Changing Our Perspectives on Mental Illness and Mental Health

By Richard Taite • 2 min read

Changing Our Perspectives on Mental Illness and Mental Health

The First Lady recently spoke at the launch of The Campaign to Change Direction, “a nation-wide effort to raise awareness around mental health in America.” This effort, sponsored in part by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is “designed to change the story of mental health across the nation by urging all Americans to learn the five signs that someone might be in distress.”

Shame of having a mental health issue keeps far too many good people from seeking treatment. I see it all the time at the addiction treatment center I founded and serve. Addicts and those with co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD are frequently overwhelmed by shame. This is not just an internal issue of being ashamed of past behaviors. All too often, shaming is an external experience too. Those who suffer from mental health disorders are told to “get it together” and “pull yourself out of it” when they should be urged to seek treatment. You wouldn’t tell a colleague or parent with a broken wrist to “shake it off.” Mental disorders are no less in need of treatment than physical ones.

The SAMHSA blog states:

“While there has been much media attention on mental health in the military and veteran community, it is incredibly important to understand that mental health isn’t just a military issue — it is a human issue. Mental health conditions impact our children, our grandparents, and our neighbors. Every year, roughly one in five adults — or more than 40 million Americans — experience a diagnosable mental health condition like depression or anxiety.”

For those who have addiction, our experience is that co-occurring disorders like depression or anxiety occur at rates that are closer to fifty percent or higher. Mental health issues can cluster together, no different than physical issues.

The Campaign to Change Direction has identified five signs that are warnings that a friend is in need of mental health services. Not every person in need of psychological care will exhibit all these signs, but the more signs a person exhibits, the more urgent it is to try to get that individual appropriate care. The five signs are:

  • Personality Change
  • Agitation (from anger to anxiety)
  • Withdrawal (from activities and/or other people)
  • Poor Self Care
  • Hopelessness

To this list, I would also add substance abuse. Many individuals who are experiencing mental health issues self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs. If a friend or colleague seems to be abusing substances in ways s/he did not previously, that too is a warning sign of mental distress. These individuals require help immediately, as it is very often possible to help a person with the underlying cause of their psychological distress before s/he becomes a full-blown addict.

Mental health disorders are nothing to be ashamed of. They are not your “fault” or caused by anything you or your loved one did “wrong.” Often, mental health disorders have a biochemical basis than can be remedied by the short or long term use of medication. In many cases, whole health treatments will relieve symptoms, along with psychotherapy. There is help and hope.

You did not ask to have a mental health problem, but you can and should ask for support in treating your mental health issues. There is a great deal of support and many different kinds of quality treatment available. Seek help if you or someone you care about needs it.

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How OxyContin Was Allowed to Kill so Many

By Richard Taite • 2 min read

How OxyContin Was Allowed to Kill so Many

In a well-written article in The Week, reprinted from the Pacific Standard, Mike Mariani outlines how OxyContin, which was allegedly known to be addictive by its manufacturers, was pawned off on the public as a safe and effective, and decidedly non-addictive, painkiller. Now, the State of Kentucky has brought civil action against Purdue Pharmaceuticals and while increasing use of OxyContin may be a thing of the past, America’s addiction to opioids is not.

As an addiction treatment professional, I have personally seen the rise in prescription addiction at my treatment center and others. The statistics on prescription drug abuse, particularly prescription opioids (drugs which mimic heroin and its derivatives), are staggering in their scope. “ rising to almost 17,000.” Kentucky, where the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma has been launched, is one of the worst hit states in the nation.

One of the areas in which Purdue Pharmaceuticals may be particularly vulnerable to the state’s case is with regard to its aggressive marketing tactics. According to Mariani’s article:

“Between physician databases, incentive-happy sales reps, and an aggressive blitz package of promotional ephemera, Purdue’s multifaceted marketing campaign pushed OxyContin out of the niche offices of oncologists and pain specialists and into the primary care bazaar, where prescriptions for the drug could be handed out to millions upon millions of Americans. The most scathing irony is that what allowed OxyContin to reach so many households and communities was the claim that it wasn’t dangerous.”

Sadly, this information has come to light as much as a decade too late for tens of thousands of individuals who have accidently overdosed from OxyContin or other opioids. One of the major issues with regard to accidental overdose is that many substance users, especially the young and the elderly, don’t realize how drugs interact with one another. For example, an elderly person could take a blood pressure medication in the morning, a painkiller in the afternoon, have a drink in the evening and an over-the-counter sleep aid at night, and never wake up. Even in small amounts, mixing drugs can be very, very dangerous.

While it is true that OxyContin abuse is decreasing, the epidemic of prescription drug abuse hasn’t gone away. Now, those who are no longer able to get hold of prescription opioids are switching to heroin. The report concludes:

“Many are now arguing that the epidemic hasn’t gone away so much as it has evolved: Heroin use is again on the upswing. Like a shrewd virus that mutates once it confronts a vaccine, Americans’ addiction to opioids has survived the government crackdown on OxyContin and fled to the seedy asylum of heroin. It’s a kind of evolution in retrograde, with pill users turning to an old 20th-century scourge that once flourished in urban decay and is uglier, more stigmatized, and more lethal than its pharmaceutical counterpart. But for OxyContin, a drug that, despite its manufacturer’s many clever disguises, was always frighteningly close to heroin, there’s a morbid sort of symmetry.”

If you or someone you know has abused OxyContin or any other prescription opioid in the past or is using heroin now, please get them to seek help. Even if they are not yet an addict, there is help for substance abuse and there are safe, effective treatments for chronic pain that do not require opioid treatment.

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Is there a Connection between Intelligence, Creativity and Mental Illness?

By Richard Taite • 2 min read

shutterstock_242457724Is there a Connection between Intelligence, Creativity and Mental Illness?

Plagued by mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar polar disorder, and schizophrenia, are a host of artists, writers and famous people throughout history. In fact, many times the eccentric tendencies of genius are associated with mental illness. t

An article in Medical Daily titled “Why Smarter People Are More Likely o Be Mentally Ill” claims over thirty studies have documented the connection, concluding:

“Affecting some 2.5 percent of the U.S. population, bipolar disorder alone has touched many of our greatest achievers, including Vincent Van Gogh, Buzz Aldrin, Emily Dickinson, and Ernest Hemingway.”

The answer to the question “why” remains somewhat elusive and any evidence of a link between mental illness and creativity has not convinced some scientists. Early this year in Huffington Post, another article claimed, “the cognitive-neuroscience community is divided on whether a scientific link between creativity and mental illness actually exists.”

The controversy may stem from trying to define such an abstract idea as creativity, along with the difficulty of establishing a method of measuring it. This needs to be established in order to be able to quantify any future research results.

But there is evidence that there could be a link between intelligence and bipolar disorder. Lead researcher James MacCabe, wrote in a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

We found that achieving an A grade is associated with increased risk for bipolar disorder, particularly in humanities and to a lesser extent in science subjects. These findings provide support for the hypothesis that exceptional intellectual ability is associated with bipolar disorder.”

The Huffington Post article “What Neuroscience Has To Say About the Tortured Genius” wrote,

Historically, there have been creative thinkers who spoke about mental illness giving them their edge. “My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness,” the artist Edvard Munch, thought to have had bipolar disorder, once wrote, according to Smithsonian magazine. “Without anxiety and illness, I am a ship without a rudder … My sufferings are part of myself and my art. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art.”

This is idea that suffering is necessary for art is hotly debated among artists and scientists. While it is important not to dismiss anyone’s feelings or experience, the fact that mental illness influences those feelings cannot and should not be ignored in the process of improving overall health. Bipolar disorder, depression, addiction and other psychiatric/psychological disorders are debilitating and life-threatening conditions, and although society may benefits from the productivity of these geniuses, their health must be taken into consideration. Intelligence will not simply disappear due to improvement in mental health, so creative genius will not necessarily disappear or not manifest itself if a person seeks treatment. A health care professional can provide more information.

Vincent Van Gogh actor image available from Shutterstock.

Understanding Why You Can’t Get to Sleep

By Richard Taite • 2 min read

Understanding Why You Can’t Get to Sleep

Everyone has an occasional bad night’s sleep, but some people struggle more than others do, often for a variety of reasons. Scientists tell us that stress or trauma are a frequent cause, but depression, bad habits before bedtime and even being too tired to sleep can prevent the brain from normal rest. Unfortunately, this can lead many people to begin using sleeping aids, which can be dangerous and are quite addictive.

A study led by Kai-Florian Storch, PhD, of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University, observed genetically modified mice to better understand sleep abnormalities. Sleep abnormalities thought to be caused by circadian rhythms were instead found to be the result from an imbalance of an ultradian rhythm generator (oscillator). These rhythms are responsible for several timing mechanisms in our day. For example, they help explain why we eat on average three meals a day that are relatively evenly spaced throughout our waking time.

Let’s look at this further. According to research, an internal 24-hour timer, referred to the circadian clock, governs the human daily sleep-wake cycle. In addition, daily activity is influenced by shorter ultradian rhythms, which follow a four-hour cycle. These four-hour ultradian rhythms are activated by dopamine. When dopamine levels are out of kilter, as is the possibility with people suffering from bipolar disorder, substance abuse, or depression, the four-hour rhythms can stretch as long as 48 hours, according to study indications.

This research is groundbreaking not only because of its discovery of a novel dopamine-based rhythm generator, but also because of its links to psychopathology. This new data suggests that when the ultradian arousal oscillator goes awry, sleep becomes disturbed. The study was published in the online journal eLife.

Establishing good habits before bed can help develop regular sleep patterns and allow the brain to rest properly. The fast pace of society today unfortunately encourages the very habits that can cause sleep problems. Turning off all the media devices that stimulate the brain is a great start, but can be much harder to do than most may think. Try to turn off the TV, video games and internet a least an hour before bed — including leaving the phone alone. Rest is essential to overall health and the light from media devices stimulate brain neurons for hours after exposure.

Having a regular bedtime, including on the weekends, should be seriously considered as a requirement for mental and physical health. Good sleep habits should be followed with a healthy diet, always beginning with an early breakfast, good lunch, and dinner several hours before sleep. It is also important to take a few minutes daily to attend to spiritual health. This can be accomplished by taking the last few minutes before bed to quiet the thoughts constantly bouncing around in our minds. Learning to be mindful of bedtime habits can improve sleep with some practice and effort.

Individuals prescribed sleeping pills for longer than 6 or 8 weeks may be addicted and not realize it. Education and alternative therapies can provide healthy solutions to sleep abnormalities. Talk to a healthcare professional for additional information about getting a proper night’s sleep, safely and naturally.


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New Sleep Guidelines to Keep Youth Healthy

By Richard Taite • 1 min read

New Sleep Guidelines to Keep Youth Healthy

Sleep is essential for overall health. Without regular age appropriate amounts of sleep, adolescents are at risk for developing a variety of conditions such as depression, anxiety, weight change, and sometimes insomnia. There may be noticeable behavioral changes when teens don’t sleep well, such as moodiness, experimentation with substance use and an increase in stress from school. Many physicians today inappropriately prescribe addictive medications for both kids and adults, which can easily lead to abuse and addiction, or at least increases the possibility.

While previous studies have shown that many patterns of addictions have roots in childhood, the most recent research strongly suggests that increasing sleep time could have an influence on preventing anxiety and depression, disorders that commonly co-occur with addiction. Several research studies have reinforced the importance of good sleep habits, especially for young people who are physically and mentally still developing.

One study by the University of Michigan foundteens prescribed anti-anxiety or sleep medication are up to 12 times more likely to abuse prescription drugs than those who had never been prescribed such medication.” A study by the University of Texas found “reduced quantity of sleep increases risk for major depression, which in turn increases risk for decreased sleep.” Another study by the University of Basel reported that “teenagers who used digital media at night had an increased risk for poor sleep and depressive symptoms.”

The National Sleep Foundation convened a broad range of scientific experts to recommend new sleep ranges for all age groups. Charles A. Czeisler, PhD, MD, chairman of the board of the National Sleep Foundation, chief of sleep and circadian disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School claimed:

“This is the first time that any professional organization has developed age-specific recommended sleep durations based on a rigorous, systematic review of the world scientific literature relating sleep duration to health, performance and safety.”

A summary of recommendations from The Sleep Foundation, for infants thru young adults includes:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours each day
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
  • School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
  • Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours (new age category)


Addiction is a growing public health concern and although getting good quality sleep on a regular basis will not guarantee a young person will never struggle with substance abuse, it does give the best opportunity for staying mentally healthy and alert. Sleep should be a priority for health, giving young people the best chance to develop into responsible adults.

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The Teenage Brain on Drugs

By Richard Taite • 2 min read

The Teenage Brain on Drugs

One way to look at addiction is to consider it a form of learning, a type of learning that is extremely effective in its ability to affect the adolescent brain, report researchers working under an NIH grant. The maturation process of the brain may cause teens and young adults to become addicted faster than older adults, because the impulse control centers of the brain are not fully developed in the younger cohort.

Drugs not only interfere with the normal processing functions of the brain, they actually change both the structure and function of the brain. Over time, drug use and abuse can lead to addiction with all its negative, life-long consequences. Neuroscientists have reported for years that the human brain is not fully mature until around the age of twenty-five. Further, the research being conducted on brain development at several academic institutions suggests that the maturing brain may be at particular risk and highly vulnerable to both the short term and long term use and abuse of drugs. There is no question that substance use during the teen years significantly increases the chance of developing a substance abuse problem later in life.

Dr. Frances Jensen is a professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at the University Of Pennsylvania Perelman School Of Medicine. In a recent interview, Dr. Jensen said:

“The last place to be connected — to be fully myelinated — is the front of your brain. And what is in the front? Your prefrontal cortex and your frontal cortex. These are areas where we have insight, empathy, these executive functions such as impulse control, risk-taking behavior.”

This neuroscientific research helps physicians, scientists and addiction professionals understand why teens are particularly susceptible to substance abuse, alcohol abuse, (tobacco) smoking, and even the over-use of electronic games and digital devices. These behaviors fold in all too well with a brain that is still developing its impulse control. Knowing these facts, we are better able to explain why teens and young adults make decisions that are risky and can lead to health and safety concerns. These individuals are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of particular behaviors. Fortunately, this information can allow us to redesign prevention strategies. It is imperative that prevention programs that promote a drug-free lifestyle are expanded along with care for substance abusing youth.

Previous studies have given us similar information. For example, we know that chronic marijuana users between 13 and 17, individuals who use marijuana at least several times a week if not daily for at least a year, consistently are shown to have decreased verbal IQ and functional MRIs show differences in brain function between marijuana users and non-users when completing various tasks. These represent permanent changes to the brain, caused by marijuana use.

It is critical that parents, addiction treatment professionals, and educators understand the specific needs of teens, not only to prevent addiction, but to treat it. More important, teens should be empowered to make healthy decisions by being taught what’s going on inside them, how they are developing. By helping teens understand their feelings and biological development, they can better navigate relationships and health choices, allowing them to create a more resilient, healthier lifestyle. Early and ongoing education is an important factor to help adolescents and young adults develop to their fullest potential.

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Danger to Gay Men Huffing Poppers

By Richard Taite • 2 min read

Danger to Gay Men Huffing Poppers

Participants in a new study have reported a small but growing and worrisome trend among some gay American men. Often described as a new way to use poppers or as huffing poppers, in fact, the practice is simply inhaling organic solvents or propellants. This practice appears to have been going on for several years but may be increasing.

“Poppers” originally referred to recreational use of amyl nitrite, a substance that triggers production of nitric oxide and thereby produces a potent effect of widening of the blood vessels. It has been used to enhance sexual experience through relaxing smooth muscle and its mild psychoactive effects. Since the 1980s, amyl nitrite has been restricted to medical uses in the United States and Europe, but a number of related alkyl nitrites continue to be available in legal or semi-legal form.

The current trend does not involve the conventional poppers, which are inhaled directly from a bottle, typically in smaller amounts. The new huffing of solvents and propellants carries substantially greater risk both for death and for long-term neurocognitive damage than does the use of nitrite poppers. These new products now appear to be marketed toward or used by gay men, who may not recognize the difference between huffing solvents or propellants and the use of alkyl nitrite poppers.

It is difficult at this point to estimate the prevalence of this new huffing practice. Little if any systematic reporting on the topics of huffing among gay men, in either scholarly journals or the LGBTQ-oriented press has occurred. Consequently, even addiction specialists and LGBTQ specialist clinicians often have little familiarity with the mechanism of these new poppers and tend to assume that they are more or less similar to other inhalants. Therefore, most physicians likely do not realize that huffing organic solvents represents a marked increase in health risks over alkyl nitrite poppers.

To emphasize the need for education about these potentially dangerous “poppers,” Timothy M. Hall MD PhD stated:

“Clinicians are taught almost nothing about regular nitrite poppers. They are little more than a footnote at the back of most addiction textbooks, lumped in with sniffing glue and huffing aerosols, even though the physiologic effects are quite different. Gay and bisexual men, on the other hand, have little exposure to huffing but tend to think of nitrite poppers as fairly benign. There’s a real risk here for [gay men] to be taking a much more harmful substance than they’re expecting, and for clinicians not to recognize the difference.”

Those healthcare professionals working with gay men should learn the difference between nitrite poppers and propellants or solvents commonly used in huffing. Clinicians, whose patients exhibit potential symptoms of huffing such as cognitive impairment or neuropathy, or whose patients mention using poppers, should inquire more deeply regarding possible huffing. Education is an important key to prevent risky behavior and the resulting consequences. Considering talking to a personal healthcare provider about additional health risks.

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Alcohol Advertising Affecting Adolescents

By Richard Taite • 2 min read

Alcohol Advertising Affecting Adolescents

Remember all those great Super Bowl ads for beer? According to a study by researchers at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) and Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD), seeing and liking alcohol advertising on television among underage youth was associated with the onset of drinking, binge drinking and hazardous drinking. Alcohol is the most common drug used by young people. In 2013, 66.2 percent of U.S. high school students reported trying alcohol, 34.9 percent reported alcohol use in the past 30 days and 20.8 percent reported recent binge drinking.

The alcohol industry claims that their advertising self-regulation program protects underage youth from seeing their ads and does not affect underage drinking. Furthermore, they claim, parents and friends influence teens to experiment more than advertising does. This study suggests otherwise; that underage youth are exposed to and engaged by alcohol marketing. In addition, advertising prompts initiation of drinking as well as transitions from initial experimentation to hazardous drinking.

James D. Sargent, MD, senior author on the study and a CHaD pediatrician claims:

“Our study found that familiarity with and response to images of television alcohol marketing was associated with the subsequent onset of drinking across a range of outcomes of varying severity among adolescents and young adults, adding to studies suggesting that alcohol advertising is one cause of youth drinking. Current self-regulatory standards for televised alcohol advertising appear to inadequately protect underage youth from exposure to televised alcohol advertising and its probable effect on behavior.”

In 2011 and again in 2013, 1596 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 23 years completed a research survey. The surveys examined recall of more than 300 television-advertising images for top beer and distilled spirits brands that aired nationally in 2010-11. The authors derived an alcohol receptivity score based on having seen the ad, liking it and correctly identifying the brand.

Receptivity to television alcohol advertising predicted the transition to multiple drinking outcomes. The findings are consistent with the idea that marketing self-regulation has failed to keep television alcohol advertising from reaching large numbers of underage persons and affecting their drinking patterns. In the U.S. alone, producers of alcohol spend billions of dollars annually marketing their products, which includes television marketing. Advertising does work, thus the huge amounts spent to promote brand recognition by targeting current and future consumers.

Therefore parents need to be involved in discussions with their children about alcohol. Kids need boundaries in their lives that reflect their age and responsibility, so parents need to tell them not to drink and tell them why. A parent’s attitude affects a kid’s attitude, and subsequently drinking in general.

Other supporting research was recently published. University at Buffalo psychologist, Craig Colder said:

What our data is suggesting is that you can’t control all of your kids’ decisions, but you can help them to make good choices in situations where alcohol is available. You want kids to think about and reflect upon the pros and cons of drinking based on your previous discussions.”

Young people listen a lot more to what their parents and role models say than some adults give them credit for. Prevention started at a young age is encouraged; kids grow up fast. Continuing the conversation until children are grown-up gives the best chance for successfully influencing your kids’ decisions.

Talk to a health care professional for more information about substance abuse.


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Write Your Story, Improve Your Health

By Richard Taite • 2 min read

Write Your Story, Improve Your Health

Studies have shown that writing about yourself and your personal experiences can improve mood disorders, improve health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory. Now researchers are studying whether the power of writing your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.

In an early study on personal story editing, researchers gathered 40-college freshman who were struggling academically, were worried about grades and questioned whether they were intellectual equals to other students at their school. The students were divided into intervention groups and control groups. Students in the intervention group were given information showing that it is common for students to struggle in their first year and encourage thinking that they just needed more time to adjust.

The long-term intervention results were profound. Researchers found students prompted to change their personal stories improved their grade-point averages and were less likely to drop out over the next year than the students who received no instructions. The control group received no advice about grades, and 20 percent of the students dropped out within a year. However, in the intervention group, only 1 student, or just 5 percent, dropped out.

Another study asked married couples to write about a conflict. Half of the couples were randomly assigned to receive reappraisal intervention and half were not. This effect of the reappraisal intervention on marital quality was mediated through reductions in conflict-related distress. Among 120 couples, those who explored their problems through writing showed greater improvement in marital happiness than those who did not write about their problems. The study demonstrated that a 21-minute writing intervention in which the participants reappraised the conflict their marriage, over time protected them against declines in marital quality.

Getting people to come to terms with who they are and where they want to go is a result of expressive writing according to James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas. He found that students who wrote for about 15 minutes every day about important personal issues, had fewer illnesses and visited the student health center less. He believes that expressive writing can help influence a positive “life course correction.”

Timothy D. Wilson, a University of Virginia psychology professor and lead author of the first study said:

“These writing interventions can really nudge people from a self-defeating way of thinking into a more optimistic cycle that reinforces itself. Writing forces people to reconstruct whatever is troubling them and find new meaning in it.”

At a practical level, these findings provide a promising target for clinical interventions. At a methodological level, these findings add to the growing body of research demonstrating the power of brief, theory-based, social-psychological interventions to promote achievement, health, and well-being. There is compelling evidence that writing can benefit mental health and improve stressful situations with fresh ideals. Confronting the truth with what personally matters the most, creates the greatest opportunity for change.

It’s Harder for Women to Quit Smoking than It Is for Men

By Richard Taite • 2 min read
cigarette 2

It’s Harder for Women to Quit Smoking than It Is for Men

Women are at an increased risk of relapse after a smoking cessation attempt. Research indicates that both the hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle and the negative symptomatology experienced while quitting play a role during smoking cessation and can influence outcomes.

Although more men than women smoke, women take less time to become dependent after initial use, report shorter and less frequent abstinence periods, smoke for longer periods in their lives, and have more difficulties quitting the habit than men.

The number of smokers is gradually decreasing in the Western world, but international and local epidemiological reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Quebec (Canada) Statistics Institute suggest that cigarette smoking is on the rise internationally among young women and teen girls. Therefore, understanding the biological differences between males and females that can affect recovery efforts is very important.

Published in Psychiatry Journal, a new study by Adrianna Mendrek of the University of Montreal and its affiliated Institute Universitaire en Santé Mentale de Montréal, indicates how the menstrual cycle appears to have an impact on nicotine cravings. Mendrek claims:

“Our data reveal that incontrollable urges to smoke are stronger at the beginning of the follicular phase that begins after menstruation. Hormonal decreases of estrogen and progesterone possibly deepen the withdrawal syndrome and increase activity of neural circuits associated with craving. Taking the menstrual cycle into consideration could help women to stop smoking.”

Fifteen tobacco-smoking men and 19 women underwent a functional MRI scan during presentation of neutral and smoking-related images known to elicit craving. The women were tested twice during their menstrual cycle, once during the early follicular phase and once during the mid-luteal phase. The researchers led their study with two specific objectives in mind. The first was to check if there are gender differences in the neuronal circuits linked to craving. The second was to determine if the electro-cortical changes associated with nicotine withdrawal fluctuate in tandem with hormone variations.

The main finding of the study suggests that brain function associated with craving for cigarettes fluctuates across the menstrual cycle in women smokers. Research emphasizes the need for gender-specific programs to quit smoking, as well as taking into consideration the menstrual cycle phase during addiction treatment in women. Women represent half the population and deserve to have researchers recognize their specific needs in future studies.

“A greater knowledge of the neurobiological mechanisms governing addiction should enable us to better target treatment according to the smoker’s profile,” said Mendrek.

Attempting to quit smoking is difficult, as with any addiction. Talk to a professional for advice on the best possible recovery options and help in personal recovery. Long-term success is possible with the decision to quit and become healthier.



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