Ceremonial PTSD therapies favored by Native American veterans

Native American veterans battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder find relief and healing through an alternative treatment called the Sweat Lodge ceremony offered at the Spokane Veterans Administration Hospital.In the Arizona desert, wounded warriors from the Hopi Nation can join in a ceremony called Wiping Away the Tears. The traditional cleansing ritual helps dispel a chronic “ghost sickness” that can haunt survivors of battle.These and other traditional healing therapies are the treatment of choice for many Native American veterans, — half of whom say usual PTSD treatments don’t work — according to a recent survey conducted at Washington State University. The findings will be presented at the American Psychological Association conference in Washington D.C. this August.The study is available online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/nativeveterans.Led by Greg Urquhart and Matthew Hale, both Native veterans and graduate students in the College of Education, the ongoing study examines the attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs of Native American veterans concerning PTSD and its various treatment options. Their goal is to give Native veterans a voice in shaping the types of therapies available in future programs.”Across the board, Native vets don’t feel represented. Their voices have been silenced and ignored for so long that they were happy to provide feedback on our survey,” said Hale.Historically, Native Americans have served in the military at higher rates than all other U.S. populations. Veterans are traditionally honored as warriors and esteemed in the tribal community.A 2012 report by the Department of Veterans Affairs showed that the percentage of Native veterans under age 65 outnumbers similar percentages for veterans of all other racial groups combined.The WSU survey provides a first-hand look at the veterans’ needs, but more importantly, reveals the unique preferences they have as Native American veterans, said Phyllis Erdman, executive associate dean for academic affairs at the college and mentor for the study.Cultural worldviewUrquhart said many Native veterans are reluctant to seek treatment for PTSD because typical western therapy options don’t represent the Native cultural worldview.”The traditional Native view of health and spirituality is intertwined,” he explained. “Spirit, mind, and body are all one — you can’t parcel one out from the other — so spirituality is a huge component of healing and one not often included in western medicine, although there have been a few studies on the positive effects of prayer.”For many years, the U.S. government banned Native religious ceremonies, which subsequently limited their use in PTSD programs, said Urquhart. …

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Smoke in the water: Understanding effects of smoke compounds on seed germination

Although seemingly destructive, wildfires help to maintain biodiversity and are an important element of many ecosystems throughout the world. Not only do fires discourage non-native and invasive species from becoming established, but the quick release of nutrients, heat, and compounds found in ash and smoke play an important role in the life cycle of the native flora. For plants that are adapted to ecosystems where fire is a regular occurrence — such as savannas, grasslands, and coniferous forests — exposure to fire may initiate seed germination or enhance plant growth.Recent research has focused on the effects of smoke. As plant tissue is burned, numerous compounds are released, some of which have been found to break seed dormancy and stimulate germination. In a new study published in the March issue of Applications in Plant Sciences, scientists at Eastern Illinois University have developed a novel system to produce smoke solutions to further investigate the importance of smoke compounds such as butenolides and cyanohydrins in seed germination and seedling growth.”Because many of the identified compounds are known to be water soluble, using a smoke solution is a convenient alternative to direct fumigation of seeds,” explains Dr. Janice Coons, lead author of the study.The new system utilizes a bee smoker, heater hose, and water aspirator. Water-soluble compounds are dissolved by bubbling smoke through water contained in a flask. This setup is inexpensive and much more compact than previous systems, allowing for the production of smaller volumes of smoke solution within a small space, such as a fume hood.This new apparatus increases the concentration of smoke compounds in the solution and allows for greater control of variables. For example, different species of plants contain different compounds, which may have different effects on seed germination. “Native species often require special conditions to break seed dormancy,” explains Coons. …

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Fruit-loving lemurs score higher on spatial memory tests

Food-finding tests in five lemur species show that fruit-eaters may have better spatial memory than lemurs with a more varied diet.The results support the idea that relying on foods that are seasonally available and far-flung gives a competitive edge to individuals with certain cognitive abilities — such as remembering where the goodies are.In a study appearing in the journal Animal Cognition, researchers Alexandra Rosati at Yale University and Kerri Rodriguez and Brian Hare of Duke compared spatial memory skills across five species of lemurs living in captivity at the Duke Lemur Center — fruit-eating red-ruffed and black-and-white ruffed lemurs, leaf-eating Coquerel’s sifakas, and ring-tailed and mongoose lemurs that eat a mix of fruit, leaves, seeds, flowers, nectar and insects.A total of 64 animals took part in the studies, which measured their ability to remember the locations of food treats in mazes and boxes. The results are consistent with these species’ foraging behavior in the wild, the researchers say, with fruit-eaters doing well and omnivores lagging behind.In the first experiment, the lemurs learned the location of food hidden in one of two arms of a T-shaped maze. A week later, the fruit-eating ruffed lemurs were the only species able to retain and recall the right spot.A second experiment tested whether the lemurs were recalling the exact spot or just remembering the turns they took along the way. First the lemurs learned how to find a piece of food hidden in one wing of a symmetrical cross-shaped maze. Ten minutes later, the lemurs were moved to a new starting position in the maze and released to find their way again.The ruffed lemurs were most likely to set off again to the right spot in the cross-maze, even though they had to take new turns to get there. “Before they might have turned right, but now they had to turn left to get to the same spot,” Rosati said.The results suggest that ruffed lemurs primarily rely on a memory of the place, rather than a memory of what turns they took. The other species showed a mix of both strategies.Finally, to better reflect the situations lemurs face when foraging in the wild, a third experiment tested the lemurs’ ability to remember multiple locations. In the initial session, a lemur was allowed to explore a room containing eight open boxes, each marked with a distinct visual cue. Half the boxes were baited with food and half were empty. After the lemur learned which boxes contained food and which didn’t, all eight boxes were baited with food and covered with lids to keep it from view. …

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Modifying rice crops to resist herbicide prompts weedy neighbors’ growth spurt

Sep. 23, 2013 — Rice containing an overactive gene that makes it resistant to a common herbicide can pass that genetic trait to weedy rice, prompting powerful growth even without a weed-killer to trigger the modification benefit, new research shows.Previously, scientists have found that when a genetically modified trait passes from a crop plant to a closely related weed, the weed gains the crop’s engineered benefit – resistance to pests, for example – only in the presence of the offending insects.This new study is a surprising example of gene flow from crops to weeds that makes weeds more vigorous even without an environmental trigger, researchers say.The suspected reason: This modification method enhances a plant’s own growth control mechanism, essentially making it grow faster – an attractive trait in crops but a recipe for potential problems with weedy relatives that could out-compete the crop.“Our next question is whether this method of enhancing plant growth could be developed for any crop. We want to know whether growers could get higher yields in the crop and then, if it happened to cross with a related weed, whether it might make the weed more prolific as well,” said Allison Snow, professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at The Ohio State University and a lead author of the paper.“It’s unusual for any transgene to have such a positive effect on a wild relative and even more so for herbicide resistance,” she said. “But we think we know why: It’s probably because the pathway regulated by this gene is so important to the plant.”The work is the result of Snow’s longtime collaboration with senior author Bao-Rong Lu, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai. Their publication appears online in the journal New Phytologist.The weed-killer glyphosate, sold under the brand name Roundup, kills plants by inhibiting a growth-related pathway activated by the epsps gene. Biotech companies have inserted mutated forms of a similar gene from microbes into crop plants, producing “Roundup Ready” corn and soybeans that remain undamaged by widespread herbicide application.But in this study, the researchers used a different method, boosting activation of the native epsps gene in rice plants – a process called overexpressing – to give the plants enough strength to survive an application of herbicide. Because companies that genetically modify commercial crops don’t fully disclose their methods, Snow and her colleagues aren’t sure how prevalent this method might be, now or in the future.“This is a relatively new way to get a trait into a crop: taking the plant’s own gene and ramping it up,” Snow said. “We don’t know yet if our findings are going to be generalizable, but if they are, it’s definitely going to be important.”To overexpress the native gene in rice, the scientists attached a promoter to it, giving the plant an extra copy of its own gene and ensuring that the gene is activated at all times.The researchers conducted tests in rice and four strains of a relative of the same species, weedy rice, a noxious plant that infests rice fields around the world. By crossing genetically altered herbicide-resistant rice with weedy rice to mimic what happens naturally in the field, the researchers created crop-weed hybrids that grew larger and produced more offspring than unaltered counterparts – even without any herbicide present.In regulated field experiments, the hybrids containing the overexpressed gene produced 48 percent to 125 percent more seeds per plant than did hybrid plants with no modified genes. They also had higher concentrations of a key amino acid, greater photosynthetic rates and better fledgling seed growth than controls – all presumed signs of better fitness in evolutionary terms.“Fitness is a hard thing to measure, but you can conclude that if a gene gives you a lot more seeds per plant compared to controls, it’s likely to increase the plants’ fitness because those genes would be represented at a higher percentage in future generations,” Snow said.When Snow and Lu set out to study this new genetic engineering method, they didn’t know what to expect.“Our colleagues developed this novel transgenic trait in rice and we didn’t know if it would have a fitness benefit, or a cost, or be neutral,” Snow said. …

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Synthetic mRNA can induce self-repair and regeneration of the infarcted heart

Sep. 8, 2013 — A team of scientists at Karolinska Institutet and Harvard University has taken a major step towards treatment for heart attack, by instructing the injured heart in mice to heal by expressing a factor that triggers cardiovascular regeneration driven by native heart stem cells. The study, published in Nature Biotechnology, also shows that there was an effect on driving the formation of a small number of new cardiac muscle cells.”This is the beginning of using the heart as a factory to produce growth factors for specific families of cardiovascular stem cells, and suggests that it may be possible to generate new heart parts without delivering any new cells to the heart itself ,” says Kenneth Chien, a Professor at the medical university Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and Harvard University, USA, who led the research team behind the new findings.The study is based upon another recent discovery in the Chien lab, which was published in Cell Research. This study shows that VEGFA, a known growth factor for vascular endothelial cells in the adult heart, can also serve as a switch that converts heart stem cells away from becoming cardiac muscle and towards the formation of the coronary vessels in the fetal heart. To coax the heart to make the VEGFA, the investigators in the Nature Biotechnology study used new technology where synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA) that encodes VEGFA is injected into the muscle cell. Then, heart muscle produces a short pulse of VEGFA. The mRNA is synthetically modified so that it escapes the normal defense system of the body that is known to reject and degrade the non-modified mRNA as a viral invader.The study, performed in mice, shows that only a single administration of a short pulse of expression of VEGFA is required, if it can be delivered to the exact region where the heart progenitors reside. The therapeutic effect is long term, as shown by markedly improved survival following myocardial infarction with a single administration of the synthetic mRNA when given within 48 hours after the heart attack. The long-term effect appears to be based on changing the fate of the native heart stem cells from contributing to cardiac fibrotic scar tissue and towards cardiovascular tissue.”This moves us very close to clinical studies to regenerate cardiovascular tissue with a single chemical agent without the need for injecting any additional cells into the heart.” says Professor Chien.At the same time, he points out that these are still early days and there remains much to be done. In particular, it will become of interest to engineer new device technology to deliver the synthetic mRNA via conventional catheter technology. …

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Deep-sea squid with tentacle tips that ‘swim’ on their own

Sep. 3, 2013 — Many deep-sea animals such as anglerfish use parts of their body as lures to attract prey. Some deep-sea squids may use this strategy as well. In a recent paper, researchers associated with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) describe a deep-sea squid that appears to use a different method to lure prey — its tentacle tips flap and flutter as if swimming on their own. The researchers hypothesize that the motion of these tentacle tips may induce small shrimp and other animals to approach within reach of the squid’s arms.Most squids have eight arms and two longer “feeding” tentacles. The tips of the tentacles, which are often broader and armed with suckers or hooks, are known as “clubs.” Such squids hunt by rapidly extending their tentacles and then grabbing prey with their clubs. The squids also use the tentacles to carry captured prey to their mouths.The deep-sea squid Grimalditeuthis bonplandi seems to use a very different feeding strategy. A slow swimmer with a weak, gelatinous body, its tentacles are long, thin, fragile, and too weak to capture prey. Unlike any other known squid, its tentacles do not have any suckers, hooks, or photophores (glowing spots).Until just a few years ago, the marine biologists had only seen specimens of G. bonplandi that were dead or dying after having been captured in deep-sea trawl nets. …

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Tahiti: A very hot biodiversity hot spot in the Pacific

Aug. 9, 2013 — A collaborative biological survey that focused on the insects of French Polynesia has resulted in the discovery of over 100 tiny predatory beetle species in Tahiti, 28 of these species newly described in the open-access journal ZooKeys.The predatory beetles range in size from 3-8 mm long, and have evolutionarily lost their flight wings, making them homebodies living in small patches of mountain forest. The author, James Liebherr of Cornell University, states “It is exhilarating working with such a fauna, because every new locality or ecological situation has the high probability of supporting a species nobody has seen before.”This adaptive radiation has evolved on an oceanic island less than 1.5 million years old, within an area of just over 1000 square kilometers. These beetles have diversified by speciating as fast as any animals worldwide, with each species estimated to last only 300,000 years before splitting into daughter species.Tahiti’s geological history has much to do with this evolutionary rate, as these beetles prefer to live in rain forests on high mountains that have become isolated through extensive erosion that has produced the broad, low-elevation river valleys so characteristic of the island. Yet some closely related species live on the same mountain ridge, just at different elevations or in different types of habitat.This level of specialization is what characterizes an adaptive radiation, where species exist within narrow ecological or geographic boundaries that mainland species would simply ignore or fly over. Yet this exuberant evolution may face a dark future, as invasive species from the mainland threaten the highly specialized island species. Predatory ants, such as the little fire ant, have invaded Tahiti, and have been recorded from some localities where native beetle species were collected by French entomologists in the 1970’s.”Now that the 101 species of small predatory beetles currently known from Tahiti can be identified, field sampling can be used to evaluate their conservation status relative to alien threats,” says Liebherr. Moreover he says, “Everybody who makes landfall on Tahiti, either by air or sea, should endeavor to disembark pest free so as to protect the many denizens of the mountain forests who make the native ecosystems work.”

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Traditional ranching practices enhance African savanna

May 1, 2013 — That human land use destroys natural ecosystems is an oft-cited assumption in conservation, but ecologists have discovered that instead, traditional ranching techniques in the African savanna enhance the local abundance of wild, native animals. These results offer a new perspective on the roles humans play in natural systems, and inform ongoing discussions about land management and biodiversity conservation.

For thousands of years, pastoralists in East African savannas have penned their cattle overnight in brush-walled corrals, called bomas. Bomas remain in use for about a year, resulting in tons of manure that fertilizes these small areas. After abandonment, a lush carpet of grass springs up and these fertile “glades” — sometimes as large as a football field — remain visibly distinct from the surrounding savanna for over a century.

The team of ecologists, based at the Mpala Research Center in Kenya, found that trees close to the edges of glades grew faster and were generally larger than trees elsewhere in the savanna. They also found more insects and, the particular focus of the study, higher densities of a native species of gecko, Lygodactylus keniensis.

“The effect of these glades is clear,” said Colin Donihue, the Yale University doctoral student who led the research, which is described in Ecology’s April issue. “Our findings are particularly exciting given how long glades persist in the savanna. This means that even decades after the pastoralists move on, they leave fertile footprints across the landscape that significantly alter the dynamics of the entire ecosystem.” Previous research has shown that glades are the preferred grazing sites of many large African mammals. Donihue et al.’s research uniquely demonstrates that the effects of glades cascade to a far broader swath of the savanna’s plant and animal inhabitants.

The researchers also measured the interacting effects of nearby glades. Unexpectedly, the area between two close glades had some of the lowest gecko lizard densities and tree growth rates of the entire study. “This result was a surprise to us,” Donihue said, “and has important management implications as we think about integrating knowledge from agrarian cultures and traditions into modern ranching practice.”

The surprising result may be due to cattle overuse of the area between an established boma and nearby glade. Further experiments are currently underway at the research center to explore this pattern and determine optimal distances between bomas.

It is important to note that over-grazing can have myriad detrimental impacts on ecosystems. This project simply demonstrates that traditional corralling techniques in Kenya leave a landscape-scale legacy that can bolster local abundances of native plants and animals.

“With human populations booming, we must look beyond the ‘leave no trace’ conservation ethic,” said Donihue. “We must strive to find ways that our impacts on ecosystems can work in concert with natural processes. Our study suggests that traditional practices, honed over millennia, offer insightful lessons on how to do it.”

Other authors on the paper include: Robert Pringle Ph.D. (Princeton University), Lauren Porensky Ph.D. (University of Nevada, Reno), Johannes Foufopoulos Ph.D. (University of Michigan), Corinna Riginos Ph.D. (Princeton University).

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Children of married parents less likely to be obese

May 22, 2013 — Children living in households where the parents are married are less likely to be obese, according to new research from Rice University and the University of Houston.

“Childhood obesity is a significant public health issue in our country, with nearly one-third of all U.S. children ages 2-17 overweight or obese,” said Rachel Kimbro, study co-author, associate professor of sociology at Rice and director of Rice’s Kinder Institute Urban Health Program. “Despite this, very little research has been conducted to explore the impact of family structure on this epidemic.”

In a recent edition of the Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk, research by Kimbro and colleagues shows that children living in a traditional two-parent married household are less likely to be obese (17 percent obesity rate) than children living with cohabitating parents, who have a 31 percent obesity rate. The obesity rate is even higher for children living with an adult relative (29 percent), single mother (23 percent) and cohabitating stepparent family (23 percent). The study did not evaluate children of same-sex couples, due to lack of available data. The higher rates for nontraditional parent families were observed even after the researchers accounted for factors associated with childhood obesity, including diet, physical activity and socio-economic status.

The exception to this finding was children living with single fathers or in married stepparent households, who had an obesity rate of 15 percent.

“Previous research has shown that single-father households tend to have more socio-economic resources than single-mother households,” Kimbro said. “And since socio-economic status is the single greatest predictor of health, it serves to explain why children in single-father households may be less likely to be obese.”

The study, “Family Structure and Obesity Among U.S. Children,” examined the obesity rates of children living in traditional and nontraditional family structures in the U.S. The research sample of 10,400 children comes from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort, a nationally representative study of U.S. children and their families designed to provide information on children’s development.

Data collection for the study began in 2001. The primary caregivers of the children participated in the first wave of the in-home interviews when their children were approximately 9 months old. Data was subsequently collected when the children were 2 years old, in preschool (approximately age 4) and in kindergarten. The sample included children from diverse socio-economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds as well as an oversample of Asian, Pacific Islander, Alaska Native, American Indian, twins and low-birth-weight children. Forty-six percent of the children were racial or ethnic minorities, 25 percent were poor and 16 percent of the children had mothers without high school diplomas.

The interviews included assessments of the children’s height, weight and other measures of development, such as cognitive functioning. The children were organized in eight mutually exclusive categories designed to account for the children’s current family structure and the one they were born into.

The authors hope their research will inspire future studies of nontraditional family structures and their impact on health and weight.

“For reasons we cannot fully measure, there appears to be something about people who marry and have a child that is fundamentally different than the other groups, and these factors are also linked to children’s weight,” Kimbro said.

“Our hope is that this research will encourage further exploration of this topic,” said Kimbro’s co-author, Jennifer Augustine. “There is substantial research on how family structure matters to other domains of children’s development, yet little research on why marriage and other family structure types might matter for children’s obesity.”

Kimbro and Augustine have already begun to lead this charge with a new project that examines the household-level processes associated with different family structures that may explain differences in young children’s risk of obesity.

The research was funded by Rice University and the University of Houston.

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Land management options outlined to address cheatgrass invasion

May 13, 2013 — A new study suggests that overgrazing and other factors increase the severity of cheatgrass invasion in sagebrush steppe, one of North America’s most endangered ecosystems.

The research found that overgrazed land loses the mechanisms that can resist invasion. This includes degradation of once-abundant native bunchgrasses and trampling that disturbs biological soil crusts. The work was published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology by researchers from Oregon State University, Augustana College and the U.S. Geological Survey.

“We think there are ways to assess the risks these lands face to reduce the impact of cheatgrass invasion,” said Paul Doescher, professor and head of the OSU Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, and co-author on the study.

“In the future we should work cooperatively with ranchers and land managers to promote a diverse sagebrush and bunchgrass ecosystem,” Doescher said. “That type of community will protect the native plant and wildlife species and benefit sustainable rangeland use at the same time.”

Researchers suggested that one of the most effective restoration approaches would be to minimize the cumulative impact of grazing, by better managing the timing, frequency of grazing and number of animals.

The researchers also determined that, contrary to some previous suggestions, grazing does not reduce cheatgrass abundance. Cheatgrass was found by this study to be extremely tolerant of even intensive grazing, and the findings “raise serious concern” about proposals to use cattle grazing to help control its spread in areas where native bunchgrasses still persist.

The study outlines the complex ecological processes that can promote cheatgrass invasion and the indirect role overgrazing plays in that process. Increasing gaps and connection of gaps between once-abundant native bunchgrasses allow “a dramatic increase” in cheatgrass invasion, the study concluded. Such gaps could serve as a valuable “early warning indicator” and allow for management approaches that could help conserve and restore the land.

Cheatgrass threatens vast regions of the American West, especially the Great Basin in Nevada and surrounding states. These are areas which were once carpeted by millions of acres of native sagebrush, perennial bunchgrasses and associated wildlife that had evolved with little herbivore pressure. Cheatgrass displaces native grasses and wildlife, can increase fire frequency and ultimately cause an irreversible loss of these native shrub-steppe communities.

This also has grazing implications: cheatgrass is a short-lived annual grass that dries out quickly and provides lower quality forage for much of the year, compared to perennial bunchgrasses.

“Cheatgrass changes the fire regime, and as it spreads, can reach a tipping point,” said Michael Reisner, now an assistant professor at Augustana College who led this study as a doctoral student at OSU.

“After you cross that threshold, a major rangeland fire will come through that takes out the sagebrush, and in most cases the native ecosystem never recovers,” Reisner said. “Many of the plant and animal species that were there can disappear, mostly replaced by cheatgrass that offers poor forage for cattle.”

In a more resistant system, abundant native bunchgrasses can limit the size and connectivity of gaps, which minimizes the water and nutrients available to cheatgrass. Using data from 75 study sites, researchers found that high levels of cattle grazing were associated with reduced bunchgrass cover, with wider and more connections between the gaps that provided an opportunity for cheatgrass to invade.

Cattle trampling also appeared to disturb biological soil crust that offers a second defensive barrier against cheatgrass, and further speeds the invasion. Impacts are greater on the drier and warmer sites within this region.

If the level and amount of gaps indicates that it’s necessary, changes in grazing could help restore bunchgrass cover, maintain a diversity of native grass species and provide much better resistance to cheatgrass invasion, the study concluded. Continued research is needed to quantify the threshold levels of cattle grazing that would still maintain a healthy native ecosystem.

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Increasing problem of prescription drug abuse among youth

May 28, 2013 — Young people are increasingly turning to prescription drugs to get high. Research out of the University of Cincinnati sheds new light on what could increase or lower that risk.

The research by Keith King, a University of Cincinnati professor of health promotion; Rebecca Vidourek, a UC assistant professor of health promotion; and Ashley Merianos, a graduate assistant in health promotion, is published in the current issue of the Journal of Primary Prevention.

The study focused on more than 54,000 7th- through 12th — grade students in schools across Greater Cincinnati, including the Tristate regions of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. The data was collected by the Coalition for a Drug Free Greater Cincinnati as part of the 2009-2010 Pride Survey on adolescent drug use in America.

A total of 13.7 percent of the students reported using prescription drugs — without a doctor’s prescription — in their lifetime. Males were more likely to abuse prescription drugs, as well as high school students, versus junior high school students. Among ethnicities studied, Hispanic students indicated they were more likely to use nonmedical prescription drugs compared with white and African-American students.

The study also found that pro-social behaviors, including strong connections with parents (and their advising on the dangers of drug use), reduced the students’ odds of abusing prescription drugs, along with positive connections to teachers and their schools. Connections with peers who disapproved of substance abuse also decreased student chances of abusing prescription medications. “Students at every grade level who reported high levels of parent and peer disapproval of use were at decreased odds for lifetime nonmedical prescription drug use,” according to the study.

On the other hand, the authors found that relationships with drug-using peers increase the risk of youth substance abuse. Peer use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana were associated with increased use of nonmedical prescription drugs for all students.

“While much research has examined factors associated with overall substance use among youth, relatively few studies have specifically investigated risk factors, protective factors and sex/grade differences for youth involvement in nonmedical prescription use,” write the authors. “Identifying specific risk and protective factors for males, females, junior high and high school students would help to clarify prevention needs and enhance prevention programming.”

The study cites national research that indicates kids are turning to prescription drugs to get high under the mistaken notion that they’re safer than illicit drugs, yet national research has shown that even short-term use of non-prescribed, prescription medications can cause cardiovascular and respiratory distress, seizures and death.

The authors suggest future research should explore young people’s use of specific nonmedical prescription drugs.

Demographics of the Study

The study was close to evenly divided between male (49.4 percent) and female participants; 75 percent reported they were Caucasian; 14.4 percent African-American; 1.8 percent Hispanic/Latino; 2.4 percent Asian/Pacific Islander; 0.4 percent Native American; 4.1 percent multiracial and 1.5 percent selected “other” for ethnicity. Respondents were close to evenly distributed across 7th- through 12th-grades. Approximately two-thirds (62.4 percent) of participants reported living with both parents; 16.2 percent reported living with their mother only; 2.9 percent reported living with their father only.

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