Health & Wellness

Exposure To E-Cigarette Vapor Increases Risk Of Viral Infections

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Electronic cigarettes have been tagged as the answer to the harmful effects of traditional tobacco products, but a recent study discovered that the newfangled products may not be as safe as many people think.

A research from Johns Hopkins University conducted on mice discovered that being exposed to e-cigarette vapor may lead to a higher likelihood of getting infected by viruses and bacteria. The study involved two groups of lab mice, one exposed to vapor from electronic cigarettes for two weeks, and the other taken away from exposure. The mice exposed to the vapors were found to have decreased immunity and weaker lungs, according to a news release.

In addition, the researchers also found free radicals in the vapor. These compounds are considered harmful to human health, and may cause cancer.

The study team recommends further studies on the matter. They said the simulation on mice may not have the exact same factors as human use of electronic cigarettes, because the rodents cannot smoke the electronic products the same way human beings do.

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Proposed California Bill Bans Baseball Practice of Chewing Tobacco

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Baseball has long welcomed the notorious habit of “dipping” tobacco in chewing gum, defined in Wikipedia as “placing a lump or ‘dip’ of tobacco between the lip and the gum.”

As part of the government’s actions to clean up the sport, California State Assembly member Tony Thurmond forwarded a bill that seeks to prohibit Major League Baseball (MLB) players from chewing tobacco during games. The proposed bill also includes banning smoking of tobacco and use of e-cigarettes in MLB venues.

One of the most famous baseball players who were confirmed to have enjoyed dipping tobacco is San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn, who succumbed to cancer of the salivary glands last year. “I’m hopeful that this bill will lend to his legacy, that it will help to prevent illness for young people and young athletes,” Thurmond said in a news item. “Tony Gwynn was somebody I thought was a spokesman for baseball, a great role model as a person.”

MLB released a statement last February 24 as a support to Thurmond’s bill. “We ardently believe that children should not use or be exposed to smokeless tobacco, and we support the spirit of this initiative in California and any others that would help achieve this important goal,” a statement from the league said.

Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Alaska Legalizes Marijuana Use With More Lenient Rules Than Other States

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The state may be chilly, but the latest hot topic in Alaska is now burning up the presses.

A voter initiative in Alaska has pushed the legalization of marijuana in the state February 24, bringing years of convoluted laws surrounding the issue to a close. The approved plans allows use and safekeeping of cannabis, as well as bring it in transport, grow plants and distribute them. However, people caught using pot in public will be slapped with a fine of $100. This makes Alaska the third U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana, after Colorado and Washington.

Despite the affirmative vote for marijuana use, many citizens are concerned about what this might bring to the state, especially after the observed rise in other similar abuse issues on drugs and alcohol. Edward Nick of Manokotak, Alaska said that his village prohibits alcohol and drug use, whether in public or in the privacy of one’s home. “When they start depending on smoking marijuana, I don’t know how far they’d go to get the funds they need to support it, to support themselves,” Nick said in a news release.

Proponents of the marijuana voter initiative include “libertarians, rugged individualists and small-government Republicans,” according to AP. The initiative will allow communities such as Manokotak to regulate marijuana use in the confines of local law, just like they do in alcohol.

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Health & Wellness

Got The Munchies? Scientists Prove Marijuana-Triggered Food Cravings

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The idea that smoking pot makes a person hungrier than usual has been portrayed in TV and movies, and was regarded as a myth — until now.

A group of neurobiologists conducted a study that looks into the effect of marijuana use on appetite for food. Study lead author Tamas Horvath of Yale University said that “marijuana fools the brain’s feeding system” by disrupting the normal function of appetite-suppressing neurons. The scientists attribute this phenomena to cannabinoids, marijuana’s active ingredient.

The study involved testing mice exposed to marijuana and looked into the animals’ brain receptor molecules where cannabinoids bind to. The hypothesis was that the active ingredient caused a suppression of the receptors to send signals to the brain saying that the stomach is already full. Instead, the team was surprised to discover that cannabinoids boosted the activity of the neurons, but this time emitting endorphins that enhance appetite. “Neurons that normally shut down eating instead promoted it, even when the mice were full,” said Horvath in a news item.

In addition, the study also discovered that the altered brain mechanism caused by marijuana use triggers a desire for foods rich in calories, thereby supporting the age-old and pop-culture myth.

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Addiction Substance Abuse

Minorities Susceptible To Arrest Due To Preference For Crack Cocaine Over Powder

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Although the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was aimed at reducing the flak against African Americans arrested for cocaine possession, a new study suggests that they are still at higher risk than other racial profiles to get arrested.

A team of researchers from the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research at New York University used the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to collect data of cocaine users and their likelihood of getting arrested. Results of the team’s analysis revealed that users of crack cocaine are exposed to a higher likelihood of arrests than those who use the powdered form. “We found that 12% of adults in the US have used powder cocaine, while only 4% have used crack cocaine… But it is the 4% who have used crack who are at greatest risk for arrest, which can further marginalize these individuals, making them unable to get jobs or school loans,” according to study co-author Dr. Joseph J. Palamar in a news item.

The researchers also discovered that more than racial profiles, the economically challenged sector of the population has a greater risk of getting arrested for crack cocaine. “Crack users are much more likely to experience arrest than powder cocaine users, and being poor is the true overwhelming correlate, not being black or a minority,” Palamar said. The study discussed how the more marginalized sector are more likely to purchase cocaine in its free form, as opposed to the more elite powder form. “The sentencing laws appear to unfairly target the poor, with blacks ultimately experiencing high incarceration rates as a result,” Palamar added.

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Debates For Marijuana Legislation Heating Up In Congress

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As more states are embracing legalized marijuana use and distribution, discussions on the controversial drug are now reaching the House.

Two congressmen — Colorado Rep. Jared Polis and Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer — introduced a new bill that aims to legalize cannabis across the entire federal jurisdiction. Polis revealed in a news statement that Colorado has benefited hugely from legalizing marijuana. “Over the past year, Colorado has demonstrated that regulating marijuana like alcohol takes money away from criminals and cartels, grows our economy, and keeps marijuana out of the hands of children,” Polis said. Colorado is one of the U.S. states that has legalized marijuana.

The proposed bill, tagged as “Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act”, aims to treat cannabis just like the country does alcohol: remove it from the list of illegal drugs and transfer regulation to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Meanwhile, another proposal called “Marijuana Tax Revenue Act” focuses on imposing taxes on cannabis from a starting rate of 10 percent and gradually rising over the years.

This new move by members of the House is being pushed amidst numerous complaints against marijuana shops and dispensaries are “nuisances” to nearby communities and neighboring states.

Health & Wellness

Cancer Risk Aggravated By Drinking Too Much Soda, Study Claims

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You might want to think twice about grabbing the next can of soda, after reading this new study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

A compound called 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), identified as a potential cancer-causing chemical, was found in several soft drink products according to an earlier research, which served as the basis for the new study. The research team, led by study senior author Keeve Nachman of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) Food Production and Public Health Program, discovered that roughly half of U.S. residents older than six drink one or more soda cans daily.

“Soft drink consumers are being exposed to an avoidable and unnecessary cancer risk from an ingredient that is being added to these beverages simply for aesthetic purposes,” Nachman said in a news release. “This unnecessary exposure poses a threat to public health and raises questions about the continued use of caramel coloring in soda.”

What makes matters worse is that 4-MEI is not a controlled food ingredient according to Food and Drug Administration rules. However, California is already in the front of the race, as its Proposition 65 has required food companies to limit 4-MEI to a set limit. The study team revealed that “some of the soft drink products sold in California that we sampled had lower levels of 4-MEI than the samples we looked at of the same beverages sold outside the state, particularly in our earlier rounds of testing. It appears that regulations such as California’s Proposition 65 may be effective at reducing exposure to 4-MEI from soft drinks, and that beverages can be manufactured in ways that produce less 4-MEI.”

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Addiction Substance Abuse

Breakthrough Drug May Help People To Quit Smoking

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Smokers may find it difficult to quit smoking, but a new study is close to discovering a “cure” for tobacco addiction.

A team of researchers looked into varenicline, a drug designed to treat people from addiction to nicotine. The study, which was published in JAMA, involved more than 1,500 individuals around the globe who were identified as cigarette smokers. These people were chosen based on their inability or unwillingness to quit smoking within a month, but are open to engage in techniques that may help them kick the habit in the next three months.

The study called for participants to receive either varenicline or an inert placebo two times in a day for a 24-week duration. They were advised to aim for reduction of cigarettes smoked by half within 4 weeks, and totally stop smoking within 12 weeks. A follow-up was conducted on the smokers.

The results of the study are staggering. Week 4 figures showed that 47.1 percent of people who were administered the test drug were successful in decreasing cigarette smoking by half, as compared to only 31.1 percent of those who received placebo. By week 12, only 6.1 percent of placebo recipients were able to abstain from smoking, as opposed to a significantly higher 32.1 percent of those who received the experimental drug.

“Because most clinicians are likely to see smokers at times when a quit date in the next month is not planned, the current study indicates that prescription of varenicline with a recommendation to reduce the number of cigarettes smoked per day with the eventual goal of quitting could be a useful therapeutic option for this population of smokers,” according to the research team in a news item.

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Medical Marijuana

Minnesota Seeking Labs to Test Medical Marijuana

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Minnesota is in the market for labs that can test its medical marijuana for content, contamination and consistency.

The state aims to certify laboratories to test marijuana cultivated for medicinal use. Applications from interested labs to the Department of Health are due next month and labs should be chosen by mid-April.

It’s the latest move to get Minnesota’s limited medical marijuana program off the ground by summer.

Medical marijuana is legal in the state for a handful of conditions like cancer, HIV and AIDS. It will be available in pill, oil or vaporized form but eligible patients won’t be allowed to get it in plant form for smoking.

Two manufacturers have been selected to cultivate the cannabis. If all goes as planned, the medicine will be available starting July 2015.

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Health & Wellness Real Drug Stories

Sprout Pharmaceuticals Trying Again with “Female Viagra”

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Even though it’s been rejected twice, Sprout Pharmaceuticals is giving their female libido booster another shot at approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

Aided by a recent lobbying blitz by politicians, women’s groups and consumer advocates, Sprout Pharmaceuticals said recently it is refiling its application for the drug, flibanserin, adding new information requested by the FDA about how the drug affects driving ability.

The FDA most recently rejected the drug after nearly 10% of women in company trials reported sleepiness as a side effect.

If approved, the pill would be the first drug for women who report a lack of libido. But, it has already faced an uphill battle to get FDA approval because of lackluster effectiveness and side effects including fatigue, dizziness and nausea.

However, the recent lobbying efforts led by groups sponsored by Sprout and other drugmakers have begun publicizing the lack of a “female Viagra” as a women’s rights issue.

“Women deserve equal treatment when it comes to sex,” states an online petition to the FDA organized by the group Even the Score. The petition garnered almost 25,000 supporters.

The FDA first rejected flibanserin in 2010 after a panel of expert advisers unanimously voted against the drug, saying its benefits did not outweigh its risks. The drug’s initial developer, Boehringer Ingelheim, abandoned work on the drug in 2011 and sold it to Sprout.

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