Professional News
 DOI: 10.1176/appi.pn.2014.8b3
Journal Digest
Psychiatric News
Volume 49 Number 16 page 1

Youth participation in “sexting”—a sexually explicit cell-phone text or photo-based message—may speak volumes about youth sexual engagement, according to a recent study published in Pediatrics.

University of Southern California researchers gathered information from 1,285 middle-school children in the Los Angeles area to see if a relationship between sexting behaviors and actual sexual activity and risk behaviors existed.

Of the students who had access to texting, 20 percent reported receiving at least one sext, while 5 percent reported sending a sext. Students involved in any kind of sexting activity were more likely to be sexually active than youth who had never been exposed to sexting behaviors. Those receiving and sending sexts were, respectively, six times and four times more likely to engage in sexual activity than their nonsexting peers.

Because early exposure to sexual behaviors is associated with higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, teenage pregnancy, and other harmful consequences, the authors concluded that pediatricians should discuss sexting behavior with patients to facilitate a conversation about its potential associated health risks, In addition, they urged adding information about the adverse consequences of sexting to sex-education curricula in middle schools.

Rice E, Gibbs J, Winetrobe H, et al. “Sexting and Sexual Behavior Among Middle School Students.” 2014. Pediatrics. 134(1):e21-8.

Assessment of olfactory senses may someday be a tool in evaluating risk for cognitive decline in late life.

From 2004 to 2010, Davangere Davanand, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and director of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, led a series tests in a multiethnic population of 1,037 senior citizens without a diagnosis of cognitive dysfunction to determine whether a relationship exists between the inability to identify smells and a diagnosis of mild cognitive decline. Odor identification was measured by the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT).

The results, presented last month at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen, showed that 210 participants transitioned to either dementia or Alzheimer’s disease (AD) during follow-up, two to four years after initial UPSIT was administered. Transition to dementia and AD was correlated with lower odor identification scores on the UPSIT, even after adjusting for demographics, cognitive and functional measures, and apolipoprotein E genotype. Each one-point deduction on the UPSIT was associated with an approximately 10 percent increase in AD risk.

Davanand and colleagues concluded that “if further large-scale studies reproduce these results, a relatively inexpensive test such as odor identification may be able to identify subjects at increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease at a very early stage and may be useful in identifying people at increased risk of cognitive decline more broadly.”


New research from Drexel University School of Public Health shows that the Autism Awareness Month is living up to its name.

Using the Google trends tool (google.com/trends), the researchers gathered Web search queries for the terms “autism” and “Asperger’s” from January 2004 to April 2014 in the United States to investigate if autism spectrum disorder (ASD) piques public interest during April, its national health observance month, as well as the months surrounding the heightened awareness period.

For the decade studied, the analysis showed that interest in autism spiked an average of 26 percent between the last week in March and first half of April, followed by an average 24 percent decrease from the latter half of April into the first week in May.

Though the researchers highlighted the findings of increased awareness as a great achievement for those whose lives are affected by a family member with ASD, they said that questions still remain. “When a parent performs a web search, does it lead to recognition of autism in their child?” asked senior author Brian Lee, Ph.D., an assistant professor and research fellow at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute. “Does it lead to seeking clinical testing and services?” Lee responded that while the current web search trends they uncovered cannot answer these questions, the findings do indicate public interest in the topic of ASD that is high during the month dedicated to raising awareness of the disorder.

The researchers also pointed out a few additional spikes in the autism-related Internet search trends that may have corresponded to high-impact media attention, including the 80 percent surge in September 2007 after an “Oprah Winfrey Show” on children with ASD of celebrity parents was aired and a 122 percent surge in December 2012, which corresponded with the publicity about a planned elimination of Asperger’s syndrome as a stand-alone diagnosis in DSM-5.

DeVilbiss E, Lee B. “Brief Report: Trends in U.S. National Autism Awareness from 2004 to 2014: The Impact of National Autism Awareness Month.” 2014. J Autism Dev Disord. Jun 11. [Epub ahead of print]

A new study suggests that interventions that help hospitalized patients being treated for opioid dependence transition to a drug treatment program after discharge may reduce their risk for immediate relapse.

The study included 139 hospitalized individuals with self-reported opioid addiction who received gradual doses of buprenorphine to detoxify them and who were then randomized to receive either information for admittance into a buprenorphine maintenance program based outside of a primary care office (nonreferral group) or an actual referral that helped them transition into such a program (referral group). The patients were followed up after six months for evaluation of opioid use.

The results showed that 72 percent of the patients in the referral group went on to initiate treatment outside of hospital settings, compared with just 12 percent of the nonreferral group. In addition, 37 percent of the referral group reported no opioid use one month after discharge, compared with 9 percent of their nonreferral counterparts. The referral cohort was significantly more likely to report less illicit opioid drug use 30 days before the six-month interview than patients who did not receive direct referrals.

“Unfortunately, referral to substance abuse treatment after discharge is often a secondary concern of physicians caring for hospitalized patients,” said lead author Jane Liebschutz, M.D., M.P.H, an associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. “Our results show that we can have a marked impact on patient’s addiction by addressing it during their hospitalization.” ■

Liebschutz J, Crooks D, Herman D, et al. “Buprenorphine Treatment for Hospitalized, Opioid-Dependent Patients.” 2014. JAMA Intern Med. June 30 [Epub ahead of print]

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