How to stop sleeping with your phone.

It’s an unhealthy habit that many people (myself included) do. Here’s how to get your phone away from your nightstand for a more restful night’s sleep.


If you’re spending each night sleeping with your phone, you should stop.

Why? Well for starters, the blue light your phone’s screen gives off can keep your brain awake and affect the quality of your sleep. Tablets and computers give off that light too, but you’re more likely to take your small phone to bed nightly than those gadgets.

Next, there’s the concern of cell phone radiation. There is no definitive, conclusive answer of whether or not the radiation all cell phones and smartphones emit can or will give you cancer or any other ailment. However, some research suggests that cell phone radiation can interfere with your sleep, which makes the argument for keeping your phone farther away from you while you sleep more compelling.

Likely, most of us don’t need to keep our phones on our nightstands or under our pillows at night. However, if you’re already blurting out the reason you must have your phone within arm’s reach at all times, even during slumber, I’m here to help you break that habit. Below, I tackle the most common reasons you’d want to keep your phone close and help you find better solutions for each.

Reason one: You use your phone as an alarm

Like many people, I haven’t used an alarm clock on my bedside table for years, ever since I got a cell phone. If you also use your phone’s alarm to wake up in the morning, there’s a better way.

The simplest solution is to move your phone away from your bed to a dresser or other surface. The distance makes it less likely that you’ll use your phone right before going to sleep and helps cut down on exposure to radiation. As an added bonus, you’re also forced to get out of bed to shut off your alarm, ensuring you won’t just keep tapping snooze and sleep longer than you intended.

Reason two: You want to be able to hear important calls and text messages

This is the top reason I’ve kept my phone on my nightstand for so many years; I don’t want to be out of reach in case of a late-night emergency. However, you can keep your phone at a healthy distance and still get important alerts.

Here, Do Not Disturb mode is the perfect solution. Available on iOS, most Androids, and Windows Phones running version 8.1, this feature turns off all notifications and alerts from emails, texts and incoming calls, except from a few important contacts that you program. It’s also easy to set up.

The Do Not Disturb features on iOS and Android.Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

On iOS devices, go to Settings > Do Not Disturb and either turn it on manually, or set it turn on and off on a schedule every day. You can allow calls from everyone, select contacts, or no one at all.

For most Android devices, go to settings and look for Blocking Mode or Do Not Disturb. Most phones will let you control what kinds of notifications you get and from who. For devices running Android 5.0, you can simply press the volume rocker and turn on Priority mode or turn off all notifications.

Lastly, Windows Phones have a Quiet Hours mode that you turn on with Cortana. Just open Cortana, tap the menu button and select Quiet Hours. You can also enable it in system settings.

Make sure to turn up your ringer on your phone so that the calls and messages that do get through Do Not Disturb mode are loud enough to wake you up if necessary.

Reason three: You listen to music as you go to bed

Whether you’re listening to an audiobook, music or ambient noise when you nod off, the easiest option is to plug in your headphones and rest your phone close by. However, with the help of some Bluetooth headphones, you can move your phone farther away or even to an adjacent room and still get your tunes. Most phones and accessories that use Bluetooth have a range of 10 meters (33 feet), so keep that distance in mind when finding a spot for your phone.

There are many Bluetooth headphones to choose from, and even ones that are designed for sleep, such as the soft SleepPhones. Of course, it’s much cheaper to just use a pair of low-cost wired headphones to listen to music. However, if you’re concerned about radiation or the effects of your phone’s screen on your sleep quality, it’s worth picking up a wireless option.

Reason four: You’re checking email or Facebook or playing games before bed and fall asleep with your phone unintentionally

The simplest solution to stop going to sleep with your phone is to set boundaries. Staying up late to play games, hang around Facebook or answer emails from your boss isn’t good for your sleep health or stress levels.

Start by picking a designated spot for your cell phone away from your bed, either in your bedroom or someplace else in your home. Put your charger there and any other accessories, like a stand, that you want.

Next, set up a daily routine for your phone. You can either opt to plug it in as soon as you get home or set a phone bedtime, where you plug in your phone at certain time each night and don’t touch it again until morning. The more you do this, the more natural it will feel to not have your phone close to you at all times, demanding your attention. And maybe instead of staying up playing Candy Crush, you’ll pick up a book or go to sleep without any distractions instead.

How to Whiten Your Teeth Naturally .


You might see this as oxymoron but the best way to whiten teeth is by using activated charcoal! This will even put professional teeth whitening and dentists to shame!

I know, I know it seems odd to use black powder to whiten teeth, but it really does work! The charcoal works to absorb the tannins, compounds found in coffee, tea, tobacco, herbal tea, wine, spices, and other foods. It also helps to lock in minerals like calcium in our teeth which is another good reason why it causes no harm to the tooth enamel, you can even use it every single day!

How to use it:

It is a very simple procedure. Carefully open one single capsule of activated charcoal and empty it into your mouth. Wrap the empty capsule up and put it into the trash. Use a toothbrush you will probably want to designate one just for this purpose. Brush the charcoal thoroughly into the teeth. Keep it on your teeth for around 10 minutes, spit it out, and rinse very well. Brush your teeth as usual. You should have shiny white teeth within a week.

How to Lose Weight When Your Genes Are Working Against You .

There are things that you’re thrilled to inherit from your mother, like her eyes—or her jewelry. But her struggle with being overweight? Are you fated to take that on, too?

While the exact influence of your genes on your poundage is a hotly contested topic, we know that genes do play a role. For example, a pair of identical twins (who share 100 percent of their genes) are more likely to have the same BMI than a pair of fraternal twins (who share about 50 percent of their genes). “Studies of families estimate that over half of the population’s variation in BMI can be attributed to genetic differences in individuals,” says Dan Belsky, Ph.D., an assistant research professor at Duke University Social Science Research Institute.

That said, DNA is not destiny. “The percentage of people who are obese has risen dramatically, but the genomes haven’t changed,” says Belsky. (Obesity has risen from an estimated 11.6 percent in 1990 to 29.4 percent in 2014.) The development is due to the evolution of our environment—and our response to it—not a change in the DNA of our species.

According to a study published in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine, a predisposition to obesity can be reduced by 40 percent with exercise—40 percent! If you’re having trouble losing weight and have always blamed your parents for it, Elyse Sosin, R.D., recommends re-evaluating your routine since people so often overestimate their activity. Be honest: Are you getting the CDC-recommended 150 to 300 minutes of exercise per week? “Also, ask yourself when you last changed your exercise routine,” says Sosin. “When you get used to the routine, you adapt, and you don’t get that same rev [in your metabolism].” And remember: Muscle is more efficient than fat in terms of metabolizing calories, so be sure to incorporate strength-training into your routine.

Of course, the benefits of exercise are complemented by a healthy diet. Experts recommend cutting sugar, which has been linked to obesity-related conditions and diseases—many of which are genetic, interestingly. (According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages increases the association between genes and a high BMI and raises the risk of obesity.)

The upshot? No matter what your genes say, you do have the power to control your habits. Sure, bodies are different and you may have to work harder than your SoulCycle neighbor seems to be working, but you’re not powerless to change your weight.

Georgia Boy Among First To Receive Experimental Medical Marijuana Drug .

A 7-year-old boy is one of the first people in the country to receive a potent form of medicalmarijuana as part of an “extended use” clinical trial to reduce seizures.

Preston Weaver, who lives in Athens, Georgia, has Lennox-Gastaut syndrome which is a severe form of epilepsy. He experiences up to 100 seizures a day, although many are confined to his brain and aren’t noticeable to an observer. There is no known cure for the condition.
PHOTO: Valarie Weaver, Preston Weaver and Dr. Yong Park are pictured.

“Today’s the day, buddy. We’re not going to have any more of those,” his mom Valarie Weaver, 36, said she told her son as the headed to his first treatment Tuesday.

Her son can’t see, walk or talk, Weaver said. Although he’s 7, his behavior is more like that of a 2-month-old. But he lights up when he goes in the water and he seems to love the feel of the sun and the wind, Weaver said.

“Our hope is that this treatment will calm down his brain enough so that he will start communicating with us,” she said.

Many of the drugs available to treat the syndrome don’t work long term, especially for children. Even with more than a dozen medications Weaver has had no relief.

The active ingredient in Epidiolex, the experimental drug that Weaver and one other child are receiving, is called cannabidiol. It’s also the main active ingredient in marijuana though it doesn’t produce a high.

Dr. Michael Diamond, the interim senior vice president of research for Georgia Regent University said the drug is not legal or approved for use by use by the Food and Drug Administration. The university’s current study, one of only a handful of trials for compassionate use being held around the country, will expand to include 50 children over the next few weeks.

“We are hopeful the drug will reduce the frequency and severity of seizures within a month, but we know it will not work for every child,” he said.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal approved the trials in April. It took some time to get additional clearance at the federal level, Diamond said.

“No one with a heart could hear the stories of these children and their parents and not want to exhaust every possibility to provide them with the treatment they need to combat this debilitating condition,” said Deal

Weaver told ABC News that she was grateful her son was accepted into the trial though she was disappointed the state legislature had narrowly failed to pass a bill that would have legalized the drug for use with sick children. But, she said, she’s not giving up.

“Even though Preston is on it, Preston and I are still going to fight for all the other ones too, we will be at the capital every single time, we need to be there until this becomes legal and every child in the state has the option for this treatment if they need it,” Weaver said.

Defying textbook science, study finds new role for proteins

Open any introductory biology textbook and one of the first things you’ll learn is that our DNA spells out the instructions for making proteins, tiny machines that do much of the work in our body’s cells. Results from a study published on Jan. 2 in Science defy textbook science, showing for the first time that the building blocks of a protein, called amino acids, can be assembled without blueprints – DNA and an intermediate template called messenger RNA (mRNA). A team of researchers has observed a case in which another protein specifies which amino acids are added.

“This surprising discovery reflects how incomplete our understanding of biology is,” says first author Peter Shen, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in biochemistry at the University of Utah. “Nature is capable of more than we realize.”

To put the new finding into perspective, it might help to think of the cell as a well-run factory. Ribosomes are machines on a protein assembly line, linking together in an order specified by the genetic code. When something goes wrong, the ribosome can stall, and a quality control crew is summoned to the site. To clean up the mess, the ribosome is disassembled, the blueprint is discarded, and the partly made protein is recycled.

Yet this study reveals a surprising role for one member of the quality control team, a protein conserved from yeast to man named Rqc2. Before the incomplete protein is recycled, Rqc2 prompts the ribosomes to add just two amino acids (of a total of 20) – alanine and threonine – over and over, and in any order. Think of an auto assembly line that keeps going despite having lost its instructions. It picks up what it can and slaps it on: horn-wheel-wheel-horn-wheel-wheel-wheel-wheel-horn.

“In this case, we have a protein playing a role normally filled by mRNA,” says Adam Frost, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and adjunct professor of biochemistry at the University of Utah. He shares senior authorship with Jonathan Weissman, Ph.D., a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at UCSF, and Onn Brandman, Ph.D., at Stanford University. “I love this story because it blurs the lines of what we thought proteins could do.”

Like a half-made car with extra horns and wheels tacked to one end, a truncated protein with an apparently random sequence of alanines and threonines looks strange, and probably doesn’t work normally. But the nonsensical sequence likely serves specific purposes. The code could signal that the partial protein must be destroyed, or it could be part of a test to see whether the ribosome is working properly. Evidence suggests that either or both of these processes could be faulty in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Huntington’s.

“There are many interesting implications of this work and none of them would have been possible if we didn’t follow our curiosity,” says Brandman. “The primary driver of discovery has been exploring what you see, and that’s what we did. There will never be a substitute for that.”

The scientists first considered the unusual phenomenon when they saw evidence of it with their own eyes. They fine-tuned a technique called cryo-electron microscopy to flash freeze, and then visualize, the quality control machinery in action. “We caught Rqc2 in the act,” says Frost. “But the idea was so far-fetched. The onus was on us to prove it.”

It took extensive biochemical analysis to validate their hypothesis. New RNA sequencing techniques showed that the Rqc2/ribosome complex had the potential to add amino acids to stalled proteins because it also bound tRNAs, structures that bring amino acids to the assembly line. The specific tRNAs they saw only carry the amino acids alanine and threonine. The clincher came when they determined that the stalled proteins had extensive chains of alanines and threonines added to them.

“Our job now is to determine when and where this process happens, and what happens when it fails,” says Frost.

Seven of the Most Powerful Medicinal Plants .

Anyone who has studied plants will not be surprising to learn that the majority of prescription drugs today owe their medicinal powers to some form of plant derivative. For most of human history, plants have been a sort of public pharmacy for people all over the world. Below are seven of the most powerful medicinal plants, along with a description of some of their healing properties.



Most people will be surprised to learn that up until the 1970’s, cannabis was legal in most of the United States – and it seems to be headed towards legality again. Studies have shown that use of this plant can help with conditions as diverse as depression and anxiety, high blood pressure, pain and even glaucoma.

Lady Fern

When crushed and applied to the skin, the juice from lady ferns is good for easing stings and insect bites as well as minor cuts and burns. Bracken, a much larger cousin of the lady fern, can achieve the same results for irritated skin.


Used in Europe as least as far back as medieval times, tansy is an old-world remedy and general tonic. It can also be applied topically as a natural insect repellent or taken internal as a treatment for worms.


Forms of mint have been used by peoples all over the world for much the same conditions, including nausea, upset stomach and other digestive problems and to help with headaches, nervousness and fatigue.


Known as “The Father of All Plants”, alfalfa can grow several feet tall and brings many health benefits. It is loaded with antioxidants and is an old-time treatment for ailments like morning sickness, nausea, kidney stones, and urinary discomfort.


It’s not just for stuffing anymore! This aromatic herb is loaded with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. It can improve digestion which soothing muscle cramps, calming down bouts of diarrhea and can also help fight off colds and flus.

Red Clover

Red clover can be brewed into a tea which is great for settling down coughs and other symptoms of the common cold. It can also help detoxify the blood and make it easier for the body to rid itself of unwanted or harmful substances. In addition to this, it is also a traditional “women’s herb” to balance the hormones, especially for women going through menopause.

These are just a few of the thousands of plants from all over the world that have been used from time immemorial for their healing properties. They have treated nearly every ailment that can plague the human body, from digestive problems to diabetes to cancer, and it is no surprise that more and more people are turning back to this age-old natural treatments to restore their health and well-being.

Reduced sedation during ventilation lowered ventilator-associated events .

A nurse- and respiratory therapist–led opt-out protocol for coordinated daily spontaneous awakening trials and spontaneous breathing trials was associated with significant reductions in hospital length of stay and ventilator-associated events in a multicenter quality improvement collaborative nested within a prospective study of ventilator-associated events.

The protocol led to significant increases – after adjustment for age, sex, Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score, reason for intubation, comorbidity score, and unit ID – in spontaneous awakening trials (SATs), spontaneous breathing trials (SBTs), and in the percentage of SBTs performed without sedation among 3,425 episodes and 22,991days of mechanical ventilation in the collaborative units, Dr. Deverick Anderson of Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., reported at an annual scientific meeting on infectious diseases.

Dr. Deverick Anderson
Dr. Deverick Anderson


The SAT performance rate increased from 30% to 70% during the course of the study, and the SBT performance rate also increased, though more modestly, from about 55% to nearly 70%. The performance rate of SBTs performed with sedatives off – an intervention that improves the ability to be extubated – increased from nearly 55% to more than 95%.

The mean duration of mechanical ventilation decreased by 2.4 days, mean ICU stay decreased by 3 days, and mean hospital length of stay decreased by 6.3 days, Dr. Anderson said at the combined annual meetings of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the HIV Medicine Association, and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.

Further, ventilator-associated conditions and infection-related ventilator-associated complications significantly decreased (odds ratio, 0.63 and 0.35, respectively). However, there was no decrease in possible or probable pneumonia (OR, 0.51).

Self-extubations increased (OR, 2.1, but there was no change in reintubations within 24 hours (OR, 0.96), Dr. Anderson said

“When we put all of this together, we were able to show a decrease in our rates of VAEs [ventilator-associated events] per 100 episodes. Over the course of the entire study, we calculated a 37% decrease in the risk of VAEs,” Dr. Anderson said.

However, the number of VAEs per 1,000 days didn’t change, because both the denominator and the numerator changed with the intervention. This finding raises questions about determining the right denominator to use. Based on the findings, it appears that ventilator episodes, rather than ventilator days, might be the best denominators, he said.

he study was conducted at 12 adult intensive care units at seven hospitals participating in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Prevention Epicenters Wake Up and Breathe Collaborativebetween November 2011 and May 2013. The collaborative was designed to prevent VAEs by decreasing patients’ sedative and ventilator exposures.

The collaborative was developed after early 2013 when the CDC replaced its ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) definitions with VAE definitions, expanding surveillance to VAEs in an effort to improve the objectivity of the definitions, to improve the ease of performing surveillance, and to try to improve the ability to make interhospital comparisons, Dr. Anderson explained, adding that VAEs include VAP, but also include pulmonary edema, atelectasis, and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Thus, interventions aimed simply at reducing VAP may not change the rate of VAEs, he said.

Patients with VAEs stay on ventilators longer, stay in the ICU longer, are exposed to more antibiotic, and have two- to threefold increased rates of mortality, compared with those on ventilators but without VAEs, but little is known about preventing VAEs.

A larger study suggested that about a third of cases might be preventable, but no intervention has been tested and found to have an effect on the rate of VAEs. The Wake Up and Breathe Collaborative was tasked with answering the question of whether VAEs are preventable, and the investigators thought the best opportunity for prevention was to decrease the amount of sedation that ventilated patients received, Dr. Anderson said.

“More specifically – to decrease sedation through daily SATs and SBTs,” he added.

The opt-out protocol called for SATs and SBTs in all ventilated patients unless they met specific safety criteria or a physician wrote a specific opt-out order.

Though limited by the quasi-experimental open label study design, the findings are consistent with those from prior studies of such protocols.

“We felt that our multicenter prospective collaborative study was a success. … putting it all together, we conclude that VAEs are preventable when we improve compliance with evidence-based practice for our ventilated patients,” he said.Dr. Anderson reported receiving royalties from UpToDate and receiving research support from the CDC and the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

8 Ways to Maximize Telomere Length and Increase Life Expectancy

Research has uncovered that shorter lengths of biological structures called telomeres are linked to mortality as well as many age-related diseases. The good news is that certain nutritional and lifestyle factors are associated with longer telomeres.

Telomere 255x300 8 Ways to Maximize Telomere Length and Increase Life Expectancy

Telomeres are the portion of DNA that is joined to the ends of each of the 46 human chromosomes in cells. Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, one of the three Nobel Prize winners of 2009, has found a link between shorter lengths of telomeres and risk of diabetes, some cancers and cardiovascular disease, in addition to depression, dementia and osteoarthritis.

So does this mean we are helpless victims of these biological tyrants in the form of telomeres? No. Although the structures shorten as a person ages, research indicates that abstaining from certain practices and engaging in others may influence the lengths of telomeres. Here are some factors that may slow the shortening process.

1. Lead a healthful lifestyle.

In 2008, scientist evaluated the effect of a healthful lifestyle on telomerase levels. Telomerase is an enzyme that plays a vital role in the maintenance of telomeres. Without adequate levels of this enzyme, telomeres become progressively shorter.

The participants in the study were requested to make several lifestyle changes, including eating a diet plentiful in whole foods, fruits and vegetables but low in refined sugar and fat. Additionally they were to regularly engage in moderate workouts, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. The healthful lifestyle caused the blood levels of telomerase to increase by 29 percent.

2. Consider calorie restriction.

This practice may lessen the natural telomere shortening process that occurs over the years, says Dr. Theodore S. Piliszek of King’s College School of Medicine of the University of London.

3. Enjoy a glass of non-alcoholic red wine daily.

A 2011 study showed resveratrol, a component of red wine, increased telomerase, which delayed the deterioration of cells. In addition, a 2012 study showed the compound increased the lifespan of mice. A daily glass on non-alcoholic red wine could be helpful.

4. Incorporate plenty of fish into your diet.

In 2010, a study published in JAMA found that individuals with the highest level of dietary omega-3s had the lowest rate of telomere shortening, while those with the least levels had the fastest rate of telomere shortening.

5. Eat dark chocolate.

Some studies suggest that the polyphenols contained in dark chocolate may slow telomere shortening.

6. Drink three cups of tea a day.

A Chinese study in 2009 found that those who drank three cups of tea per day had significantly longer telomeres than those who drank only a small amount. Green tea has a much higher percentage of valuable nutrients called polyphenols than black tea.

7. Abstain from smoking and alcohol consumption.

Shorter telomeres correlate with both of these practices.

8. Deal with stress.

Some research suggests stress accelerates the telomere shortening process. Practices such as massage, exercise and relaxation techniques can help siphon off anxiety.

Article Sources:

NASA Discovers Hidden Portals In Earth’s Magnetic Field

Our planet has come a long way in scientific breakthroughs and discoveries. Mainstream science is beginning to discover new concepts of reality that have the potential to change our perception about our planet and the extraterrestrial environment that surrounds it forever. Star gates, wormholes, and portals have been the subject of conspiracy theories and theoretical physics for decades, but that is all coming to an end as we continue to grow in our understanding about the true nature of our reality.


In physics, a wormhole was a hypothetical feature of space time that would be a shortcut through space-time. We often wonder how extraterrestrials could travel so far and this could be one of many explanations. Although scientists still don’t really understand what they have found, it does open the mind to many possibilities.

NASA Discovers Hidden Portals In Earth’s Magnetic FieldTurning science fiction into science fact seems to happen quite often these days and NASA did it by announcing the discovery of hidden portals in Earth’s magnetic field.

NASA calls them X-points or electron diffusion regions. They are places where the magnetic field of Earth connects to the magnetic field of the Sun, which in turn creates an uninterrupted path leading from our own planet to the sun’s atmosphere which is 93 million miles away.

NASA used its THEMIS spacecraft, as well as a European Cluster probe, to examine this phenomenon. They found that these portals open and close dozens of times each day. It’s funny, because there is a lot of evidence that points toward the sun being a giant star gate for the ‘gods’ to pass back and forth from other dimensions and universes. The portals that NASA has discovered are usually located tens of thousands of kilometres from Earth and most of them are short-lived; others are giant, vast and sustained.

As far as scientists can determine, these portals aid in the transfer of tons of magnetically charged particles that flow from the Sun causing the northern and southerns lights and geomagnetic storms. They aid in the transfer of the magnetic field from the Sun to the Earth. In 2014, the U.S. space agency will launch a new mission called Magnetospheric Multi scale Mission (MMS) which will include four spacecraft that will circle the Earth to locate and then study these portals. They are located where the Earth and the Sun’s magnetic fields connect and where the unexplained portals are formed.

NASA funded the University of Iowa for this study, and they are still unclear as to what these portals are. All they have done is observed charged particles flowing through them that cause electro-magnetic phenomenon in Earth’s atmosphere.

Magnetic portals are invisible, unstable and elusive. they open and close without warming and there are no signposts to guide is in – Dr Scudder, University of Iowa

Mainstream science continues to grow further, but I often get confused between mainstream science, and science that is formed in the black budget world. It seems that information and discovery isn’t information and discovery without the type of ‘proof’ that the human race requires. Given that the human race requires, and has a certain criteria for ‘proof’, which has been taught to us by the academic world, information can easily be suppressed by concealing that ‘proof’.

It’s no secret that the department of defence receives trillions of dollars that go unaccounted for and everything developed within the United States Air Force Space Agency remains classified. They are able to classify information for the sake of ‘national security’. Within the past few years, proof has been emerging for a number of phenomenon that would suggest a whole other scientific world that operates separately from mainstream science.

We have the technology to take ET home, anything you can imagine we already have the technology to do, but these technologies are locked up in black budget projects. It would take an act of God to ever get them out to benefit humanity – Ben Rich, Fmr CEO of LockHeed Skunk Works

I use this video a lot in many of my posts, but it is just a profound statement, I love to use it over and over. He is x NASA personnel so it kind of fits in with the article.

Sources for this article:
Source: Collective Evolution


Testing anti-drinking drug with help of a fake bar

The tequila sure looks real, so do the beer taps. Inside the hospital at the National Institutes of Health, researchers are testing a possible new treatment to help heavy drinkers cut back—using a replica of a fully stocked bar.

The idea: Sitting in the dimly lit bar-laboratory should cue the volunteers’ brains to crave a drink, and help determine if the experimental pill counters that urge.

True, there’s no skunky bar odor; these bottles are filled with colored water. The real alcohol is locked in the hospital pharmacy, ready to send over for the extra temptation of smell—and to test how safe the drug is if people drink anyway.

“The goal is to create almost a real-world environment, but to control it very strictly,” said lead researcher Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, who is testing how a hormone named ghrelin that sparks people’s appetite for food also affects their desire for alcohol, and if blocking it helps.

Amid all the yearly resolutions to quit, alcohol use disorders affect about 17 million Americans, and only a small fraction receives treatment. There’s no one-size-fits-all therapy, and the NIH is spurring a hunt for new medications that target the brain’s addiction cycle in different ways—and to find out which options work best in which drinkers.

“Alcoholics come in many forms,” explained Dr. George Koob, director of NIH’s National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which has published new online guides, at, explaining who’s at risk and what can help.

What’s the limit? NIAAA says “low-risk” drinking means no more than four drinks in any single day and no more than 14 in a week for men, and no more than three drinks a day and seven a week for women.

In this Dec. 19, 2014 photo, alcohol bottles, their contents replaced with colored water, sit on a shelf in the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s research alcohol bar at National Institutes of Heath in Bethesda, Md. Inside the hospital at the National Institutes of Health, researchers are testing a possible new treatment to help heavy drinkers cut back, by using a replica of a fully stocked bar.

Genes play a role in who’s vulnerable to crossing the line into alcohol abuse. So do environmental factors, such as getting used to drinking a certain amount, not to mention how your own brain’s circuitry adapts.

Treatment can range from inpatient rehab and 12-step programs to behavioral therapy and the few medications available today. Koob, who specializes in the neurobiology of alcohol, says it usually takes a combination and ultimately, “you have to change your life.”

Yet a recent review for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimated that less than a third of people who need treatment get it, and of those, less than 10 percent receive medications.

Three drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat alcohol abuse. One, naltrexone, blocks alcohol’s feel-good sensation by targeting receptors in the brain’s reward system—if people harbor a particular gene. The anti-craving pill acamprosate appears to calm stress-related brain chemicals in certain people. The older Antabuse works differently, triggering nausea and other aversive symptoms if people drink while taking it.

Recent research suggests a handful of drugs used for other disorders also show promise:

—Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute found the epilepsy drug gabapentin reduced relapses in drinkers who’d recently quit, and improved cravings, mood and sleep by targeting an emotion-related brain chemical.

—A study by NIAAA and five medical centers found the anti-smoking drug Chantix may help alcohol addiction, too, by reducing heavy drinkers’ cravings.

—And University of Pennsylvania researchers found the epilepsy drug topiramate helped heavy drinkers cut back, if they have a particular gene variation mostly found in people of European descent.

Back in NIH’s bar lab, one of about a dozen versions around the country, the focus is on ghrelin, the hormone produced in the stomach that controls appetite via receptors in the brain. It turns out there’s overlap between receptors that fuel overeating and alcohol craving in the brain’s reward system, explained NIAAA’s Leggio.

In a study published this fall, his team gave 45 heavy-drinking volunteers different doses of ghrelin, and their urge to drink rose along with the extra hormone.

Now Leggio is testing whether blocking ghrelin’s action also blocks those cravings, using an experimental Pfizer drug originally developed for diabetes but never sold. The main goal of this first-step study is to ensure mixing alcohol with the drug is safe. But researchers also measure cravings as volunteers, hooked to a blood pressure monitor in the tiny bar-lab, smell a favorite drink. Initial safety results are expected this spring.

“Our hope is that down the line, we might be able to do a simple blood test that tells if you will be a naltrexone person, an acamprosate person, a ghrelin person,” Koob said.