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Extreme Plan to Reduce Fentanyl Deaths in NJ, Serotonin Hypothesis of Depression Questioned, and Family Alcohol History Linked to Junk Food Addiction
Here is a recap of some of the top industry-related news stories of the week:
An extreme plan to end fentanyl overdose deaths in NJ
NJ state Sen. Paul Sarlo is sponsoring legislation that would make it a first-degree crime to sell, possess, or manufacture more than 10 grams of fentanyl, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000.
His measure also stipulates selling or possessing any amount of fentanyl up to 10 grams would be a second-degree crime, which carries 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
“It’s very lethal, this is not about drug addiction, this is about killing somebody, no different than pulling out a gun and shooting somebody,” he said.
She said the DEA has now started investigating drug overdose deaths, and if they were caused by ingesting fentanyl, the case will be treated not as accidental but as a homicide.
A decisive blow to the serotonin hypothesis of depression
Almost as soon as it was floated in 1965 by Harvard psychiatrist Joseph Schildkraut, the serotonin hypothesis of depression—reduced and simplified by pharma marketing to the “chemical imbalance” theory of depression and anxiety—has been subject to critical research and found wanting.
Revisiting the history of this controversy raises several still-relevant details. In December 2005, as advertising for SSRI antidepressants flooded American magazines, talk shows, and network TV, the result of multibillion-dollar campaigns pitched in this case directly to consumers, Florida-based professors and researchers Jeffrey Lacasse and Jonathan Leo asked “Are the claims made in SSRI advertising congruent with the scientific evidence?”
“There is no such thing as a scientifically established correct ‘balance’ of serotonin,” Lacasse and Leo cautioned more than a decade ago, joining numerous other experts then and now. Additionally, both aspirational claims rest on a hypothesis that follow-up studies would end up contradicting repeatedly. In short, both the hypothesis and the expensive marketing that pushed it into American living rooms rested on a hedge: “Scientists believe that it could be linked with an imbalance of a chemical in the brain called serotonin.”
“The popularity of the chemical imbalance idea of depression has coincided with a huge increase in the use of antidepressants,” note Moncrieff and coauthor Mark A. Horowitz in the study’s press release. “Prescriptions for antidepressants have sky-rocketed since the 1990s.”
Family alcohol history may put you at risk of junk food addiction
People with a parent with a history of alcohol problems are at greater risk for showing signs of addiction to highly processed foods, according to a new study.
These foods, such as ice cream, chocolate, pizza, and fries, contain unnaturally high amounts of refined carbohydrates and fats that may trigger an addictive response in some people.
The researchers wanted to know if a major risk factor for addiction—a parent with alcohol problems—predicted an increased risk of addiction to highly processed foods.
“People who have a family history of addiction may be at greater risk for developing a problematic relationship with highly processed foods, which is really challenging in a food environment where these foods are cheap, accessible, and heavily marketed,” says Lindzey Hoover, a psychology graduate student at the University of Michigan, and lead author of the study in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.
But addictive responses didn’t end with food, as people with food addiction were also more likely to exhibit personal problems with alcohol, cannabis, tobacco, and vaping, the research shows.
“Public health approaches that have reduced the harm of other addictive substances, like restricting marketing to kids, may be important to consider to reduce the negative impact of highly processed foods,” Hoover says.
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