TL neuro

May 22, 2017

Congressional Outreach

Filed under: ASPET, Experimental Biology / ASPET, Op/Ed, Public Health — mtaffe @ 11:53 am

We are very proud to announce that Jacques D. Nguyen, PhD,  was selected by the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) to participate in their Washington Fellows Program for 2017. Jacques has been a very productive member of the Taffe Laboratory since joining it as a postdoctoral trainee in early 2015 and he still manages to find time to think about broader issues of science policy. He has been an active participant in ASPET as an academic society in addition to presenting work at the annual meetings.

Jacques is pictured, in this photo, preparing to discuss science policy with the staff of a San Diego Congressman,  Rep. Scott Peters.

For a little bit of background, the ASPET Washington Fellows Mission statement:

Program Mission

The mission of the ASPET Washington Fellows Program is to enable developing and early career scientists interested in science policy to learn about and become more engaged in public policy issues.

Fellows will develop an understanding of how public policy decisions made in Washington help shape and impact science policy, such as funding for the National Institutes of Health and other science agencies. Fellows will also learn how to advocate effectively on Capitol Hill and in their home districts.

This program will help fellows develop the skills and insights to become future leaders in science. 


July 16, 2015

UPROXX theTRUTH: About Bath Salts

Filed under: 4-MMC/Mephedrone, alpha-PVP, Cathinones, MDPV, Methylone, Public Health — mtaffe @ 11:36 am

The UPROXX folks were kind enough to invite me to make a clip on the synthetic cathinones for their new ‘theTRUTH’ series.

This was a novel experience for me and it was very difficult. If you look closely at this video and the ones linked below, you will notice how many cuts there are. The production team basically wants you to spit out very short and pithy statements which they can edit together into a whole. So it was conducted in a sort of interview style with a producer asking me questions and me responding as briefly as possible. Often times the same point had to be made several times to get it right. I even had to record a series of hand gestures and transitional phrases in case they needed to bridge points!

After that it was in their hands to stitch it together and tell a story. Obviously, one of the things I was trying to do was to not say anything that could be edited into a context that misrepresented anything too badly. On the whole, I think the UPROXX production team did a good job, given the material (me) they had to work with.

Others in this theTRUTH series include pieces on Toxoplasma gondii and large earthquakes.

June 30, 2015

Smokers have to adapt to e-cigarettes to maximize nicotine yield

Filed under: Cannabis, Public Health, Tobacco/Nicotine — mtaffe @ 1:20 pm

One of the reasons that smoked/inhaled drug delivery is highly associated with addiction is that this route allows humans to exquisitely titrate their dosing. Thus for drugs like nicotine that become aversive at higher doses, smoking tobacco in several punctate inhalations over a short interval of time permits the user to avoid unpleasant dose levels.

This contrasts, for example, with buccal administration. If anyone recalls sampling chewing tobacco as a youth, you will understand what I mean. The relatively slowed onset and the larger available dose of the wad of tobacco or snuff packed up against the gums is frequently associated with severe nausea in the naive user.

A similar situation obtains with cannabis for which smoking has been the preferred route of administration. There is, however, relatively familiar use of cannabis via the oral route- think pot brownies. Increasingly, the medical marijuana entities are also selling a variety of edibles for oral administration of marijuana. Again, it is relatively common for naive consumers of edible products to overdose because the subjective effects hit long after a ballistic, irreversible drug administration has been accomplished.

A recent paper on the use of e-cigarettes for cannabis delivery (Etter, 2015) piqued my interest because it suggested that experienced cannabis smokers did not really like the e-cigarette delivery all that much.

Presentations at the recent CPDD meeting referred to the fact that nicotine seekers who use e-cigarette devices have to learn to adjust their inhalation behavior relative to their tobacco smoking. This is described in a paper that I located:

Farsalinos KE, Spyrou A, Stefopoulos C, Tsimopoulou K, Kourkoveli P, Tsiapras D, Kyrzopoulos S, Poulas K, Voudris V. Nicotine absorption from electronic cigarette use: comparison between experienced consumers (vapers) and naïve users (smokers). Sci Rep. 2015 Jun 17;5:11269. doi: 10.1038/srep11269.

Farsalinos15-nicotine-experiencedvapersThe authors examined e-cigarette (EC) use in groups of ex-smokers who had quit and had been using ECs for at least a month and another group of smokers who were not EC users (available for free at PMC here). Subjects were asked to take 10 puffs from a standardized EC device in the first five minutes and then use it at their own discretion for another hour. The study sampled their blood for nicotine levels that were achieved across the study and the key figure from this paper is depicted here. As you can see, the experienced EC users (vapers) reached higher plasma nicotine levels than did the EC-inexperienced smokers. Each group averaged the same number of puffs, around 85-90, but the experience vapers took longer puffs (3.5 vs 2.3 seconds).

The simple interpretation is that if nicotine amount is a function of vapor cloud volume, and delivery across the lungs depends on retention time within the lungs, then longer puffs would result in greater nicotine delivery. The slightly more complex issue, mentioned at the CPDD annual meeting but not addressed in this paper, is that the rate at which a user inhales can be important. The idea is that if you pull too much of the EC vehicle across the heating element it can cool the element, resulting in lower nicotine yield.

Bottom line, EC inhalation for maximum nicotine yield and tobacco smoke inhalation for maximum nicotine yield may require a different inhalation approach.

This then reminds us that when ECs are adapted for crude cannabis extracts or even other drugs, it will require users to learn to adapt their behavior for idealized drug yield before we truly understand the risks. An initial report like Etter (2015) showing cannabis users don’t like to use ECs to deliver THC as well as they like to smoke cannabis need to be viewed in that light

The primary translational product of drug-abuse science is information

Filed under: CPDD, Op/Ed, Public Health — mtaffe @ 11:16 am

This is an excerpt of a CPDD News and Views piece* that has been accepted for publication in Drug & Alcohol Dependence. I’ve been working on this idea for several years now and it has gone through various iterations. The list of people I need to thank for shaping my thinking on this since discovering the “science blog” around 2006 or so is long and I will no doubt forget some of them. Nevertheless, I am particularly indebted to David Kroll, Janet Stemwedel, Peter Lipson, Jessica Palmer, Isis the Scientist, DrugMonkey, Bethany Brookshire, Zen Faulkes, Virginia Hughes, J. David Jentsch, Allyson Bennett and Carl Hart. I participated in a Media Forum at the 2014 CPDD annual meeting and made a presentation which touched on many of these themes.

Drug Abuse Scientists Should Use Social Media to Engage the Public Because Their Primary Translational Product is Information


Increasing numbers of people are relying on the Internet to rapidly provide health information and preliminary medical diagnoses on the basis of key word searches (Jones and Fox 2009; Lagu et al. 2008; Moretti et al. 2012). In the most recent survey the Pew Internet & American Life project found that 59% of adults in the US had looked online for health information and 35% had gone online to gain information on a specific medical issue (Fox 2013; Fox and Duggan 2013). It is hardly news that exposure to high budget entertainment, informational and advertising media can influence the nonmedical use of psychotropic drugs (Brown and Witherspoon 2002; Nunez-Smith et al. 2010). However, current social media tools and the near universal use of Web searches to find information on health-related topics provide a new opportunity for individual scientists to communicate more directly with the lay public, health care providers and policy makers at the expense of minimal time and effort. This is of particular interest since so much of the most readily available information on psychotropic drugs is poorly informed by the existing scientific knowledge and may be substantially influenced by sociopolitical biases or agendas. Drug abuse scientists should therefore use social media to engage the public in a discussion of their ongoing scientific results.

Substance Abuse Information on the Internet

“When we confronted him, my teenage son assured me that he had done extensive research on the Internet which confirmed that pot is totally harmless”

-neighbor of Dr. Taffe, Aug 2011


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