Bad Stuff Is Good Medicine?

Chewing betel nut isn’t as common here as it used to be and, to my knowledge, not many people here chew it with tobacco leaves as they do in southeast Asia. There, many users are addicted to that combination, which can create a sense of euphoria and alertness. Strangely enough, scientists at the University of Florida have found that compounds derived from betel nut could help cigarette smokers and betel nut chewers kick their habits.

The researchers say the two addictions share many traits and they want to develop drugs that target both. They’re studying compounds from the areca nut (the scientific name of betel is Areca catechu) to make new molecules that work better than existing smoking-cessation drugs.

“Some new findings say that things we know are bad for our health may actually be helpful. The first bad boy? Chewing betel nut.”

A drug that helps with two different kinds of addiction is really a good thing, but here’s one for you: What if eating chocolate helped prevent and treat diabetes? “Yeah, right!” you say.

Read more at Post Guam

Trump Tariffs Target Key Ingredients for Dozens of Drugs

The Trump administration’s proposed tariffs on thousands of Chinese-manufactured products would target dozens of key products used by drug makers, as well as medical devices including pacemakers and artificial joints.

More than 80 percent of the ingredients used to make U.S.-consumed drugs are produced outside of the country, according to the Food and Drug Administration. China, along with India, accounts for most of the bulk ingredients and the FDA has called China a “major provider.”

For brand-name drugs, raw ingredients used by manufacturers are typically a tiny fraction of the cost of a product. They can be more important for generic medications that are essentially low-cost commodity products.

Bloomberg Politics

Trump Wants A New War On Drugs

President Trump’s opioid response plan might have multiple prongs, but when he unveiled it Monday, he clearly was most interested in the prong that gets “very tough” on drug dealers. We know this because he said so approximately 5,000 times during a speech announcing the new plan in New Hampshire, a state chosen as the backdrop because it is one of those hardest hit by opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

Trump’s get-tough approach is little more than a reboot of the failed “War on Drugs” from the 1980s, in which the federal government spent enormous sums trying — and failing — to stop the crack cocaine crisis by throwing people in prison, a disproportionate amount of whom were African American and Latino.

His first speech on the topic in October, while vague, promised action on this “public health emergency.” A few days later the commission he convened to study the problem and come up with evidence-based solutions released a 131-page report with 56 recommendations, none of which suggested killing people.

Read the full article in Los Angeles Times

Reason ‘Magic’ Mushrooms Evolved to Get You High

“Magic” mushrooms seem to have passed their genes for mind-altering substances around among distant species as a survival mechanism: By making fungus-eating insects “trip,” the bugs become less hungry — and less likely to feast on mushrooms.

The researchers studied a group of mushrooms that all produce psilocybin — the chemical agent that causes altered states of consciousness in human beings — but aren’t closely related. The scientists found that the clusters of genes that caused the ‘shrooms to fill themselves with psilocybin were very similar to one another, more similar even than clusters of genes found in closely related species of mushrooms.

HGT isn’t really one process, as the biologist Alita Burmeister explained in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health in 2015. Instead, it’s the term for a group of more or less well-understood processes — like viruses picking up genes from one species and dropping them in another — that can cause groups of genes to jump between species.

The researchers suggested — but didn’t claim to prove — that the crisis in this case was droves of insects feasting on the defenseless mushrooms. Most of the species the scientists studied grew on animal dung and rotting wood — insect-rich environments (and environments full of opportunities to perform HGT). Psilocybin, the scientists wrote, might suppress insects’ appetites or otherwise induce the bugs to stop munching quite so much mush’.

Live Science