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    Research News Roundup: November 2, 2023

    Alignment in Local Approaches to Alcohol and Cannabis Control Policy: A Case Study of California Cities and Counties

    Journal: International Journal of Drug Policy, 2023, doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2023.104114

    Authors: Ellicott C. Matthay, Leyla Mousli, Dorie E. Apollonio, & Laura A. Schmidt


    Background: Public health experts have urged governments around the world to regulate newly legalized cannabis as they do alcohol to effectively and efficiently protect health. However, research evaluating the alignment of alcohol and cannabis policies is sparse. We assessed similarities and differences in local alcohol and cannabis control policies across California, and characterized localities adopting distinct policy approaches.

    Methods: Using standard legal epidemiologic techniques, we collected and coded local alcohol and cannabis control policies relevant to public health for 12 California counties and all incorporated cities within them (N=241). We assessed whether localities were equally stringent on alcohol and cannabis policies by comparing overall restrictiveness (summed policy scores) and 9 specific provisions that applied to both substances. We captured distinct local alcohol-cannabis policy approaches using latent class analysis, and examined this classification in relation to local demographic, socioeconomic, political, and retail market characteristics.

    Results: All 241 localities permitted alcohol sales, while 71% banned cannabis sales. Among those that did not ban cannabis sales, more stringent alcohol policy scores were associated with more stringent cannabis policy scores (linear regression coefficient: 0.16 [95% CI: 0.07, 0.25]). Local governments rarely adopted the same provisions for alcohol and cannabis (e.g., limits on hours of sale, advertising restrictions), and only two regulated the co-location of cannabis and alcohol outlets. Localities that were restrictive on alcohol yet permissive on cannabis (12%) were more urban, politically progressive, and had more low-income and racial/ethnic minority residents. Localities that were more permissive on alcohol and restrictive on cannabis (51%) were more socioeconomically advantaged.

    Conclusion: We found few similarities between local alcohol and cannabis control policies. California’s experience suggests that, as governments around the world legalize cannabis, lessons learned from regulating alcohol are not routinely applied to cannabis, particularly in communities distinguished by high social and economic advantages.

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

    Key Risk Factors Associated with Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Use Among Adolescents

    Journal: JAMA Network Open, 2023, doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.37101

    Author: Thuy T. T. Le


    Importance: The prevalence of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) use among US youths has increased significantly during the past decade. Identifying key factors highly associated with ENDS use is essential in monitoring and preventing this harmful behavior among youths.

    Objective: To identify the most important risk factors in wave 4.5 (ie, December 2017 to December 2018) of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study (PATH) data that are associated with ENDS use in wave 5 (i.e., December 2018 to November 2019) among adolescents who were tobacco-naive at baseline.

    Design, Setting, and Participants: This prognostic study examined data from waves 4.5 and 5 of the PATH youth data set using machine learning techniques. The PATH study is a nationally representative longitudinal cohort study of tobacco use and health in the United States among individuals aged 12 years and older. The data analysis was carried out between January and April 2023.

    Main Outcomes and Measures: Wave 5 current ENDS use status of wave 4.5 adolescents who were tobacco-naive.

    Results: The analyzed data set comprised 7943 individuals who were tobacco-naive in wave 4.5. Among this group, 332 participants (4.2%) indicated their present use of ENDS in wave 5, 5047 (63.5%) were aged 12 to 14 years, 4066 (51.2%) were male, and 2455 (30.9%) were Hispanic. The most important risk factors of ENDS use in wave 5 among adolescents who were tobacco-naive in wave 4.5 were the likelihood of using ENDS if offered by a best friend (mean SHAP value, 0.184), the number of best friends using e-cigarettes (mean SHAP value, 0.167), household tobacco usage (mean SHAP value, 0.161), curiosity about ENDS use (mean SHAP value, 0.088), future intention to use ENDS (mean SHAP value, 0.068), youth’s total average weekly earnings (mean SHAP value, 0.060), and perceptions of tobacco product safety (mean SHAP value, 0.026).

    Conclusions and Relevance: The findings of this study suggest that family and friends play an important role in ENDS use among adolescents. The top-ranking factors associated with ENDS use in this study are areas for further exploration, given the increasing prevalence of ENDS use among youths in recent years. Additionally, these findings highlight the important role of families and schools in shaping adolescents’ tobacco-related knowledge, which can protect them from using ENDS.

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

    Consequences of Adolescent Drug Use

    Journal: Translational Psychiatry, 2023, doi: 10.1038/s41398-023-02590-4

    Authors: Michael R. Steinfeld, & Mary M. Torregrossa


    Substance use in adolescence is a known risk factor for the development of neuropsychiatric and substance use disorders in adulthood. This is in part due to the fact that critical aspects of brain development occur during adolescence, which can be altered by drug use. Despite concerted efforts to educate youth about the potential negative consequences of substance use, initiation remains common amongst adolescents world-wide. Additionally, though there has been substantial research on the topic, many questions remain about the predictors and the consequences of adolescent drug use. In the following review, we will highlight some of the most recent literature on the neurobiological and behavioral effects of adolescent drug use in rodents, non-human primates, and humans, with a specific focus on alcohol, cannabis, nicotine, and the interactions between these substances. Overall, consumption of these substances during adolescence can produce long-lasting changes across a variety of structures and networks which can have enduring effects on behavior, emotion, and cognition.

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

    Diagnostic Criteria for Identifying Individuals at High Risk of Progression from Mild or Moderate to Severe Alcohol Use Disorder

    Journal: JAMA Network Open, 2023, doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.37192

    Authors: Alex P. Miller, Sally I-Chun Kuo, Emma C. Johnson, Rebecca Tillman, Sarah J. Brislin, Danielle M. Dick, Chella Kamarajan, … Arpana Agrawal


    Importance: Current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition) (DSM-5) diagnoses of substance use disorders rely on criterion count-based approaches, disregarding severity grading indexed by individual criteria.

    Objective: To examine correlates of alcohol use disorder (AUD) across count-based severity groups (ie, mild, moderate, mild-to-moderate, severe), identify specific diagnostic criteria indicative of greater severity, and evaluate whether specific criteria within mild-to-moderate AUD differentiate across relevant correlates and manifest in greater hazards of severe AUD development.

    Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study involved 2 cohorts from the family-based Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) with 7 sites across the United States: cross-sectional (assessed 1991-2005) and longitudinal (assessed 2004-2019). Statistical analyses were conducted from December 2022 to June 2023.

    Main Outcomes and Measures: Sociodemographic, alcohol-related, psychiatric comorbidity, brain electroencephalography (EEG), and AUD polygenic score measures as correlates of DSM-5 AUD levels (ie, mild, moderate, severe) and criterion severity-defined mild-to-moderate AUD diagnostic groups (ie, low-risk vs high-risk mild-to-moderate).

    Results: A total of 13 110 individuals from the cross-sectional COGA cohort (mean [SD] age, 37.8 [14.2] years) and 2818 individuals from the longitudinal COGA cohort (mean baseline [SD] age, 16.1 [3.2] years) were included. Associations with alcohol-related, psychiatric, EEG, and AUD polygenic score measures reinforced the role of increasing criterion counts as indexing severity. Yet within mild-to-moderate AUD (2-5 criteria), the presence of specific high-risk criteria (eg, withdrawal) identified a group reporting heavier drinking and greater psychiatric comorbidity even after accounting for criterion count differences. In longitudinal analyses, prior mild-to-moderate AUD characterized by endorsement of at least 1 high-risk criterion was associated with more accelerated progression to severe AUD (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 11.62; 95% CI, 7.54-17.92) compared with prior mild-to-moderate AUD without endorsement of high-risk criteria (aHR, 5.64; 95% CI, 3.28-9.70), independent of criterion count.

    Conclusions and Relevance: In this cohort study of a combined 15 928 individuals, findings suggested that simple count-based AUD diagnostic approaches to estimating severe AUD vulnerability, which ignore heterogeneity among criteria, may be improved by emphasizing specific high-risk criteria. Such emphasis may allow better focus on individuals at the greatest risk and improve understanding of the development of AUD.

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

    The Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism: Overview

    Journal: Genes, Brain and Behavior, 2023, doi: 10.1111/gbb.12864

    Authors: Arpana Agrawal, Sarah J. Brislin, Kathleen K. Bucholz, Danielle Dick, Ronald P. Hart, Emma C. Johnson, Jacquelyn Meyers, … Bernice Porjesz


    Alcohol use disorders (AUD) are commonly occurring, heritable and polygenic disorders with etiological origins in the brain and the environment. To outline the causes and consequences of alcohol-related milestones, including AUD, and their related psychiatric comorbidities, the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) was launched in 1989 with a gene-brain-behavior framework. COGA is a family based, diverse (~25% self-identified African American, ~52% female) sample, including data on 17,878 individuals, ages 7-97 years, in 2246 families of which a proportion are densely affected for AUD. All participants responded to questionnaires (e.g., personality) and the Semi-Structured Assessment for the Genetics of Alcoholism (SSAGA) which gathers information on psychiatric diagnoses, conditions and related behaviors (e.g., parental monitoring). In addition, 9871 individuals have brain function data from electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings while 12,009 individuals have been genotyped on genome-wide association study (GWAS) arrays. A series of functional genomics studies examine the specific cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying AUD. This overview provides the framework for the development of COGA as a scientific resource in the past three decades, with individual reviews providing in-depth descriptions of data on and discoveries from behavioral and clinical, brain function, genetic and functional genomics data. The value of COGA also resides in its data sharing policies, its efforts to communicate scientific findings to the broader community via a project website and its potential to nurture early career investigators and to generate independent research that has broadened the impact of gene-brain-behavior research into AUD.

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