Recently published research by the National Institute of Health has shed some light on the process of addiction to
alcohol.[i] “Chronic alcohol exposure leads to brain adaptations that shift behavior control away from an area of the brain involved in complex decision making and toward a region associated with habit formation, according to a new study…” Granted the study was done on mice and not men, but it appeared to give us an understanding of why alcohol abusers become enslaved to the habit. As the brain moves away from thinking about choices to fulfilling
habitual behavior, the individual becomes controlled by the use of the drug. 

This is not surprising in the least to anyone of us who understands what the Bible says about alcohol and addiction.
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,” (Eph 5:18 NASB). The comparison between drunkenness and being filled by the Holy Spirit does center on the issues of control and behavior.  The
man or woman who chooses to be controlled by alcohol will eventually be enslaved by it. 

 As with the NIH study, the longer the individual gives themselves to serve alcohol, the more they become a slave to
 it as Paul said in Romans 6:16. “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
 (Rom 6:16 NKJ) Just like the mice, the longer I choose to be drunk, the more it becomes a habit that controls me.

 And, that is the bad news. The good news is that men and women by God’s grace can find freedom from drunkenness and the trouble that comes with it. Paul reminds us that although drunkards are on a
list of sins that are very popular today, being on that list will exclude us from God’s kingdom unless we confess Christ as our Lord and Savior. When we do that, Paul says that we have been washed, sanctified and justified “in the name of Jesus Christ.” (1Corinthians 6:9-11) The best part of the passage is when Paul looks at the group and says, “and such were (my emphasis) some of you. Nothing in the Bible tells us that we should expect to be slaves to our sins as Christians. Instead, we have the hope and promise that since we have been raised with Christ, that “we too might walk in newness of life.”(Romans 6:4)

 Another article a week ago took aim at the idea of sexual addiction.[ii]  A research study showed that the brains of individuals who struggle with pornography simply do not respond as those with other addictions such as substance abuse.  It is always interesting when science finds itself agreeing with the Bible even unknowingly.  Sexuality outside
the confines of marriage is not a disease. It is simply sin. You only need to read Romans 1:18-32 to understand what the real problem is. When we choose to worship creatures/ourselves instead of the Creator, eventually God will give us over to the degrading passions that we want most.
That is the bad news. But, the good news is the freedom from the power of sin over our lives that we find in the
gospel. "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." (John 8:36 NKJ)
 NIH study finds chronic alcohol use shifts brain’s control of behavior, 8/22/2013

Sexual desire, not hypersexuality, is related to neurophysiological responses elicited by sexual images
 Vaughn R. Steele, PhD1,2, Cameron Staley, PhD3, Timothy Fong, MD4 and Nicole Prause, PhD1,4*
 1The Mind Research Network, Albuquerque, NM, USA; 2Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM,
USA; 3Counseling Center, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID,
USA; 4Department of Psychiatry, University
of California, Los Angeles, USA

One of the most important things any physician can do for his patient is to clearly explain the real risks associated with the medicine prescribed.  An article I read today on Medscape news illustrates the need for patients to ask for
information about the side effects of the medicines they are going to take.[i]The study discussed was from data gathered in Norway from patients who took antidepressants and who had fractured a hip. The researchers
wanted to know if taking antidepressant medication could be responsible for an increase in hip fractures. 

It seems a little far-fetched to think that a medicine that is supposed to improve our mood by changing the chemicals in our brain could make it more likely for our bones to break. But, that is what the study found. Patients who took medication for depression had an increased risk of around 5% more for a hip fracture than those who did not take it. It’s not much, five out of a hundred, unless of course it’s your hip. 
Also published in the same edition of the Medscape News was an article about treating menopause.[ii]It consisted of the argument that has gone on for decades about the benefits and risks of hormone replacement therapy. The question the article raised was whether or not hormone replacement therapy was better in the short term for women who suffer hot flashes as compared to the use of an SSRI antidepressant called paroxetine (Paxil). 
The author concluded that perhaps hormone replacement therapy might be better in short term use. Of course he could not know that the article on hip fractures would be published in the same edition or that there is a connection between the two. Hip fractures increase in women after menopause. In times past hormone replacement therapy has been advocated to prevent hip fractures. Now, it appears that the makers of paroxetine (Paxil) may want us to treat the symptoms of menopause, hot flashes, with a medication that increases the risk of hip fractures. 

The point of all this is that we as patients have a responsibility to ask our doctors what the real risks are of any
medication we are offered. Physicians have the responsibility to tell their patients what those risks are while they are making the choice to take it or not. None of us should assume that any medicine is risk or side effect free.
Antidepressants of all kinds have significant side effects. Caveat Emptor!  
[i] Risk of Hip Fracture Among Older People Using Antidepressant Drugs Data From the Norwegian Prescription Database and the Norwegian Hip Fracture Registry
Marit Stordal Bakken, Anders Engeland, Lars B. Engesæter, Anette Hylen Ranhoff, Steinar Hunskaar, Sabine
 Age Ageing. 2013;42(4):514-520. 
Treating Menopause: Are We Going Loco? Charles P. Vega, MD  Aug 06, 2013

Three weeks ago I commented on a research article that said that children treated for ADHD with amphetamine derivative drugs do not seem to benefit much academically. After an initial improvement, grades for children taking the medicine seemed to return to baseline. 
Last week brought another article that showed that children who are identified with ADHD are more likely to have a
difference in their electro-encephalogram. We concluded that the difference seen does not necessarily represent disease, but it may represent a real difference. That difference probably requires a different approach to the way we educate children who struggle with attention. 

This week a friend sent me an article that may give us an indication as to why there are so many children being labeled with ADHD and to some extent what the difference is between children labeled and not labeled with ADHD.  The article was a summation of a research article published February, 2013 in PLOSone.[i] The research looked at the difference in heart rate variability in low fit and high fit subjects in the context of
testing that required sustained attention. 
The article is complicated but one part of it has something very important to say about our ability to pay attention and stay on task. The test subjects in the high fit group were able to pay attention and stay on task better than their
low fit counterparts.  Physical fitness seems to be connected to “sustained attention” while being physically
less fit is not. 

In the process of looking for the original research article I came across another article that looked at the way exercise,
diet and media time affected the diagnosis of ADHD in children.[ii] The research looked at the habit s of over 11,000 German children and concluded that overweight children were at a “significantly higher risk” for ADHD symptoms than children who were not overweight. Poor nutrition and high television exposure were also associated with ADHD symptoms. 
When you put both of these studies together several things stand out. Exercise is good for our attention spans. Obesity due to poor nutrition and lack of physical activity are not good for our attention spans. Television promotes physical inactivity and at times poor eating habits. 
I have often said that we ate Twinkies and drank Pepsi when I was a kid, but we did not struggle with being
overweight.  Perhaps it was because my mother would not let us watch more than 30 minutes of television a day. And, maybe it was because she told us to go outside and play.  
It may be that one of the reasons why children struggle in school is because we are delivering a completely different
child to the schoolhouse.  Perhaps it is time that we unplug the television after 30 minutes, limit computer games
in a similar way, encourage generous amounts of physical exercise and yes, pay attention to diet.  
If we send a healthier, physically active child to school, we may find that they struggle less to pay attention.  There may also be an opportunity to help students at school, by incorporating more physical activity into the day, but
that will have to wait for a future blog. 
[i] Luque-Casado  A, Zabala M, Morales E, Mateo-March M, Sanabria D (2013) Cognitive Performance
and Heart Rate Variability: The Influence of Fitness Level. PLoS ONE 8(2):  e56935. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056935 Published:  February 20, 2013 
[ii] Association  of Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder with Physical Activity,
Media Time, and Food Intake in Children and  Adolescents
Andreas W. A. van Egmond-Fröhlich, Daniel Weghuber, Martina de Zwaan Research Article | published 14 Nov 2012 | PLOS ONE 10.1371/journal.pone.0049781Views: 2,111