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Top Substance Abuse Research of 2009

Warnings for Smokers, Heavy Drinkers


Updated February 14, 2014

The top substance abuse related scientific research in 2009 included a way for women to protect their unborn children, a warning for young men who smoke marijuana regularly, warnings for both moderate and heavy drinkers and the development of a possible vaccine to help cocaine addicts.

1. Home Pregnancy Tests Lead to Healthier Newborns

Woman With Pregnancy Test
Having a home pregnancy test handy can lead women to seek prenatal care earlier and stop harmful behaviors, such as smoking and drinking, because they find out they are pregnant sooner, researchers found. A Michigan State University study of 198 women found that having a home pregnancy test available for women who were having unprotected sex could have a substantial impact on the health of their newborns.

2. Marijuana Use Linked to Risk of Testicular Cancer

Teen Smoker
If you are a male between the ages of 20 and 35, and you are a frequent or long-time marijuana smoker, you could be significantly increasing your risk of developing testicular cancer. If you do develop testicular cancer and you smoke marijuana, it will more likely be the fast-growing (non-seminoma) malignancy.

3. Vaccine Could Help Some Cocaine Addicts

Crack Cocaine
You might be a bit skeptical about the news that a vaccine has been tested to treat cocaine dependence, but when the announcement comes from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it deserves a closer look. The NIDA said immunization with an experimental anti-cocaine vaccine resulted in a substantial reduction in cocaine use in 38 percent of patients in a clinical trial.

4. Moderate Drinking Linked to Higher Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure Meter
If you have high blood pressure, it may be wise not to drink alcohol at all, even in moderate amounts. Drinking alcohol within the recommended guidelines for moderate drinking may increase blood pressure more than previously believed, according to researchers at the University of Bristol in London, England.

5. Heavy Drinkers Face Increased Cancer Risk

Doctor's Clipboard
Heavy drinkers, daily drinkers and those who drink beer or liquor multiple times per week are at significantly higher risk for developing several types of cancer. A review of data collected in a large occupational cancer study in Montreal in the 1980s found the link to six types of cancer.

6. Smoking Can Hamper Alcohol-Related Brain Damage Recovery

Teen Smoker
Darren McCollester / Getty Images
Long-term chronic drinking can cause brain damage, but that damage can reverse itself if you stop drinking. However, if you are a chronic tobacco smoker and continue to smoke after you stop drinking, it will be more difficult for your brain to recover.

7. Daily Drinkers at Risk for Serious Liver Disease

Cirrhosis of the Liver
People who drink alcohol daily, compared to weekly binge drinkers, are at risk for developing more serious forms of liver disease, including cirrhosis or progressive fibrosis, according to a study done in the United Kingdom.

8. Spiritual Experiences Can Aid Recovery

Coffee Cup
Although few people change their core beliefs when they decide to stop drinking, those who increase their spiritual endeavors have a better chance of remaining sober. Researchers at the University of Michigan Addiction Research Center found recovering people who increase day-to-day spiritual experiences and their senses of purpose in life are most likely to be abstinent six months after beginning recovery.

9. Recovery Coaches Reduce Babies Exposed to Drugs

Pregnant Woman
The use of specially trained case workers, known as recovery coaches, for women who have given birth to substance abuse exposed children can reduce the number of future substance-exposed babies and increase the likelihood that mothers will be reunited with their children removed by child-welfare systems.

10. Early Interventions Could Save Medicaid Millions

Worried Man
Early intervention for substance abuse could not only improve the health of aging Americans, but could save Medicaid millions of dollars in medical costs, according to a new study from the Center for Health Policy and Research. Older people with substance abuse problems have medical expenses that increase at a far higher rate than behavioral health costs, the study found.
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