In May, NIDA announced the 2013 Addiction Science Award winners. Check out their amazing projects!
First Place: Screen Time and Teens
Zarin Ibnat Rahman of Brookings High School in South Dakota won first place with her project, The At-Risk Maturing Brain: Effects of Stress Paradigms on Mood, Memory, and Cognition in Adolescents and the Role of the Prefrontal Cortex. She explored how the amount of time spent looking at computer, phone, and other electronic screens affected teens’ mood, academic performance, and decision-making. Zarin found that too much screen time shaped teens’ sleeping patterns, which hurt their academic success and emotional health.
Second Place: Alcohol and Zebrafish
Emory Morris Payne and Zohaib Majaz Moonis of Bancroft School in Massachusetts won second place with their project, The Effect of Ethanol on Beta Cell Development in Zebrafish. Emory and Zohaib looked at the relationship between alcohol exposure and the risk for type 1 diabetes in zebrafish. They found that as zebrafish embryos were exposed to more ethanol, a pure form of alcohol, the worse their pancreatic beta cells functioned. Pancreatic beta cells create insulin and are important for preventing diabetes.
Third Place: Bath Salts and Fruit Flies
Alaina Nicole Sonksen of Camdenton High School in Missouri won third place with her project, Determining the Behavioral and Physiological Effects of Pentedrone-Based Bath Salts on Drosophila Melangaster. Alaina examined how two types of baths salts affected the activity, feeding patterns, and death of fruit flies. She found that many flies died from exposure to bath salts and that bath salts made fruit flies eat less and act dazed.
Alaina Sonksen is a senior at Camdenton High School in Missouri. She won the 3rd place 2013 Addiction Science Award. Her project looked at how two types of bath salts affect the activity, feeding patterns, and death of fruit flies. After receiving her award, she told the writers of the Sara Bellum Blog about herself and her winning project.
What inspired you to research addiction science?
My science research instructor and mentor was Mr. Christopher Reeves. At the end of my sophomore year, Mr. Reeves recruited several underclassmen that he thought would thrive in science research. As far as my specific project, my parents gave me the idea. They attended a local town hall meeting, and the topic was on synthetic substances. After returning from the meeting, they encouraged me to share the harms of these drugs with my school and community in some way. At first, I was skeptical. After all, what can one high school student do? So I dropped it. Then, last fall, I was scrambling around trying to think of a science research topic. My parents brought up the idea of synthetic substances once more, and I was immediately taken with the idea. I certainly had an interesting and relevant science research project, and I'm so glad they encouraged me to pursue synthetic substances as an area of study.
What were some of the challenges you faced while doing your research for the Addiction Science Awards?
Time was the biggest challenge with my project. It was extremely hard to do everything in just a few short months. Science research overall was a bit of a challenge for me because science has never been my favorite subject. I was definitely out of my comfort zone participating in science research. As hard as it was, I am extremely glad that I chose to do science research.
What were some of the most exciting things you learned from doing your research?
So many great things came from it. I was pretty proud of myself for accomplishing what I did in science research in such a short amount of time—especially without the help of a university. Of course, I can't forget the awesome rewards that came from it! I never thought I would do so well or go so far with my project, so I was ecstatic that my hard work actually paid off! Even more important than the awards, though, were the friends that I made at the science research competitions. I can't express how thankful I am that science research brought us together. For me, that alone was the greatest reward of science research this year.
Do you plan on studying science and continuing research in the future?
I will not be studying a scientific field in college. Although I had a fun and rewarding experience conducting the experiment that won an Addiction Science Award, my passion lies elsewhere. I am considering studying English, education, or even business and marketing. I am still undecided. Even though I will not be pursuing a career in science, I am glad that I participated. It challenged and stretched me, and it broadened my horizons in many ways. I know that those life lessons will be applicable to whatever I choose to do with my life and career.
Do you have any recommendations for high school students interested in doing their own research?
To any students that are interested in science research ... Do it!
It will challenge you, it will teach you, and it will reward you if you work hard. If you have a passion for science, I highly recommend it. There's no better thing you can do as a young, science-minded person than to participate in science research.
Bath salts. The name sounds innocent enough, like an old-fashioned cure for tired feet. But these days, “bath salts” are far from what you would find in your local soap aisle at the grocery store or day spa. Bath salts are a new type of drug laced with synthetic stimulants, which people use to get high by swallowing, snorting or injecting them. And…they have just been made illegal.
What Are Bath Salts?
Because these drugs are relatively new and for now unregulated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), scientists are not exactly sure of the ingredients in each brand. We do know that the chemicals in these bath salts mimic the effects of amphetamines—stimulants like cocaine or meth—such as racing heart, increased blood pressure and body temperature, and even seizures, which have brought many people to emergency rooms across the country.
According to the head of the Louisiana Poison Center, at least 84 people in that state have been hospitalized after getting high from bath salts. Nationwide, more than 4,000 calls about bath salts have come in to poison centers during the first 7 months of 2011—up from 303 calls in all of 2010.
It is too early to tell what the exact short- and long-term effects from abusing bath salts is, but what little we do know so far is alarming enough. Effects can include extreme paranoia, hallucinations, and suicidal thoughts, as well as chest pains, soaring blood pressure, and rapid heartbeat. A number of deaths were reported in people who took the drug, including at least one possible suicide.
Several states, including Hawaii, Louisiana, and Michigan, have introduced laws to ban bath salts. The DEA just announced it will make selling or possessing these chemicals illegal for a year while they study them further. SBB will keep you posted on what they learn. If anyone offers you bath salts as a way to get high, let them know not only are they taking big risks, they are also doing something illegal.
Several SBB readers have submitted personal stories about their experiences—or their families' experiences—with addiction. We offer these stories to give you an inside view of how drug addiction can affect people's lives.
We are posting these comments as we received them, unedited, except as reflected in the Sara Bellum Blog guidelines.
@Dale My son is 33 years old and badly hooked on bath salts. Like the girl that wrote her dad talks underneath his couch because he thinks people are under there my son thinks someone lives in his attic and people are climbing the trees around his house and watching him. He has pawned most of the stuff in his house to get it. I have been thru his coke addiction with him and he was clean for three years. That was bad, but candy compared to this. He has lost his job, his son he raised, most friends & family & hurt me when I refuse to give him money for this. All I can do for him is pray for him.
@James Hi, I was a teenager who abused drugs. Not just cannabis, as in this post, but many drugs. A lot of people believed I was doing it in an act of rebel, a way to say ‘[expletive deleted] you’ to my life and society. In some regards it probably was but a part of it was I was battling some major inner demons, as the case with a lot of kids.
When you’re growing up and you’re falling into a chaotic pit of mental health issues, you can often feel alone. You definitely feel like an outcast. You feel like you’re the only person in the world who’s going through this. “Why me God?” is a common question. Drugs, such as cocaine, induce a sense of euphoria and they allowed me, and probably many others, to forget just for a couple of hours, just to get away. It was bliss.
I am not supporting drug abuse. Drug abuse did more damage to my life than I could possibly imagine. For one, I didn’t go to college nor did I finish high school but that might not have happened anyway on account of being hospitalized numerous times over the course of those years.
My point, however, is to make it clear here that drug abuse is often never just the problem itself. It’s a nasty side effect and, regardless of a suspension or kicking them off the football team, a teenager going through serious issues will never stop. If you want them to stop, get to the root of the issue. Don’t get me started on how wrong it actually is to knock children off their favorite extra-curricular activities because of this. This will do more damage than good.
So yeah, this is my view from a reformed drug addict who is now the lead technical director of a marketing company. I think my opinion counts. I’ve just shared something I haven’t shared in a good few years.
Bath salts—the drug, not the perfumed crystals you put in bath water—showed up just a few years ago. The synthetic powder is sold online and in drug paraphernalia stores under a variety of names, such as "Blue Silk," "Zoom," "Cloud Nine," and "Hurricane Charlie." But don’t let the fun names fool you: Bath salts are extremely dangerous.
What Are Bath Salts?
Bath salts are a new family of drugs that contain synthetic chemicals related to cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant. Bath salts typically appear as white or brown powder and are sold in small plastic or foil packages labeled “not for human consumption.” People who abuse bath salts swallow, inhale, or inject them.
How Do Bath Salts Affect the Brain?
Much is still unknown about the chemicals in bath salts, but they are similar to amphetamines (such as methamphetamine) as well as to MDMA (Ecstasy). So far, research has shown that the most common chemical found in bath salts, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), works like cocaine by increasing the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, causing a feeling of euphoria and hyperactivity. However, MDPV is 10 times more potent than cocaine.
Bath salts may also raise the levels of serotonin, causing hallucinations. Mephedrone and methylone, two other chemicals often sold as bath salts, were found to raise serotonin in a way similar to MDMA.
What Are the Other Health Effects of Bath Salts?
The synthetic chemicals in bath salts are very toxic and have been linked to increases in visits to emergency rooms and poison control centers across the country.
Bath salt abuse can cause the following physical and psychological symptoms:
|Racing Heart||Panic Attack||High blood pressure||Dehydration|
|Chest pains||Kidney failure||Paranoia||Breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue|
|Hallucinations||Insomnia||Psychotic and violent behavior||Death|
What Are We Doing To Prevent Abuse of Bath Salts?
Bath salts users have reported that the drugs trigger intense cravings (or a compulsive urge to use the drug again) and that they are highly addictive.
In response to rising abuse rates of bath salts, President Obama signed into law the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, which bans MDPV, mephedrone, and other bath salts ingredients. However, drug manufacturers have responded by developing new versions of bath salts that use ingredients that, while just as toxic, are not yet banned.
If you know someone who is abusing bath salts, tell an adult or contact 1-800-662-HELP to find out how to get help for the person.
Find out more about bath salts.