Friday Roundup – Cocoa Does a Memory Good, Impact of Cannabis Legislation on Youth, Feelings of Panic, and Much More!!


Attention lovely readers! We at Healthshire will be providing you with a weekly Friday roundup of the latest in mental health news. Let us do all the work and be your one-stop-shop for all things current!

Friday Roundup – The Latest in Mental Health News

(and other stuff)

Cocoa Can Improve Memory

A study recently published in Nature Neuroscience finds that daily doses of flavanol – an antioxidant found in foods such as cocoa and tea – can help enhance memory and cognitive brain function in middle-aged adults. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center conducted a study in which almost 40 participants (aged 50-69) were assigned to one of two groups: one that received a high-flavanol (900 mg) drink and one that received a low-flavanol (10 mg) drink, daily, for three months. Brain scans (measuring blood volume in the dentate gyrus: a brain region associated with age-related memory decline) and cognitive tests were administered before and after the study.

Researchers found that individuals in the high-flavanol drink group showed significant improvements in the health of the dentate gyrus as well as performances on cognitive tests.

According to Scott Small, M.D., lead author of the study, “If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old.”

Impact of Marijuana Legalization on Youth

As legislation continues to move forward with decreasing restrictions on marijuana use, research on its impact on society – youth in particular – is increasing. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry held their annual meeting last week, and researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine presented on data revolving around cannabis use among adolescents.

Their presentation highlighted negative consequences associated with the post-commercialization age of marijuana. One study found that adolescents entering treatment for polysubstance use after 2009 (post-commercialization) were more likely to have active  ingredients commonly found in cannabis (delta-9-tetrahydrocabnnabinol) in their urine as compared to adolescents entering treatment prior to 2009. Another study conducted in Colorado found an increase in motor vehicle fatalities among teens 16 and older who tested positive for marijuana use in comparison to the same driver group in other states without marijuana legalization. Keep in mind correlational studies do not prove cause and effect.

Christian Hopfner, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, tells APA’s Psychiatric News:

“Commercialization of marijuana is definitely in process throughout the nation. There is a lot of capital going towards this substance…[as well as] efforts to remarket it as a more ‘upscale’ product. It is crucial for parents, adolescents, and psychiatrists to educate themselves on the policy changes regarding marijuana, the pharmacology of marijuana, and the effects of marijuana on adolescent development and safety.”

Home Visits Help American-Indian Teen Mothers

American Journal of Psychiatry in Advance recently published a study finding that a home-visiting program addressing American-Indian teenage mothers can decrease maternal risks and enhance their children’s behavior.

According to lead researcher and associate director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Indian Health, Allison Barlow, M.P.H., Ph.D., American-Indian teens have the highest rates of teen pregnancy, suicide, substance use, and dropping out of school compared to any racial or ethnic group in the U.S.

The study recruited young women from the same Apache and Navajo reservations in Arizona as the teen mothers to be the home visitors, or family health workers as they were called. This enhanced the knowledge of culture and language between the health workers and the teen mothers. All individuals in the study received “optimized standard care,” including transportation to clinic visits, child care information, and resources to local services. According to the study, the goal was “to evaluate the intervention’s effects on parental competence (parenting knowledge, locus of control, stress, and behaviors) and maternal behavioral problems that impede effective parenting through early childhood…. Secondary aims were to evaluate intervention effects on early childhood emotional and behavioral outcomes.”

Mothers who were randomly assigned to the intervention group were also beneficiaries of the Family Spirit program, which included training in observing their babies, how to interpret their cries, reading tot hem, and implementing structure and routines. Home visits began during pregnancy up until children were three years old.

Mothers who were in the intervention group exhibited more parenting knowledge, decreased rates of substance use, decreased rates of externalizing problems, and lower scores on depression scales. Their children demonstrated fewer internalizing and externalizing issues and emotional dysregulation.

What Panic Feels Like

Anxiety can be a debilitating experience. For the millions of Americans who deal with severe anxiety, panic attacks are a common and frightening experience that can occur on a daily basis. Anxiety can very much be a physical experience.

The Huffington Post recently reached out via social media platforms to its readers who manage anxiety and panic-like symptoms to gain a better understanding of what a panic attack is really like.

Some of their descriptions are listed below. Check out the Huffington Post article for more quotes and illustrations.

  • “Mine are like I can’t stand up, I can’t speak. All I feel is an intense amount of pain all over, like something is just squeezing me into this little ball. If it is really bad I can’t breathe, I start to hyperventilate and I throw up.”
  • “My body feels tingly and I get dizzy. I feel like ice is running through my veins. I want to run away from my body but I can’t, of course. Shallow breathing. Heart racing. Total panic.”
  • “It feels like every wall is closing in towards me; like I can’t see straight and my vision suddenly becomes spotty. Tunnel vision describes it perfectly.”
  • “It feels like being trapped and suffocated as if the building was on fire with no escape. It feels urgent and frightening.”
  • “It feels like I need to escape, get out and run because if I don’t, I might die.”

Talking to Your Kids About Ebola reports on the difficulty of shielding children from epidemics such as the outbreak of the Ebola virus, particularly with the media’s concentration on it.

In an interview with TIME, Dawn Huebner, a clinical child psychologist, gives the following tips:

  • For children who are especially scared of the Ebola virus, let them know that proximity is a pivotal factor. Children in America are not very close to the outbreak in West Africa, so remind your kids that there is a very low likelihood of the virus spreading in the U.S. Children 7 and older begin to understand that worries are not always rational. “Parents can talk to kids about how one of the ways worries and anxiety get their power is by making us think about things that are very unlikely,” says Huebner.
  • Allow your children to watch the news, but be careful to avoid media overload.
  • Recognize appropriate reactions. Feeling nervous and asking questions is normal for children. Being reassured by parents’ answers is an appropriate reaction. Children may ask again a few times if everything is okay, which is also normal. Huebner warns parents to pay attention to children who continue to voice worries and fears despite reassurance, after which a longer conversation may be necessary.
  • For parents who may have overreacted themselves about the Ebola virus in front of their children, don’t worry. There is hope. The wonderful thing about parenting is that you can model healthy behavior by letting your children know that you may have not handled a situation as best as you could have. Rational and calm conversations always prevail.

Telling Our Stories

It’s important to share your journey with others. 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 Stories” section. Spend some time reading the stories or submit your own!

This week’s roundup is dedicated to All Hallows Eve!! Have a safe and Happy Halloween!!


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