Friday Roundup – Addiction Stresses out the Brain, Untreated Schizophrenia and Risk of Violence, and Variations in Stimulant Use for ADHD

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Addiction Stresses out the Brain, Untreated Schizophrenia and Risk of Violence, and Variations in Stimulant Use for ADHD

The Latest  in Mental Health Research (and other stuff)

Brain Stress Systems Involved in Addiction

We often judge people with addictions harshly, blaming their inability to quit on lack of will power. Over the past few decades, strides in neuroscience has pointed to the biological components of the addiction process. The findings provide evidence of just how difficult the journey to recovery can be.


Recent research, presented at a Society of Neuroscience meeting held earlier this week, points to the brain’s stress systems as playing a role in the processes of becoming addicted and maintaining addiction once it has been initiated.

During one of the meeting’s presentations, George Koob, Ph.D, from the Scripps Research Institute in California, noted that individuals with addiction issues take substances not for pleasure, but rather to avoid negative the emotional responses of anxiety, stress, irritability, and depression related to withdrawal.

Extreme substance use sparks negative emotional responses in the brain that activate certain stress systems associated with regulating emotions, including the amygdala and basal ganglia.

Koob and colleagues were excited by these findings. He stated, “a role of the brain stress systems in addiction not only provides insight into the neurobiology of the emotional misery of addiction but also provides novel targets for the treatment of addiction.”

Risk of Violence with Untreated Schizophrenia

Research finds that mental health treatment affects estimates of ensuing violence committed by released prisoners with schizophrenia.


The study, recently published in AJP in Advance,  tracked almost 1000 prisoners who had committed violent crimes. The majority exhibited no signs of psychosis nine months after being released. Of these individuals, 94 were diagnosed with schizophrenia, 102 with substance-induced psychosis, and 29 with a delusional disorder.

Those with schizophrenia who were not treated for the disorder during their imprisonment or after release were 3 times more likely to be violent after being released compared to those who did receive treatment and those without psychosis.

Robert Keers, Ph.D., from Queen Mary University in London, highlights persecutory delusions as being a significant factor partially explaining the association.

Researchers noted that the lack of treatment for psychosis should be considered a risk factor in assessing for violent recidivism.

According to Keers and colleagues, “Our findings are consistent with those in studies of treatment compliance in psychosis that report that nonadherence to medication is associated with increased risk of violence.”

Variations in Stimulant Use in ADHD

According to a report in this month’s Psychiatric Services, there are significant variations across the country in the use of stimulants in the treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This is true, particularly, in primary care settings, which is where most individuals with ADHD have their care managed.


A public-policy and business consulting firm evaluated over 24 million stimulant prescriptions from almost 80% of U.S retail pharmacies. The prevalence of stimulant treatment varied considerably among states. The firm also found variation among counties was even more significant.

67% of the variation among counties was found to be associated with physician supply, the socioeconomic status of the population being served, and the funding for special education among the child and adolescent population.

According to the researchers, “one plausible interpretation of our findings is that physicians, schools, and parents in locales where pediatric treatment rates were closer to the estimated national ADHD prevalence rates are more effective in identifying, diagnosing, and treating ADHD and, perhaps to a lesser extent, other conditions for which stimulants are indicated. The strongest predictor of treatment was the availability of physicians in the area—a common finding in studies of geographic variations among other types of medical treatment.”

Telling our Stories

In an effort to bring mental illness out of the shadows and reduce stigma, we are especially interested in hearing about you and your stories related to mental health. Be sure to visit Healthshire’s “telling our story” section. Spend some time reading the stories or submit your own!

Recently, Healthshire partnered with a local mental health clinic to provide intensive outpatient services to two individuals with addiction issues. Many individuals bravely came forward to share their experiences about the complex issues that arise with substance use. You can read  their submitted stories here.


This week’s roundup is dedicated to the typhoon survivors in the Philippines. To help with efforts, visit the Red Cross website.


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