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Myostatin Inhibitors: The Next PED on the Horizon?

Belgian Blue bulls look like they are made of muscle because they have a mutation in the gene that codes for the protein myostatin. In humans, as in other types of cattle, myostatin normally limits the number of muscle fibers that form before birth, and then limits the growth of those fibers later on.

As the recent Biogenesis suspensions demonstrate, professional athletes are willing to go to absurd lengths in order to improve their performance on the field. And while sports governing bodies have managed to implement testing for EPO and hGH, there are always new drugs being produced.

Jon Hamilton, of NPR, reports that the next PED may already be on the horizon, and come in the form of myostatin inhibitors. Myostatin is a naturally secreted protein that inhibits muscle growth, in order to prevent muscles from becoming too large. Recently, scientists have created drugs that can block the process, leading to engorged muscles. The effects can clearly be seen in the two mice below.

There is a clear distinction between the normal mouse (left), and the mouse treated with myotasin inhibitors (right)

Hamilton notes that while performance enhancing drugs used to be created by “rogue chemists”, now days, they are simply a byproduct of the pharmaceutical business. EPO was originally created to treat anemia, but has become the world’s most popular biotech drug because of its enhancing properties.

Some worry that new Myostatin inhibiting drugs, which are incredibly valuable to the small portion of the population that suffers from muscular dystrophy, might prove irresistible to cheating athletes.

Being Adept, a Bay Area drug and alcohol curriculum, encourages parents and teens to understand the consequences of the substances that we put in our bodies. Being Adept seeks to inform teens so that they can make healthy decisions.

 

Source: Hamilton, Jon. “New Muscle Drugs Could Be the Next Big Thing in Sports Doping”. NPR. August 12, 2013. <http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/08/12/210487410/new-muscle-drugs-could-be-the-next-big-thing-in-sports-doping>.

 

Dr. Ramo on Being Adept’s Youtube Channel

 

Dr. Danielle Ramo, a member of the Being Adept Team, is featured in Being Adept’s latest video from the Being Adept Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/BeingAdept. In the video, Dr. Ramo explores the effects of alcohol on the still developing frontal lobes of the adolescent brain. She explains how alcohol abuse during the teen years can ultimately lead to cognitive deficiencies in “higher order thinking”, the ability to prioritize and make complex decisions.

Being Adept’s video channel is owned and sponsored by Being Adept, a Bay Area drug and and alcohol program designed to inform adolescents before they start being exposed to drugs and alcohol.

A whopping 78%…

“As a result, the 78% of people aged 16-59 who took drugs in the past year who admitted to consuming cannabis at least once in their lifetime did not need to fear prosecution for their crime – and nor did the 41% of those who took cannabis in the past year who admitted to using it regularly.”

via How many Britons have taken illegal drugs and who are they? | News | theguardian.com.

Being Adept, a drug and alcohol awareness campaign based in Marin County, finds this trend disturbing, especially given the long-terms effects of frequent marijuana use.

A Heroin Resurgence?

“The United States has seen a spike in new initiates of heroin abuse,” Michele Leonhart, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, told Congress in April…

Read More At:

Cory Monteith’s death underscores heroin’s resurgence.

The Science of hGh

To baseball fans, hGH is a buzz word that conjures up images of Roger Clemens and asterisks. Unfortunately, a new scandal has emerged that has embroiled the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and Gio Gonzalez. Before September, the MLB will issue rulings on the players that solicited the services of Biogenesis, a firm know to specialize in performance enhancing drugs, including hGH.[1]

But what is hGH?

It turns out hGH (Human Growth Hormone) is actually a naturally occurring substance in the body. It is produced by the anterior pituitary glands, and is thought to regulate body composition, fluids, muscle development and metabolism. [2] Synthetic hGH is actually prescribed to children who suffer from an hGH deficiency, Turner’s Syndrome, kidney problems and more.[3]

hGH is also thought to reverse aging effects, as well as help muscles recover faster, however neither of these uses for HGH are approved by the FDA. Players hoping to recover quickly and increase the size of their muscle tissue sometimes turn to hGH.[4] Most importantly, testing technology is just now catching up to hGH, meaning players that are hoping to get an edge in their sport have been using hGH for some time undetected. Furthermore, it is difficult to detect hGH using urine tests, meaning testors have to rely on more expensive and harder administer blood matrix tests. [5]

Regardless of whether players are being caught, hGH use comes with some serious side effects. The World Anti-Doping Agency reports that hGH abuse can lead to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, muscle, bone and joint pain, abnormal organ growth and accelerated osteoarthritis. In addition, life expectancy for those who use hGH decreases dramatically.[6]

The effects of such drugs could particularly harmful to younger athletes, so Being Adept, a Marin based drug and alcohol prevention program, encourages parents to talk with their adolescent athletes about the dangers and consequences of performance enhancing drugs.



[1] Elfrink, Tim. “A Miami Clinic Supplies Drugs to Sports’ Biggest Names”. MiamiNewTimes. January 31, 2013. <http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2013-01-31/news/a-rod-and-doping-a-miami-clinic-supplies-drugs-to-sports-biggest-names/>.

[2] WebMD. “Human Growth Hormone”: Uses and Side Effects. <http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/human-growth-hormone-hGH>.

[3] [3] WebMD. “Human Growth Hormone”: Uses and Side Effects. <http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/human-growth-hormone-hGH>.

 

[4] ESPN. “Grimsley Reportedly Admitted to Illicit Drug Use.” June 9, 2006. <http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2473485>.

[5] World Anti-Doping Agency. “Questions & Answers About HGH”.

[6] World Anti-Doping Agency. “Questions & Answers About HGH”.

Blood Doping: Transfusions vs. EPO

 

The purpose of a transfusion is to increase the amount of hemoglobin in the blood stream. Hemoglobin is a protein that absorbs and carries oxygen throughout the blood stream. By increasing the amount of hemoglobin in your blood, you increase your capacity to absorb oxygen.[1]

Athletes who use transfusions to cheat are essentially drawing their own blood and then saving it for later during a grueling competition, especially a multi-day competition like the Tour De France. For example, an athlete could train at altitude, in order to increase the amount of hemoglobin in their blood stream, and then inject that blood back into their blood stream in what is called an “Autologous Transfusion”. Part of the problem with regulating such transfusions is that there still is no reliable way to track whether someone has injected their own blood into their blood stream.

Another method that cheating athletes use to gain advantage is the use of synthetic erythropoietin (EPO). EPO is actually naturally secreted by the kidneys and promotes bone marrow and red blood cell production. Scientists in the 1980’s developed genetically engineered EPO in order to help anemic patients, but endurance athletes soon realized the blood cell producing benefits of the drug, and started abusing in mass.[2] The more red blood cells you have, the faster and longer you can go.[3]

Disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong is a case study in doping, both with autologous transfusions and EPO. Allegedly, Armstrong’s team hired a motorcycle rider (actually Armstrong’s gardener) to trail the team, and then drop off a thermos full of EPO for the team.[4] As tests for EPO got more stringent, Armstrong’s team switched to blood transfusions. For weeks before the race, riders would “bank” blood, putting in a fridge to be used later.[5] They would then secretly transport the blood on the road, and make transfusions on the road, literally on the bus.

Blood doping does have risks, including clotting and thrombosis. Blood can also be stored incorrectly, which means that tainted blood could be re-injected into your body. Ultimately, Armstrong’s racket was unveiled. He was stripped of all seven of his titles and lost all of his sponsorships.

It is important to understand the physiology of drugs, both illegal and legal, in order to make informed decisions about whether to use. In Lance Armstrong’s case, blood doping ultimately did not pay off for him. At Being Adept, an evidence based drug and alcohol education curriculum based in Marin County, we believe in educating adolescents so that they can make healthy decisions for themselves. In our next article, Being Adept will explore HGH and the scandal that has embroiled major league baseball.



[1] Schwartz, Daniel. “Tricks of the trade: How athletes dope blood”. CBC News. August 24th, 2012. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/08/24/f-blood-doping.html>.

[2] Schwartz, Daniel. “Tricks of the trade: How athletes dope blood”. CBC News. August 24th, 2012. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/08/24/f-blood-doping.html>.

[3] Planet Money. “Lance Armstrong and the Business of Doping.”

[4] Planet Money. “Lance Armstrong and the Business of Doping.”

[5] Planet Money. “Lance Armstrong and the Business of Doping.”

Colleges Confront Issue of Medical Marijuana

By Join Together Staff

Medical marijuana laws are posing a challenge to colleges, NPR reports. Since marijuana is illegal under federal law, colleges that allow students to use medical marijuana on campus are at risk of losing federal funding, by violating the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act and the Drug Free Workplace Act.

“It’s not a question of right or wrong, ethical or not ethical, any of that,” Stephen Nelson, who oversees student misconduct at the University of Southern Maine, told NPR. “Right now, we just can’t run the risk of losing federal dollars.” He noted his university receives research funding, as well as more than $60 million worth of Title 4 financial aid. In total, hundreds of millions of dollars could be withheld, he says.

Jill Creighton of the University of Colorado, Denver, who has been discussing medical marijuana with college administrators around the country, agrees that Title 4 funding is at risk. “Some student codes of conduct are much more lax about marijuana use in general, but the assumption is if we were to allow medical marijuana on our campuses, we would then be jeopardizing our Title 4 funding,” she says.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice said in a written statement, “The Department of Justice is focusing its limited resources on significant drug traffickers, not seriously ill individuals who are in compliance with applicable state medical marijuana statues.”

Sales of Prescription Painkillers Increasing Across the United States, Analysis Shows

By Join Together Staff

Sales of oxycodone and hydrocodone are sharply rising in areas of the United States where these prescription painkillers were not as popular in the past, according to an analysis by the Associated Press. The rise in sales is driven by an aging population with pain issues, as well as an increase in addiction, experts say.

The AP found a dramatic increase in the distribution of oxycodone between 2000 and 2010 in areas including New York’s Staten Island and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Hydrocodone use is rising in Appalachia and in the Midwest, the AP found, after analyzing data from the Drug Enforcement Administration. Painkiller sales are spreading rapidly in areas where there are few resources to treat people who become addicted.

The increase in prescription painkiller use coincides with a rise in overdose deaths and pharmacy robberies, the article notes.

The number of Americans who died from overdoses of prescription painkillers more than tripled in the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More people now die from painkillers than from heroin and cocaine combined. An estimated 14,800 people died in the United States from painkiller overdoses in 2008, a more than threefold jump from the 4,000 deaths recorded in 1999, the CDC said in a report released last November.

While 40 states have prescription drug monitoring programs, many are not linked together, according to the AP. That means patients can go from one state to another shopping for pills. Currently there is no federal monitoring of prescription drugs at the patient level.

Support from Middle School Teachers May Reduce Early Use of Alcohol, Study Suggests

By Join Together Staff

Emotional support from middle school teachers may reduce the risk their students will engage in early use of alcohol and other illicit substances, a new study suggests.

The study included 521 middle school students in Seattle. Students who felt more emotional support from teachers reported a delay in starting to use alcohol and other illicit substances, PsychCentralreports. The students defined teacher support as feeling close to a teacher, or being able to talk about their problems with a teacher.

Middle school students who had higher levels of separation anxiety from their parents were also less likely to start using alcohol early, the study found.

“Our results were surprising,” lead researcher Dr. Carolyn McCarty, of Seattle Children’s Research Institute, said in a news release. “We have known that middle school teachers are important in the lives of young people, but this is the first data-driven study which shows that teacher support is associated with lower levels of early alcohol use.”

Dr. McCarty said students who have separation anxiety may be less susceptible to negative influences from their peers, including experimenting with drugs and alcohol.

The study also found students who started drinking or using drugs before sixth grade had significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms. Students who had experienced recent stressful life events in sixth grade were significantly more likely to start using an illicit substance by eighth grade, the researchers found.

“We need to be aware of and monitor early adolescent stress levels, and parents, teachers and adults need to tune into kids’ mental health,” Dr. McCarty said. “We know that youth who initiate substance abuse before age 14 are at a high risk of long-term substance abuse problems and myriad health complications.”

The study appears in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Blackouts from College Binge Drinking Lead to Costly Emergency Room Visits

By Join Together Staff

Blackouts that result from binge drinking among college students cost the average large university about a half million dollars per year, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin note in Health Affairsthat 50 percent of college students who drink report alcohol-induced blackouts. They studied emergency department visits among college students at five universities over two years, and found about one in eight were associated with blackout drinking. Blackout-related injuries ranged from broken bones to head and brain injuries that required CT scans. They estimated that on a large university campus with more than 40,000 students, blackout-associated emergency department visit costs would range from $469,000 to $546,000 per year, MSNBC reports.

“We conclude that blackouts are a strong predictor of emergency department visits for college drinkers and that prevention efforts aimed at students with a history of blackouts might reduce injuries and emergency department costs,” the researchers wrote.

A study published last year suggested that the more alcohol-related memory blackouts a college student has, the greater the risk he or she has of future accidental injuries related to drinking. The study of 796 undergraduate and 158 graduate students at four U.S. universities and one Canadian university found that over a two-year period, hazardous drinking was widespread. More than half of the students had at least one memory blackout in the year before the study began, while 7 percent said they had at least six blackouts.

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