Substance Use Disorders Research Roundup: November 3, 2023


What is new in research on SUDs?

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In this Research Roundup, we explore new studies on several substance use disorders (SUDs) including cannabis use disorder (CUD) and opioid use disorder (OUD), as well as the connections between alcohol use and symptoms of psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Study Finds Lower Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Levels in Individuals with CUD
This systematic review and meta-analysis examined the relationship between brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels and cannabis use disorders (CUD). The study found that individuals with CUD have lower levels of BDNF compared with non-users, which may contribute to the cognitive and emotional deficits associated with CUD.

“Our meta-analysis sheds light on the relationship between cannabis use and BDNF levels,” the investigators concluded. “While our study results suggest increasing BDNF levels among cannabis users, the difference isn't statistically significant. It's essential to delve deeper into this relationship to fully grasp cannabis's long-term effects on brain and mental health.”


Mohanraj PS, Das A, Sen A, Prithviraj M. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels in cannabis use disorders – a systematic review and meta-analysisCureus. 2023;15(9):e45960.

Study Explores Stress, Anxiety, and Alcohol Use Among Medical Students During COVID-19 Pandemic
This study aimed to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on academic stress, depression, and alcohol consumption among medical students. The findings showed a high level of stress, burnout, anxiety, and fear related to COVID-19 among medical students, particularly female students and those who had a history of mental health issues.

“The findings suggest the importance of tailored interventions and support systems to address the unique challenges faced by different groups of students, such as gender-specific mental health programs and financial assistance for those in need,” the investigators concluded. “Additionally, the decrease in substance use and depression scores over time may indicate the effectiveness of awareness and support initiatives within the medical education community.”


Popescu CA, Tegzeșiu AM, Suciu SM, et al. Evolving mental health dynamics among medical students amid COVID-19: a comparative analysis of stress, depression, and alcohol use among medical studentsMedicina (Kaunas). 2023;59(10):1854.

How Prevalent is RLS in Patients Treated With Buprenorphine/Naloxone for OUD?
This study explored the prevalence of restless legs syndrome (RLS) among patients receiving buprenorphine/naloxone maintenance therapy for opioid use disorder (OUD). The study found that approximately 13% of these patients experienced definite or probable RLS symptoms, which tended to be of moderate severity and disrupt sleep. Despite the high prevalence, most patients were not receiving treatment for RLS, highlighting the need for clinicians to be trained in RLS screening and treatment to improve the quality of life and potentially reduce the risk of relapse in patients with opioid use disorder.

“The prevalence of clinically significant RLS was notably higher than that seen in the general population or in previously assessed clinical populations,” the investigators concluded. “RLS is common in those acutely withdrawing from opioids, and our data demonstrate that these symptoms are present in a sizable portion of patients on OUD maintenance therapy.”


Wipper B, Cooke MP, Winkelman JW. Prevalence of current restless legs syndrome symptoms among patients treated with buprenorphine/naloxone for opioid use disorderNat Sci Sleep. 2023;15:851-859.

Note: Assistance from ChatGPT and ChatPDF was used in the preparation of this research roundup.

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