3:54pm

Tue May 20, 2014
Health and Welfare

Drug Settlement Money to Go to Study Adolesent Drug Use

Credit adolescentsubstanceabuse.org

Funds from a civil settlement with two drug companies will help the University of Kentucky develop an "addiction medicine fellowship."  UK is being awarded one and a half million dollars over two years to establish a substance abuse prevention and treatment plan for adolescents. 

UK Department of Psychiatry Chair Lon Hays says part of the money will go for stipends to support researchers.  "This would open the door for physicians from any specialty to focus on addition and be certified and approved to do so rather than just psychiatrists which would greatly improve our reach in identifying, treating and preventing this disease," said Hays.

Funding comes from a civil settlement secured from two drug companies.  A 2011 Centers for Disease Control study documented 66 percent of Kentucky youngsters have used alcohol, 37 percent marijuana, and 19 percent prescription drugs. In particular, legalization of marijuana for recreational use continues to attract national attention. 

It's a concern for Dr. Catherine Martin, director of UK's Division for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.  "We know that marijuana use can have devastating effects.  There are studies that show you can have an actual drop in I-Q points.  We know that people that are vulnerable to schizophrenia can have onset of psychosis.  There are increased car wrecks and deaths from marijuana use.  So, I think we can't minimize the toxicity of this drug," said Martin.

Martin says UK is involved in a trial of an over-the-counter marijuana treatment program.  "Dr. Kevin Gray, MUSC, discovered that N-acetylcysteine when administered to adolescents who use marijuana, they have a reduction in their use of marijuana.  So, this is like one of the first break through treatments that we have for marijuana abuse.  And that's being studied right now at UK in adults," explained Martin.

Martin says the over-the-counter product, which may be found at health food stores, hits some of the same neurotransmitters as marijuana and results in decreased use. ​