Amid all the thousands of trials that examine whether drugs are safe for us to use, Vance Trudeau asks who is looking out for our children and grandchildren.
We are the most highly medicated generation in history. Yet Trudeau, who studies hormones and the brain at the University of Ottawa, says we know little about what effects the drugs are taken today may cause decades from now, to future generations.
“These are major, major, important questions,” he said. “In the last 10 years, there are now a few key examples where scientists are showing the effects of certain chemicals that get transferred across generations.”
But how aware are we of possible effects of drugs on future human generations?
“We’re not. That’s why these three studies are super important. Now we have to wake up and ask the question: What are the effects on the next generation?
“Not all pharmaceuticals will give a generational effect. But there is now a pattern developing (where) we have to start asking the question: Is there something beneficial passed on or is there something negative passed on?
The question falls into the field known as epigenetics, literally “beyond genetics.” This looks at how our chromosomes undergo physical changes through our lives, and how we may pass down some changes we acquire during our lifetime to our children, and even to our grandchildren as a kind of “biological memory.”
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When headlines appeared recently announcing that scientists had given the party drug ecstasy to octopuses, it wasn’t clear whether the more noteworthy behavior was on the part of the marine invertebrates or the humans. But there was a scientific reason for this small pilot study, which suggested that the drug has a similar effect on both species: making us friendlier.
While the brains of octopuses look very different from ours, and we have been diverging for more than 700 million years, we and these intelligent invertebrates share some of the same genes and molecular mechanisms for transporting signals around the brain and nervous system. We share, for example, a nearly identical version of a gene called SLC6A4, which codes for a protein that transports serotonin around the brain. This system, in us, is critical for regulating mood and social behavior and is the target to which the drug ecstasy binds. In humans, ecstasy, or MDMA, decreases inhibition and increases social behavior.
As a way to probe the similarity between species, researchers soaked octopuses in a bath containing the drug and observed their behavior in a three-chambered enclosure. Two spaces contained toys and the other, a male octopus.
When not on the drug, the animals avoided the male and went for the toys. The species studied, the California two-spot octopus, is not particularly social in the wild, and both sexes are particularly averse to hanging around with males. When on the drug, however, they preferred a male octopus to the toys.
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The war on drugs was lost the moment it started but it continues relentlessly, morphing into a narrative favored by dystopian novelists.
One of the growth areas of academic finance in recent years has resulted in psychologists winning Nobel prizes for economics. The ways in which we are different to the rational, utility-maximising caricature of the textbooks has been usefully explored by researchers and has yielded a stream of insights that have guided policymakers in many jurisdictions.
Researchers are fond of finding weird anomalies in human behaviour that conflict with standard predictions, coming up with theories about why we behave in this way and then suggesting policy “nudges” that lead to better outcomes for both individuals and societies.
Each year, drug use rises. The range and availability of drugs rise. Terrorists rely on valuable income from drugs. The United Nations estimates that up to 85 per cent of Afghanistan’s poppy cultivation is under the control of the Taliban, with half of its income coming from heroin – and most of the world’s supply of that drug is from those fields. Even waging actual war doesn’t work.
In the UK, the Royal College of Physicians, the Faculty of Public Health and the Royal Society for Public Health have joined the calls for decriminalization. All these bodies are keen to stress that they do not condone drug taking but have just looked at the facts and concluded that the current legal framework is not fit for purpose. It simply doesn’t work: drug use is not deterred. Drug users need education and treatment, not legal sanction.
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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.
Port Shepstone SAPS arrested two foreign nationals after being caught with what is believed to be the first consignment of a drug called “khat” that was intercepted on the South Coast.
The two male occupants appeared to be very suspicious and the vehicle was intercepted. The drug is originally from East Africa and contains two stimulant substances, cathinone, and cathine.
“This plant is normally chewed or even smoked. A total of 104 bundles were confiscated and each bundle contained 106 stems.”
The two suspects will be charged with possession of drugs and will appear in court shortly. – Supplied.