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December 2009

Switching Off Hunger Hormone Affects Desire To Drink

A Faculty of 1000 evaluation examines how a stomach-produced hormone that influences the desire to eat and consume alcohol could be switched off to control drinking problems.

The study, carried out by Jerlhag et al. at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, showed that the hormone ghrelin, typically released by the stomach and known to promote appetite and therefore the intake of food, also influences the consumption of alcohol.

The results, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, showed that mice injected with ghrelin and then given the choice of alcohol or water to drink, were more likely to choose alcohol. At the same time, mice treated with ghrelin antagonists, as well as knockout mice (mice with the hormone's receptor removed), proved resistant to the effects of alcohol.

Faculty of 1000 Biology reviewer Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan says the ghrelin-injected mice showed more than a typical appetite for calories in choosing alcohol and the findings might influence treatment strategies for alcoholism.

Professor Berridge says, "These results seem to suggest a role for the effects of ghrelin on the brain in the motivation for alcohol consumption."

Kent Berridge, Faculty Member for f1000 Biology, is James Olds Collegiate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Michigan.

The full text of the evaluation of is available free for 90 days here.

An abstract of the original paper by Jerlhag et al. (Requirement Of Central Ghrelin Signaling For Alcohol Reward) is available here.

Steve Pogonowski
Faculty of 1000: Biology and Medicine


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What is Addiction? - Addiction Science: From Molecules to Managed Care - NIDA Publications

What is Addiction?

Decades of research have revealed addiction to be a disease that alters the brain. We now know that while the initial decision to use drugs is voluntary, drug addiction is a disease of the brain that compels a person to become singularly obsessed with obtaining and abusing drugs despite their many adverse health and life consequences.

Science has come a long way in helping us understand how drugs of abuse change the brain. Research has revealed that addiction affects the brain circuits involved in reward, motivation, memory, and inhibitory control. When these circuits are disrupted, so is a person’s capacity to freely choose not to use drugs, even when it means losing everything they used to value. In fact, the inability to stop is the essence of addiction, like riding in a car with no brakes.

Drugs of abuse change the brain, and new technologies are showing us how. Indeed we’ve come a long way from this primitive depiction of a “brain on drugs.”

We can now measure the brain’s response to drugs of abuse in real time. This slide depicts images of a human brain taken at different intervals following administration of radioactive cocaine. Because the drug was “radiolabeled,” scientists can see precisely where cocaine binds in the brain (yellow signal) and for how long. Studies such as these teach scientists more about how cocaine exerts its devastating effects, and can illustrate to people in real time what happens to their brains on drugs.


Absinthe in the US

Absinthe is now legal in the United States!
Almost, well not exactly

I seem to be getting the following question a lot lately.

I just saw a bottle of absinthe in the liquor store, I thought it was illegal to sell absinthe in the US?

This subject is getting complicated but yes traditional absinthe is illegal to sell. But given the thirst of Americans desire for absinthe the industry is finding a way to get it to the people.

There is a chemical in traditional absinthe called Thujone, this chemical is banned in food products by the FDA. This one chemical is what makes absinthe illegal to sell. Generally Thujone comes from an herb called wormwood that is used in the production process of absinthe.

Companies and the liquor industry have found that by filtering out this chemical they can legally sell their brand of absinthe in the USA.

Seeing dollar signs many distillers and companies are now on a public relations campaign to downplay the role of Thujone and gain acceptance of this form of absinthe by the American public. Many are writing articles or launching sites that promote this new view of absinthe in an effort to gain acceptance. Some make statements such as that of Lucid one of the leading brands to enter the us market states "Prohibition is finally over" giving consumers the perception that laws have changed. They are eager to promote the fact they use Grand Wormwood but downplay the removal of Thujone. It all makes for good marketing and others like Kubler and Absinte seem to be following.

Others are even trying to state that their absinthe may contain Thujone or subvertly imply this. The truth is that any absinthe sold in the USA will be determined by the FDA to be "Thujone Free" but some distillers are noting that the test used by the FDA for detecting Thujone has some level of error, or tolerance, some have put it at 10ppm Thujone but my understanding of this is there is no defined level and the test by the FDA is subject to subjective influences such as the use of the sense of sight and smell to detect Thujone.

In the end whatever absinthe you find on the shelf will be "Thujone Free" according to the FDA

Traditional Absinthe in the USA

In the United States, Absinthe was banned in 1912, following the French ban three years before, but the current US Customs restrictions on the importation of Absinthe only are dated from 1958 while the USDA and FDA regulations still ban the sale or importation of any beverage containing wormwood. Despite this and its negative reputation, Absinthe has seemed to make a comeback in favor of citizens claiming the drink, whether they import it through customs or attempt to make it themselves. People are finding ways to acquire this green beverage.

Absinthe was originally marketed as a cure for several digestive diseases in the late 18th century and early 19th century, and then later sold to the French army as a way to ward off dysentery, tropical fever, and fatigue. Throughout time Absinthe was labeled under Pernod's name which became a staple among intellectual elites all over Europe, since it was hardly affordable for the proletariat. Eventually some incidents and anti-propaganda gave Absinthe a bad reputation. Inexpensive brands would use all type of solvents, copper and dyes to achieve the trademark green color. Those chemicals and toxins often were addressed as the cause for the murder and madness attributed to Absinthe drinking.

After the banning in the USA, it was not until the 1970's when the FDA passed the legislation that forbids the importation and sale of any alcoholic beverages containing artemisia absinthium, also known as wormwood, which is one of the main active ingredients in Absinthe. Although Absinthe without wormwood is commonly for sale in


Absinthe in the News


The large glass of absinthe sitting in front of the woman is clearly not her first. It isn't just the slack, unfocused eyes that tell you: Slumped against the banquette, her shoulders droop; listless arms drift away under the plain zinc table; her legs are splayed forward so that the shoes look like they might be on the wrong feet.

Edgar Degas's 1876 painting of Ellen Andree at a Paris cafe came to be called "L'Absinthe." It's hardly an advertisement for the greenish liquor -- the picture is such a blunt statement of dissipation that when the painting was sold at Christie's in 1892, the London auction crowd hissed it. Absinthe, that Belle Epoque-making drink, was indulged by rich and pour alike in France. But the artsy avant-garde most noisily embraced it. Bohemian poets like Verlaine and Rimbaud, Impressionist painters such as Van Gogh and Gauguin: All celebrated the drink as an aid to creativity. Absinthe was "the green fairy," a muse in a bottle.

It also helped that it was cheap, so starving artists didn't have to be thirsty artists, too. The false promise of absinthe inspiration has long fueled the underground appeal of the drink -- not unlike the lure of heroin to a generation of jazz musicians who assumed smack would help them play like Charlie Parker. But others are attracted by the self-destructiveness of it all -- Van Gogh hacked his ear off while deep in his absinthe cups. And probably the biggest factor in the enduring mystique has been absinthe's quasi-illicit status. Though it is illegal to sell or import absinthe into the U.S., the drink is not a controlled substance.

I asked a Drug Enforcement Agency spokeswoman about absinthe and she said, with a laugh, "We don't have a dog in that fight." At issue is a chemical found in wormwood -- thujone -- long thought to be the reason for absinthe's reputation as a ticket to the asylum.

The chemical is banned under Food and Drug Administration regulations, but FDA spokesman Mike Herndon says that his agency has no say in the regulation of alcoholic beverages.

Yet ask the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms why it won't allow absinthe into the U.S., and it says it is simply enforcing the FDA's ban on thujone.

Is Thujone Dangerous?

Recent research suggests that the chemical cuts the brain's brake lines, leading to runaway synapses.

But the amount of thujone in absinthe isn't nearly enough to account for the lurid descriptions of "absinthism" common a century ago. "A large drink of absinthe will produce insensibility, convulsions, .trembling hands, arms and legs, intense thirst, tingling in the ears, illusions of sight and hearing," an Agriculture Department official told the New York Herald in 1907. If U.S. rules against absinthe are obscure, the laws on the Continent have not been. France banned the national drink in 1915 in an effort to sober up its absinthe-besotted army. In 1910, Switzerland wrote an explicit absinthe ban into its constitution after a farmer, violently drunk on absinthe and other spirits, murdered his wife and children ( including an infant ). For decades absinthe was fodder for constitutional law classes in Switzerland -- the leading example of how their constitution had become bogged down with specifics better suited to statutes.

When Switzerland finally undid its ban ( the change went into effect in 2004 ) it was because of an overhaul of the constitution, not any political groundswell from absintheurs. Now that absinthe is legal in Switzerland -- as it has been since 1998 in the European Union -- a number of distilleries have taken it up. A Swiss diplomat recently poured a glass of Kubler absinthe for me, and it was something of a surprise.

I've never been a huge fan of pastis, the herbal liqueurs such as Pernod and Ricard that filled in for absinthe when the original was banned.

Absinthe always had the p


What is Absinthe?

Absinthe: a potent herb liquor containing wormwood, anise, and fennel that initially causes stimulation and euphoria but in large doses can be toxic.

Absinthe, a distilled liquor that is 68% alcohol, was first produced commercially in 1797. It proved so powerful and dangerous due to a toxin in the wormwood that could cause delerium and death that it was banned in France in 1915 and subsequently by many other countries. Many dissolute artist overindulged in absinthe during the nineteenth century. Currently it is making somewhat of a comeback in the united states and some European countries.

Questions to Ask Treatment Programs

Drug addiction has many different dangerous consequences. One thing that consumers want to think about when looking for a drug treatment program is can the facility handle you or your loved ones medical condition along with the addiction. When you look for a facility, one question to ask the treatment program, is do you have a medical component in your program? What are some of the types of medical staff that are present at the treatment program? Is the medical staff present 24 hours per day?

Not all drug treatment programs have a full time medical staff. This does not mean that if a program does not have a medical staff that the program is not a good program. It simply means that the level of care that they provide is different than a medical based treatment program. The medical based treatment program can provide treatment for a higher risk population than a non-medical residential treatment program.

Some IV drug users can have abscesses and ulcerations caused by soft tissue infections. Having access to a medical staff for this individual helps in the process of healing and treatment. Another important consideration to ask a drug or alcohol treatment program is do they have the ability to provide detoxification on site or do you need to seek detox at an alternative site before entering into the treatment program? Some addictive chemicals are dangerous to withdrawal from and medical attention is required to safely remove the chemicals from the body.   

Alcohol & Drug Terms

Alcohol & Drug Terms

Abscess- a chronic, localized, pus-filled infection, common in injection drug users because of their use of infected needles, an inability to get the needle into a vein, or by irritating effects of the drug on the skin and body tissues. They are often seen on the arms of IV drug users. 


AA- Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous® is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.
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