Monday, February 28, 2011

FDA Tobacco Advisory Committee Menthol Subcommittee Report Due This Week

Past posts on CPDD Blog have focused on US government regulation and/or planned banning of abused substances including synthetic stimulants known as “Bath Salts”, synthetic marijuana products, and caffeinated alcoholic beverages.  This week, the focus turns to governmental regulation of tobacco products by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has sparked a legal battle between tobacco companies and the FDA.

In 2009, the FDA formed a Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) to evaluate product safety and health issues related to tobacco products.  The Committee Roster includes CPDD members Dorothy Hatsukami and Jack Henningfield, international experts on tobacco abuse, dependence, and treatment.

On March 2, the Committee will hold the first of two March meetings in which it will review evidence presented by the Menthol Report Subcommittee and prepare to make recommendations on the use of menthol in tobacco products.  The meeting this week will be webcast with connection details available here just prior to the meeting.

Recent scientific reports suggest that menthol, by altering the sensory perception of smoking, increases the likelihood that young smokers will become addicted and that smokers trying to quit will remain addicted.  Other research suggests that the tobacco industry knowingly uses menthol to maintain smoking behavior in new smokers and in smokers trying to quit.

Last week, the New York Times reported that two major tobacco companies, Lorillard and R.J. Reynolds, jointly sued the FDA to block receipt of or FDA action upon TPSAC recommendations.  The companies assert that three TPSAC members (Chair Jonathan Samet, Neal Benowitz, and Jack Henningfield) have "conflicts of interest and bias" because of their past consultant work as expert witnesses in legal matters and/or as advisors on smoking cessation product development.

The March TPSAC meetings and any court actions that arise should be very interesting to people on both sides of the fence with regard to use of menthol in tobacco products.

CPDDBLOG welcomes CPDD member’s thoughts on this issue.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Abuse of Synthetic Stimulants Known as “Bath Salts”

NIDA Director Nora Volkow recently issued a statement warning about the dangers of an apparently new stimulant abuse phenomenon in the US, “Bath Salt” abuse.  Her announcement follows on a press release issued earlier this month by the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The psychoactive form of bath salts can contain synthetic stimulants related to cathinone including pyrovalerone, mephedrone, and 3,4 methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) that have amphetamine-like effects.  Abuse of these substances has been linked to deaths and a substantial increase in the numbers of calls to US Poison Control Centers, and much press attention has focused on the phenomenon, including coverage by National Public Radio, CNN, and the Los Angeles Times.

There are some excellent blog posts providing background on Bath Salt abuse and the phenomenon of designer drugs including one at Addiction Inbox and a number of posts by Drug Monkey (e.g., August 2010 and September 2010).

While synthetic stimulant abuse seems to be a rapidly emerging phenomenon in the US, the international experience with these drugs goes back several years and a number of countries have outlawed them.  In the US, a number of states are moving to ban abused forms of bath salts.

Director Volkow’s statement indicated that NIDA would promote research in this area.  Currently, little has been published about how the psychoactive constituents in Bath Salts work.  A MEDLINE search for research studies using the terms “pyrovalerone” “mephedrone” and “3,4 methylenedioxypyrovalerone” turned up surprisingly few hits (Figure).

The earliest pyrovalerone studies were published in the 1970s including some interesting titles such as “A controlled evaluation of pyrovalerone in chronically fatigued volunteers” and “Abuse of pyrovalerone by drug addicts”.

More recent titles include “1-(4-Methylphenyl)-2-pyrrolidin-1-yl-pentan-1-one (Pyrovalerone) analogues: a promising class of monoamine uptake inhibitors” and “A novel photoaffinity ligand for the dopamine transporter based on pyrovalerone”.

By contrast, mephedrone and 3,4 methylenedioxypyrovalerone studies have only been published over the last few years and most of the published work focuses on epidemiological issues.

Thus, synthetic stimulant research may become a hot topic for addiction researchers over the coming years.

For an update on the science of these compounds, see the post on the "Bath Salts" Symposium at the 2012 CPDD Annual Meeting.

CPDDBLOG welcomes CPDD member’s thoughts on this issue.

Monday, February 7, 2011

2011 CPDD/NIDA Media Award Winner: Justin Hunt and His Film American Meth

Substance abuse and dependence have been widely portrayed dramatically in film.  In addition, there are several excellent documentaries on the topic, including the 2007 film American Meth.

Mr. Justin Hunt, writer, producer, and director of the film, recently won the 2011 CPDD/NIDA Media Award.  American Meth has won several other awards including Best Documentary at the Cinema City International and TriMedia Film Festivals (2007) and the Most Socially Engaging Film at the Eugene International Film Festival (2007).

The 72-minute film, which is available for online viewing at Hulu, graphically portrays the struggles faced by a number of families and individuals afflicted by methamphetamine abuse, providing a snapshot of some of the significant societal burdens associated with methamphetamine.  Mr. Hunt lived with one of the families portrayed in the film during shooting and captured in great detail the devastation the drug can cause to families.

The film’s website also includes a number of resources intended to assist those afflicted with methamphetamine abuse.

CPDDBLOG interviewed Mr. Hunt to find out more about his background and the film.

CPDDBLOG:  How did you get your start in film?

Justin Hunt:  I was actually a news anchor and reporter for NBC affiliates in New Mexico.  I left in 2003 after about 8 years of television work.  Started my company, Time & Tide Productions, doing weddings and sports videos, TV commercials, and corporate projects, until I did American Meth.  After the premiere screening on March 22, 2007, everything changed.

CPDDBLOG:  What made you want to do a film about methamphetamine abuse?

Justin Hunt:  I was on a men's ministry retreat with 7 other guys, fishing in Mexico, when I decided that I wanted to do this project.  It came out of the question, 'are we doing what we are called to do?'  I started shooting two months later, having no idea what was in store.  I chose the topic of meth abuse because I had done a shorter documentary, 'The Meth Monster', on meth abuse in San Juan county, New Mexico, where I lived.  I didn't get to explore that topic as much as I had wanted to, so it was a perfect fit.

CPDDBLOG:  What was it like for you personally to observe first hand some of the results of methamphetamine abuse?

Justin Hunt: It was something that created conflicting emotions, that's for sure.  On one hand, being a single father to two kids, I was really pissed, to be honest, to see how these kids were neglected.  On the other hand, I also observed that James and Holly (the addicts I lived with) were normal people with an abnormal problem.  They loved their kids, they just failed at making the connection between intention and application, between what they wanted to be and what they were.  Their selfishness had taken over.

CPDDBLOG:  Do you have any future plans to do a follow up film on methamphetamine abuse or about other forms of substance abuse?

Justin Hunt:  At this point, I don't.  I have other social issues that I'd like to take on, including the issue of disengaged fathers, which I do in my new film, 'Absent'.  But, just as any other thing in life, you never know what can happen over time.

CPDD looks forward to meeting and congratulating Mr. Hunt in person when he receives his award at the CPDD Annual Meeting Plenary Session in June.

CPDDBLOG welcomes CPDD member’s thoughts on this issue.