Prenatal Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure Alters Children’s Cognitive Control Circuitry: A Preliminary Study

Journal: Environment International, 2021, doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2021.106516

Authors: Amy E. Margolis, David Pagliaccio, Bruce Ramphal, Sarah Banker, Lauren Thomas, Morgan Robinson, Masato Honda, Tamara Sussman, Jonathan Posner, Kurunthachalam Kannan, Julie Herbstman, Virginia Rauh & Rachel Marsh


Background and Objectives: Prenatal exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is associated with increased attention problems in children, however, the effects of such exposure on children’s brain structure and function have not been studied. Herein, we probed effects of prenatal ETS on children’s cognitive control circuitry and behavior.

Methods: Forty-one children (7–9 years) recruited from a prospective longitudinal birth cohort of non-smoking mothers completed structural and task-functional magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate effects of maternal ETS exposure, measured by maternal prenatal urinary cotinine. Attention problems and externalizing behaviors were measured by parent report on the Child Behavior Checklist.

Results: Compared to non-exposed children, exposed children had smaller left and right thalamic and inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) volumes, with large effect sizes (p-FDR < .05, Cohen’s D range from 0.79 to 1.07), and increased activation in IFG during the resolution of cognitive conflict measured with the Simon Spatial Incompatibility Task (38 voxels; peak t(25) = 5.25, p-FWE = .005). Reduced thalamic volume was associated with increased IFG activation and attention problems, reflecting poor cognitive control. Mediation analyses showed a trend toward left thalamic volume mediating the association between exposure and attention problems (p = .05).

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that maternal ETS exposure during pregnancy has deleterious effects on the structure and function of cognitive control circuitry which in turn affects attentional capacity in school-age children. These findings are consistent with prior findings documenting the effects of active maternal smoking on children’s neurodevelopment, pointing to the neurotoxicity of nicotine regardless of exposure pathway.

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Reasons for Individual and Concurrent Use of Vaped Nicotine and Cannabis: Their Similarities, Differences, and Association with Product Use

Journal: Journal of Cannabis Research, 2021, doi: 10.1186/s42238-021-00097-7

Authors: Danielle M. Smith, Lynn Kozlowski, Richard J. O’Connor, Andrew Hyland & R. Lorraine Collins


Background: Understanding similarities, differences, and associations between reasons people vape nicotine and cannabis may be important for identifying underlying contributors to their co-use.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 112 co-users of vaped nicotine and cannabis was conducted in 2020. A convenience sample of participants was recruited for the survey using Amazon Mechanical Turk. Participants responded to questions about their reasons for individual nicotine and cannabis product use and co-use and rated their level of agreement using numerical scales. Mean ratings for each reason for use subscale were examined across all participants and compared using paired samples t tests. Associations between reasons for use ratings and product consumption behaviors were examined using linear and logistic regression analyses.

Results: Cannabis vaping and smoking exhibited similar mean ratings for user experience and product/substance-related reasons for use. Mean ratings for reasons related to product utility were similar for cannabis vaping and nicotine vaping. Mean ratings for utility-related reasons for use were higher for cannabis vaping than cannabis smoking (mean (SD), 3.6 (± 1.0) vs. 2.6 (± 1.2), p < 0.0001). On average, harm reduction-related reasons for use were rated higher for nicotine vaping than cannabis vaping (2.4 (± 1.6) vs. 1.8 (± 1.4), p < 0.0001). Regression models showed higher average ratings for utility-related (b = 0.32; 95% CI, 0.03-0.60) and harm reduction-related (b = 0.21; 95% CI, 0.04-0.37) reasons for nicotine vaping were associated with more frequent nicotine vaping (both p < 0.05). Higher average ratings for instrumentality-related reasons for co-use corresponded with more frequent monthly nicotine vaping (b = 0.26; 95% CI, 0.08-0.44) and higher odds of ever chasing cannabis with nicotine (aOR, 3.06; 95% CI, 1.29-7.30).

Conclusions: Vaping serves purposes that differ by substance; nicotine vaping was more closely related to reducing tobacco smoking-related harms, and cannabis vaping was more closely related to circumventing social problems posed by cannabis smoking. Lifetime sequential co-use practices and more frequent nicotine vaping were associated with enhancing the intoxicating effects of cannabis. While replication of these findings using non convenience-based sampling approaches is warranted, results underscore the need to consider shared and unique aspects of nicotine and cannabis vaping, as well as cross-substance interactions between nicotine and cannabis.

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The Impact of COVID-19 on Healthcare Delivery for People who Use Opioids: A Scoping Review

Journal: Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 2021, doi: 10.1186/s13011-021-00395-6

Authors: Karen Alexander, Monika Pogorzelska-Maziarz, Angela Gerolamo, Nadia Hassen, Erin L. Kelly & Kristin L. Rising


Research objective: The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted healthcare delivery worldwide with likely negative effects on people who use opioids (PWUO). This scoping review of the original research literature describes the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare delivery for PWUO and identifies gaps in the literature.

Methods: This scoping review of the original research literature maps the available knowledge regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare delivery for PWUO. We utilized the methodology developed by the Joanna Briggs Institute for scoping reviews, and content analyses methodology to characterize the current state of the literature.

Results: Of the 14 included studies, administrative database (n = 11), cross-sectional (n = 1) or qualitative (n = 2) studies demonstrated service gaps (n = 7), patient/provider experiences (n = 3), and patient outcomes for PWUO (n = 4). In March 2020, healthcare utilization dropped quickly, sharply increasing only for reasons of opioid overdose by May 2020. Service gaps existed in accessing treatment for new patients during the pandemic due to capacity and infrastructure limits. Physicians reported difficulty referring patients to begin an outpatient opioid treatment program due to increased restrictions in capacity and infrastructure. Patients also reported uncertainty about accessing outpatient treatment, but that telehealth initiation of buprenorphine increased access to treatment from home. Disproportionate increases in overdose rates among African Americans were reported in two studies, with differences by race and gender not examined in most studies. Fatal overdoses increased 60% in African Americans during the pandemic, while fatal overdoses in Non-Hispanic White individuals decreased.

Conclusions: In summary, this beginning evidence demonstrates that despite early reluctance to use the healthcare system, opioid overdose-related use of healthcare increased throughout the pandemic. Service delivery for medications to treat OUD remained at or above pre-pandemic levels, indicating the ability of telehealth to meet demand. Yet, racial disparities that existed pre-pandemic for PWUO are intensifying, and targeted intervention for high-risk groups is warranted to prevent further mortality. As the pandemic progresses, future research must focus on identifying and supporting subgroups of PWUO who are at heightened risk for experiencing negative outcomes and lack of access to care.

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The Type of Substance Use Mediates the Difference in the Odds of Sexual Risk Behaviors among Adolescents of the United States

Journal: Cureus, 2021, doi: 10.7759/cureus.17264

Authors: Saral Desai, Nishat Kulkarni & Sanila Rehmatullah


Background: Although the relationship between sexual risk behaviors and substance use has been established, It remains to be studied if different types of substances have differences in the odds of sexual risk behaviors. Therefore, we aimed to identify the prevalence of sexual risk behaviors in high school students of the United States (US) and study the difference in the odds of sexual risk behaviors for various substances.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cross-sectional study using Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) data of 2019 that nationally represents US high school students in grades 9-12. We identified individuals with sexual risk behaviors as participants with four or more lifetime sexual partners and who did not use a condom during the last intercourse.

Results: Out of 11,191 participants, 463 (3.9%) engaged in sexual risk behaviors. The prevalence of substance use, including anabolic steroids (11.5 vs. 1.1%), cocaine (27.2 vs. 2.0%), marijuana (87.1 vs. 34.7%), alcohol (92.4 vs. 54.3%), e-cigarette (90.3 vs. 48.0%), and traditional cigarette (62.2 vs. 21.6%) was higher in participants with sexual risk behaviors compared to participants with no sexual risk behaviors (p<0.0001 for all substances). In regression analysis, anabolic steroid use was associated with the highest odds of sexual risk behaviors (adjusted odds ratio (aOR):4.87, 95%CI: 2.48-9.57; p<0.0001) followed by cocaine (aOR:3.80, 1.80-8.00; p=0.001), marijuana (aOR:3.36, 1.64-6.89; p<0.0001), alcohol (aOR:2.41, 1.05-5.55; p=0.039), electronic vapor products (2.05, 1.004-4.19; p=0.049), and traditional cigarette use (aOR:1.58, 1.10-2.28; p=0.016). We did not find a statistically significant increase in the odds of sexual risk behaviors for the rest of the substances.

Conclusion: Although the prevalence of sexual risk behaviors is low, the prevalence of substance use is significantly higher in participants with sexual risk behaviors. Among the different types of substances, anabolic steroid use has the highest odds of sexual risk behaviors. Therefore, clinicians should remain vigilant for anabolic steroid use when screening adolescents for substance use. Further large-scale randomized studies are needed to study the effects of anabolic steroids on sexual risk behaviors.

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Quality Improvement Initiative to Improve Healthcare Providers' Attitudes towards Mothers with Opioid Use Disorder

Authors: Susan Ford, Leslie Clarke, Michelle C. Walsh, Pierce Kuhnell, Maurizio Macaluso, Moira Crowley, Richard McClead, Scott Wexelblatt, Carole Lannon & Heather Kaplan

Journal: Pediatric Quality and Safety, 2021, doi: 10.1097/pq9.0000000000000453


Introduction: Individuals with opioid use disorder often report feelings of shame and describe feeling judged negatively. These feelings are especially true for pregnant women with opioid use disorder. The Ohio Perinatal Quality Collaborative conducted a multimodal quality improvement initiative for infants born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). An important component of the project was focused on improving staff attitudes toward mothers of infants with NAS.

Methods: The Ohio Perinatal Quality Collaborative implemented an education program for healthcare providers at 39 participating hospital units regarding opioid use as a chronic disease and principles of nonjudgmental, trauma-informed care. Healthcare providers partnered with the mother of infants with NAS in the care of the infant and connected with local community resources. This work was a subcomponent of an overall multimodal quality improvement project. Healthcare provider attitudes were measured with the “Attitude Measurement: Brief Scales” questionnaire anonymously, at 3 different time points throughout the project. Attitude change was measured by pretraining and posttraining scores. ANOVA methods were used to compare individual items and a summary score across the 3 surveys.

Results: Summary scores improved significantly from 18.99 at baseline (January–March 2014) to 19.94 (P < 0.0001) in February 2015 and were maintained at 20.05 in July 2016.

Conclusions: A nonjudgmental attitude toward mothers of infants with NAS is an important component of compassionate care. Improving healthcare provider attitudes can benefit a mother of an infant with NAS and help preserve the mother–infant dyad.

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