 was observed across all psychoactive drugs when combined with synthetic opioids in both racial groups. Since 2013, Black persons have died faster from cocaine-opioid and psychostimulant-opioid overdoses. Between 2013 and 2018, opioids were highly prevalent in cocaine-related deaths, increasing by 33% in White persons compared to 135% in Blacks. By 2018, opioids contributed to approximately half of psychostimulant and 85% of benzodiazepine fatal overdoses in both groups. The magnitude and type of drug combinations with the highest death rates differed by race and sex, with Black men exhibiting the highest overdose burden beginning in 2013.

    Conclusions: The current drug crisis should be considered in the context of polysubstance use. Effective measures and policies are needed to curb synthetic opioid-involved deaths and address disparate mortality rates in Black communities.

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

    Journal: Journal of the American Heart Association, 2024, doi: 10.1161/JAHA.123.030969

    Authors: Abdul Mannan Khan Minhas, Jakrin Kewcharoen, Michael E. Hall, Haider J. Warraich, Stephen J. Greene, Michael D. Shapiro, Erin D. Michos, … Dmitry Abramov


    Background: There are limited data on substance use (SU) and cardiovascular disease (CVD)-related mortality trends in the United States. We aimed to evaluate SU+CVD-related deaths in the United States using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wide-Ranging, Online Data for Epidemiologic Research database.

    Methods and Results: The Multiple Cause-of-Death Public Use record death certificates were used to identify deaths related to both SU and CVD. Crude, age-adjusted mortality rates, annual percent change, and average annual percent changes with a 95% CI were analyzed. Between 1999 and 2019, there were 636 572 SU+CVD-related deaths (75.6% men, 70.6% non-Hispanic White individuals, 65% related to alcohol). Age-adjusted mortality rates per 100 000 population were pronounced in men (22.5 [95% CI, 22.6-22.6]), American Indian or Alaska Native individuals (37.7 [95% CI, 37.0-38.4]), nonmetropolitan/rural areas (15.2 [95% CI, 15.1-15.3]), and alcohol-related death (9.09 [95% CI, 9.07 to 9.12]). The overall SU+CVD-related age-adjusted mortality rates increased from 9.9 (95% CI, 9.8-10.1) in 1999 to 21.4 (95% CI, 21.2-21.6) in 2019 with an average annual percent change of 4.0 (95% CI, 3.7-4.3). Increases in SU+CVD-related average annual percent change were noted across all subgroups and were pronounced among women (4.8% [95% CI, 4.5-5.1]), American Indian or Alaska Native individuals, younger individuals, nonmetropolitan areas, and cannabis and psychostimulant users.

    Conclusions: There was a prominent increase in SU+CVD-related mortality in the United States between 1999 and 2019. Women, non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native individuals, younger individuals, nonmetropolitan area residents, and users of cannabis and psychostimulants had pronounced increases in SU+CVD mortality.

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


    January 2024