News Stories

Blame It On Your Addictions

Taking a coffee break makes it harder for office workers to do their jobs?but only if they're men. Having trouble quitting cigarettes? It may be because you were "born to smoke." But not to worry: you can now "throw a switch" in your brain to get rid of your addictions. And if you're hooked on marijuana, there's a new medicine that will get rid of the "munchies."

Shaoni Bhattacharya writes in New Scientist that caffeine causes men to become more stressed than women and makes it harder for them to cooperate with their co-workers, according to tests done by psychologists Lindsay St. Claire and Peter Rogers. St. Claire says, "Our research findings suggest that the commonplace tea or coffee break might backfire in business situations, particularly where men are concerned. Far from reducing stress, it might actually make things worse."

The British Safety Council says, "Timely and adequate breaks are vital in the workplace, however, maybe it is advisable that the coffee machine be removed to a women's only area!"

St. Claire says, "?If you are hosting a business meeting go a bit easy on the percolator?you might actually find wacky things going wrong from your attempt at hospitality."

Hostile and aggressive people may "born to smoke." Researcher Steven Potkin has done brain imaging studies that reveal that the same genetic variations that give people hostile personality traits also make them more likely to become addicted to nicotine. He says, "We call this brain response a 'born to smoke' pattern.

"Based on these dramatic brain responses to nicotine, if you have hostile, aggressive personality traits, in all likelihood you have a predisposition to cigarette addiction without ever having even touched a cigarette," Potkin says. "In turn, this might also help explain why other people have no compelling drive to smoke or can quit smoking with relative ease."

Smokers, drug takers, alcoholics: to get rid of your addictions, throw a switch in your brain and get back to your non-addicted state. It?s been discovered that our brains have a region called the VTA which contains receptors. When these are exposed to a certain enzyme, the brain can be switched back to its pre-addictive state?back to the good old days before you took that first drink, hit or smoke.

This is major news because scientists used to think that addiction caused permanent changes in the brain. Steven Laviolette says, "Our findings suggest that instead of a permanent alteration in the brain, there's actually a switch that goes on between two separate systems (one that mediates the brain's response to drugs while not yet addicted and the other that mediates response once addicted). They also suggest we may be able to manipulate that switch pharmacologically to take drug addicts back to a non-addicted state in a relatively short period of time so they do not crave the drug."

Without turning off the switch, addicts can go to a non-addictive state for a few weeks, but they often return to their addictions. Laviolette says, "The same anatomical pathways that we're manipulating in rats also exist in humans so we hope that this will be applicable to human drug addiction as well."

Got the munchies after smoking marijuana? A new drug turns off the part of the brain that makes people hungry after smoking grass. The drug is in the final testing phase and could be launched in 2006. The drug company that makes it thinks it has the potential for billion-dollar sales.

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