Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

TestCountry Talks About Synthetic Marijuana in K2 Spice Webinar

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The global threat of illicit drugs continues to instill fear and grip the hearts of millions of individuals who have witnessed the adverse effects of drug abuse. Amidst the huge number of substances being abused in today’s generation, more and more drugs are coming up every so often, reeling in more victims and destroying more families.

It is in this light that TestCountry decided to launch a webinar about synthetic marijuana (more commonly known as K2 or Spice). The webinar discusses some facts about synthetic marijuana, its effects on the human body, and its impact on society.

Here’s a snippet of the synthetic marijuana webinar:

Synthetic marijuana can be made with hundreds of different liquid chemicals that are blended with Acetone and then sprayed onto dried, shredded plant material. Commercial chemistry labs mostly concentrated in China and Pacific Rim countries produce these chemicals on-demand for distributors. K2 can be more potent than natural THC, potentially having much more dangerous side effects.

Watch the webinar through this link.

Addiction Home Health Hazards Substance Abuse

Is Kratom Use Good or Bad for Your Health?

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Controversy is now surrounding the use of a relatively new drug called Kratom. While it has been used for thousands of years in some Asian countries, it has not been introduced in Europe and the United States until recently. Debates abound as to the benefits and adverse effects of ingesting the substance.

While it is becoming more popular among Americans who use it for both medical and recreational purposes, there is a pronounced lack of research and clinical data to support the claims of its therapeutic properties.

Since further studies on the benefits, drawbacks, and safety of Kratom use are yet to be pursued, users of Kratom and the public in general, are strongly advised to be armed with the available information about the substance.

What is Kratom?

Kratom or ketum refers to a tropical, evergreen tree of the coffee family that thrives in the jungles of several Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo, Bali, and Sumatra. It is scientifically called Mitragyna speciosa and its leaves contain potent amounts of compounds called alkaloids.

In Asia, the substance is ingested by chewing the leaves, whether raw or dried. Most users, however, prefer to crush the leaves and dissolve the powder in liquids such as water. The leaves themselves may also be brewed into a tea.

kratom abuse

In the United States, Kratom may be purchased in leaf form but the drug is more commonly sold in capsules that contain the powdered material. It may be taken by either smoking the powder from the capsule or drinking the tea brewed from the leaves. More ingenious users, however, extract a resin from the evaporated water of the Kratom tea and convert the substances to pellets which can be swallowed.

Others mix Kratom with drinks or food to mask the bitter taste. Among the popular practices are mixing or blending the substance with yogurt, peanut butter, honey, juice, chocolate drinks, and milkshakes.

The reported effects of Kratom are contradicting and vary according to the amounts taken. Lower doses promote a stimulating effect while higher doses produce a sedating outcome.

Reported Uses of Kratom

Kratom was first documented by a Dutch botanist named Pieter Korthals in 1839. The substance was traditionally used in some parts of Asia for its various medicinal properties. Currently, it is used both for both recreational and therapeutic purposes.

Here are some of its known uses:

Traditional medicine

The use of Kratom was initially explored in Thailand where it was incorporated into traditional medicinal practices to treat maladies such as diarrhea, chronic pain, and anxiety. In earlier years, it was commonly used by laborers to boost their moods and energy levels after long hours at work. Later, it was utilized to treat opioid dependence.

In neighboring countries, Kratom has been used to cure other illnesses such as intestinal infections, muscle pain, and cough.

Pain reliever

Two of the alkaloids contained in Kratom called Mitragynine and 7-OH-mitragynine have strong analgesic properties. Though the effect produced is less potent than morphine, the drug is still effective in the treatment of chronic pain.

Among the conditions that can be efficiently managed by Kratom are migraines, back pain, chest pain, neck pain, vascular pain, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, scoliosis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

While Kratom is not classified as an opiate, it behaves similarly to opiates. Thus, it has been used as a substitute for opium in some areas like Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries whenever the latter is not available.

In the United States, many users have resorted to Kratom as an alternative to prescription drug medications such as methadone and other opioids.

Treatment of opiate withdrawal

Kratom works by binding mu opioid and delta receptors in the brain. It has been said to affect a user the same way that opiates do. As such, it may be effective in the treatment of opioid dependence. It has been said to be valuable for the management and suppression of opiate withdrawal symptoms including cravings, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.

However, though there has been a significant increase in the number of users who prefer Kratom as a remedy to relieve withdrawal symptoms that arise from chronic opioid use, there is a lack of significant clinical studies to merit a conclusion as to the efficacy of Kratom in the treatment and management of opioid addiction.

Sexual performance enhancer

Several users claim that using Kratom promotes sexual endurance and performance. The alkaloids in Kratom extracts aid in enhancing libido and sexual pleasure among both men and women.

In Thailand, it is also customarily used to prevent premature ejaculation during sexual intercourse. It has been reported that consuming even as little as one gram of Kratom powder can boost the libido for as long as 12 hours.

Anti-depressant

When used appropriately, some strains of Kratom have stimulating effects that help uplift moods and promote feelings of satisfaction. The substance is said to be beneficial for those undergoing depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and similar conditions.

Taking too much of drug, however, can produce the exact opposite effect as ingesting large doses of Kratom is known to induce sedation.

Cognitive enhancer

Many users claim that Kratom produces energizing effects similar to caffeine. The stimulating effects support improved focus, concentration, and memory. The drug has been found to promote cognitive functions and to enhance mental acuity. Some users who exhibit ADHD symptoms have reported that using the substance has helped them focus on challenging mental activities. It is said to be more efficient than most nootropic supplements in the market.

Relaxant and sedative

Consuming larger doses of Kratom leaves or extracts can promote calmness and relaxation. It helps to manage stress, anxiety, and tension. The drug is also known to improve sleep quality. Many users claim that taking Kratom helps them sleep for longer periods but it does not give them a “hangover” feeling in the morning. Thus, many prefer using the substance over prescription sedatives.

Recreational use

In recent years, recreational use of Kratom has spread over the United States. Users claim that Kratom emulates the effects of MDMA and low-dose marijuana but produces the right balance of relaxation and stimulation. Young professionals maintain that using the drug is a good way to unwind after a long day at work.

It has also become a social drug as its effects help users feel more outgoing and energized during gatherings or social activities.

Adverse Effects

While most users in the United States do not report having encountered any problems with using Kratom, consumption of the substance at higher or more frequent doses may produce adverse reactions. Some of the side effects include dry mouth, nausea, reduced appetite, sleeping disorders, bowel obstruction, and darkening of the skin.

In Southeast Asia, however, where the use of the drug is more widespread, there have been accounts of more severe reactions such as delusion, aggression, and schizophrenia. Chronic users have also reported experiencing withdrawal symptoms that include irritability, weight loss, insomnia, diarrhea, muscle spasms, and fever. It is suspected that these effects were brought about by either having ingested the substance in larger doses or having used Kratom in conjunction with other drugs or intoxicating beverages.

Whether or not Kratom is highly addictive is largely debated. Narconon asserts that habitual use can increase tolerance and develop compulsion or addiction. Because of the reports gathered from other countries where it is largely consumed, it is recommended that users exercise caution in taking Kratom. It is advised that the drug should not be used more than twice a week to reduce the possibility of developing dependence.

New users should not attempt to experiment with larger doses as the physiological effects of the drug vary from person to person.

In addition, using the substance in conjunction with other drugs and opiates is strongly discouraged as overstimulation can result in increased blood pressure. When used with sedatives or benzodiazepines, it can cause over-sedation, central nervous system depression, and respiratory distress.

There has, however, been no reported case of overdose or death arising from the use of Kratom.

Legality of Kratom Use

Although the use of Kratom has been accepted to be part of Thailand’s culture and traditional practices, it has actually been outlawed since 1943 when the Kratom Act was passed. The law criminalized possession of Kratom leaves, planting, and cultivating Kratom plants.

However, implementing the law posed an enormous challenge to the Thai government because eradication efforts included setting fire to rainforests where the trees naturally flourish. The results were detrimental to the wildlife and ecosystems of the country.

In 1979, Kratom was included in the Narcotics Act and was classified as a Category 5 substance. Regulatory efforts continue to persist in Thailand where the use of the substance is most prevalent.

Kratom is illegal in other countries such as Malaysia, Myanmar, Australia, and Denmark.

In the United States, Kratom has not been declared illegal by the Federal Government. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Kratom is currently not included in any of the categories under the Controlled Substances Act.

Some states, however, have passed legislation prohibiting use and possession of Kratom. The jurisdiction includes Alabama, Indiana, Vermont, Illinois, and Tennessee.

In other parts of the country, Kratom continues to be available for purchase whether over the counter at various shops, or over the internet. No license or prescription is required to buy, possess or use the drug. Some users previously imported the leaves from some Asian Pacific countries until 2015, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated this practice by issuing directives for the immediate seizure of such shipments from listed vendors.

There have been increasing reports of emergency room visits resulting from Kratom use. The patients either complained of adverse reactions to the substance or of withdrawal symptoms. But more statistical data and scientific information are needed before the drug can be appropriately classified. The same information will validly determine whether regulatory or criminal legislation must be passed and enforced.

In the meantime, medical practitioners are rushing to find whatever resources they could to enable them to manage and treat patients who may present signs of Kratom tolerance, dependence, or withdrawal.

It is hoped that current users of Kratom who take it either as an alternative to prescription drugs or as a choice for recreational habits would use the substance responsibly and moderately to avert the negative effects that are already known or published.

Health & Wellness

Study: Higher Risk Of Death In People With Heart Disease and Diabetes

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Findings of a new research from a global study revealed that the combination of Type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease can be lethal.

Spearheaded by a physician from UConn Health, the study concluded that patients diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes admitted into the hospital for congestive heart disease have a 1-in-4 chance of dying within the next one and a half years. The new findings present a grim picture of the outcome of diabetes patients with severe heart diseases.

Dr. William B. White, who is the study’s principal investigator, said that patients diagnosed with both acute coronary syndrome and Type 2 diabetes require more attention to prevent a cardiac attack. Dr. White is also a professor at the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn Health. He also adds that congestive heart failure is likely for people with Type 2 Diabetes, as reported in a news release.

With these new findings, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration now requires all new diabetes drugs to be formally tested for their potential effects on heart and stroke outcomes.

Patients with Type 2 diabetes are two to three times at risk of heart disease compared to the general population. This is attributed to obesity and other illnesses such as hypertension and high cholesterol levels which can lead to both diseases. The hormone insulin is also reportedly a contributor to heart disease. Insulin is needed by patients with Type 2 diabetes for their treatment.

The results of the new study were presented during the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) in New Orleans. It was also published online in the ADA journal Diabetes Care.

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Health & Wellness

Men’s Health Week on June 13-19

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Men’s health is not just an issue exclusive to males alone. It is a family matter that can affect spouses, kids, and other members of the family.

This year marks another celebration of Men’s Health Week on June 13-19, 2016 with the theme, “We all get stressed. The question is: what do you do about it?

This year’s celebration puts emphasis on stress and how it should be dealt with. Most often, stress is taken for granted, not knowing that leaving it unresolved can lead to greater problems. Studies show that one out of four males will likely develop mental health problems due to stress.

Stress may be categorized as either routine, sudden and traumatic stress.

  • Routine stress has something to do with the day-to-day activities we do, like work and relationship towards family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.
  • Sudden stress is caused by unexpected events in life, such as divorce, illness and getting fired from work.
  • Traumatic stress is caused by accidents, bad experiences or events that pose danger to self.

Our body responds in almost the same way to all these stress types, but it is hardest to detect if a person is suffering from routine stress. The signs and symptoms can be misconstrued for another illness. Most heart ailments are stress-related, much like diabetes, hypertension, depression and anxiety.

The message of the awareness campaign for all men is to face the issue and address the problem. Doing regular exercise can boost mood and well-being. It is also crucial to know when to seek professional help since you need to deal with current health conditions and mental issues. Last but not the least, you need to get emotional support from family and friends to lessen the impact of stress.

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Health & Wellness

All You Need To Know About Diabetes

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Diabetes is a lifestyle disease that affects millions of Americans and is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. According to the 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 29.1 million people in the country have diabetes. The CDC further estimates that about 8.1 million people have diabetes but are undiagnosed or unaware of their condition.

Though not immediately life-threatening, the disease increases the risk for developing complicated medical conditions including cardiac disease, hypertension, and kidney disease. More severe cases can cause kidney failure, blindness, and loss of limbs to amputation.

However, diabetes can be managed and prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices.

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Types of Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a metabolic disease characterized by elevated blood sugar levels. Glucose builds up in the blood when the hormone called insulin cannot metabolize the sugar from the food that has been ingested. This occurs in either of three ways: when the pancreas cannot produce sufficient insulin, when it overproduces insulin, or when the insulin released cannot be utilized properly by the body because the cells have developed a condition called insulin resistance. Here is a brief discussion of the types of diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

In type 1 diabetes, there is underproduction of insulin. The disorder is commonly diagnosed among children and young adults. The disease was previously called “juvenile diabetes.” The American Diabetes Association (ADA) estimates that only about 5 percent of diabetic patients have this form of diabetes.

Insulin is the hormone responsible for breaking down the sugar components, carrying the glucose from the bloodstream to be distributed throughout the cells of the body, and converting it into energy. Because those with Type 1 Diabetes do not produce sufficient amounts of the hormone, they need “insulin therapy” to survive. Thus, type 1 diabetes is also referred to as the “insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.”

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is more common compared to Type 1. It is estimated that about 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes cases are of this form.

The disorder occurs when the pancreas produces insulin but the body cannot effectively use it. This condition is called insulin resistance. This causes the pancreas to overproduce the hormone in order to keep up with the demands to metabolize the sugar in the food ingested by the body. Over time, the pancreas will simply be unable to produce sufficient amounts to break down the glucose components, causing it to build up in the blood.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes is the type that affects women during pregnancy. Most pregnant women develop the condition around the 24th week or after the baby’s body has been formed.

This does not indicate that the woman had diabetes prior to conceiving. It only means that she has high blood sugar levels during her pregnancy. However, she may be at risk for developing type 2 diabetes later on in life. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes have about 35 to 60 percent chances of acquiring type 2 diabetes within 20 years.

Gestational diabetes can be harmful to the fetus. The glucose in the mother’s bloodstream can cross over the placenta which in turn, causes the baby to have high blood sugar levels. The extra sugar is stored as fat. As a result, the fetus may develop “fetal macrosomia,” a term used to describe a baby who is born with a significantly higher birth weight than normal.

Prediabetes

Prediabetes is a condition where a person has blood sugar levels that are higher than normal and yet are not high enough to be considered diabetes. Those with prediabetes are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes compared to those with healthy blood glucose levels.

According to the CDC, about 15 to 30% of those diagnosed with the condition are likely to develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years. However, prediabetes is potentially reversible. Those who maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle can prevent the onset of diabetes or reduce the chances of progression by as much as 50 percent.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of diabetes vary according to the elevation level of the blood sugar. Some patients may not notice any signs in the early stages and may not detect the disease unless some blood tests are conducted. The symptoms common to both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes include: increased thirst, frequent urination, food cravings despite having eaten, fatigue, inexplicable weight loss, tingling sensation in the feet, numbness in the feet, blurred eyesight, dry and itchy skin, irritability, slow-healing sores, and infections in the gums or mouth.

Tests and Diagnosis

Early detection and diagnosis are critical to an effective management and treatment of diabetes. A person who suspects that he may be manifesting some of the symptoms should get himself checked immediately. Parents who notice some signs of type 1 diabetes in their children should promptly discuss these with the child’s pediatrician.

Since symptoms of diabetes may not become immediately evident, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that people with risk factors or genetic predispositions be regularly screened. These include people with a body mass index higher than 25 regardless of age, those aged 45 years and older, and those with additional risk factors such as hypertension. The risk factors are expounded on in the later part of this article.

diabetes test treatment

Here are the tests to determine if a person has the following types of diabetes:

Type 1, Type 2, or Prediabetes

When either prediabetes or any of the types of diabetes is suspected by the doctor, he may order that the patient undergoes one of the following tests, as reported by Mayo Clinic:

 Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test

This blood test is used to ascertain the average blood sugar level for the past two or three months. It works by measuring the percentage of blood sugar that has attached to the hemoglobin, a protein that carries the oxygen in the red blood cells.

An A1C level of 6.5 percent or higher on two separate tests indicates diabetes. A level between 5.7 and 6.4 percent indicates prediabetes. A reading belong 5.7 percent is considered a normal or healthy blood sugar level.

Random Blood Sugar

This is performed by taking blood samples at random without regard to the time of the last meal or drink taken. A random blood sugar level of 200 milligrams decilitre (mg/dL) or of 11.1 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) and higher is suggestive of diabetes.

Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS)

In FBS, a patient is first required to fast for at least 8 hours. During the fasting period, even water intake is prohibited. A result that shows an FBS level between 100 to 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L) is indicative of prediabetes. An FBS level of 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) on two separate occasions suggests that the patient has diabetes. A reading below 100 is considered normal.

2 Hour Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT)

To conduct a GTT, a patient must first undergo an FBS test. Afterward, he is asked to drink a glucose liquid and more blood is drawn to test glucose levels two hours after the drink is taken.

A blood sugar level less than 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L) is normal. A GTT reading of more than 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) indicates diabetes. A GTT reading between 140 and 199 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L and 11.0 mmol/L) indicates prediabetes.

Additional Tests for Type 1 Diabetes

To confirm a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes, other tests specifically designed to establish the presence of certain antibodies that would indicate the condition are performed. These are:

C-Peptide

The test measures C-peptide levels in the blood. A low level suggests that a person has type 1 diabetes because C-peptide levels correlate to the amount of insulin being produced by the pancreas.

Glutamic Acid Decarboxylase Autoantibodies (GADA)

The GADA test is used to verify the presence of autoantibodies directed against beta cells in the pancreas which produce insulin.

Insulin Autoantibodies (IAA)

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system produces antibodies that attack the insulin produced by the body. The IAA test is used to ascertain whether such antibodies are present.

 Insulinoma-Associated-2 Autoantibodies (IA-2A)

This is similar to GADA the sense that the test aims to locate antibodies. What makes IA-2A different is that it searches for the presence of antibodies that attack specific enzymes in the beta cells.

Gestational Diabetes Tests

A pregnant woman may be asked to undergo some blood tests to check for gestational diabetes. These are:

Initial Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT)

To perform a GTT, the patient is asked to drink a glucose solution. After an hour, blood is drawn to check the blood sugar level. A blood sugar level below 140 mg/dL (7.2 to 7.8 mmol/L) is considered normal. A higher reading indicates a potential risk for gestational diabetes. A follow-up test needs to be done to conclude the diagnosis.

Follow-up Glucose Tolerance Test

This is done if the initial GTT result is suggestive of gestational diabetes. The pregnant woman is asked to fast overnight and then the FBS is measured. Afterward, she is asked to consume a syrupy sweet solution of higher glucose concentrations. The blood sugar levels will be checked every hour for a period of three hours. When at least two out of the three test results show a blood sugar level reading that is higher than normal, she is conclusively diagnosed to have gestational diabetes.

Treatment and Management

Diabetes is a lifelong condition that requires effective management. The goal of treatment is to lower and stabilize the patient’s blood sugar levels. To accomplish this, doctors advise patients to religiously take the prescribed medications and to incorporate changes in lifestyle.

sugar crystals diabetes

A healthy diet is a major component in the management of diabetes. Meals should consist mainly of foods that are high in fiber and nutrition such as whole grains, white or lean meat, vegetables, and fruits with a low glycemic index. Foods consisting of refined or processed sugars and starch should be avoided. It is recommended that a dietitian is consulted to help the patient draw the proper meal plans.

Patients diagnosed with type 1, type2, and prediabetes could significantly benefit from incorporating some form of physical exercise in their daily routines. Aerobic exercises lower the blood sugar levels and improve the cells sensitivity to insulin.

Medications for type 2 diabetes aim to increase insulin output, reduce the amount of glucose released from the liver, and increase the cells’ insulin sensitivity. A drug called Metformin is usually prescribed for this disorder. In some cases, insulin therapy is prescribed in addition to oral medications.

Those who have type 1 diabetes need insulin therapy. Insulin is injected with a needle and syringe or an insulin pen. An insulin pump may also be used. A doctor may prescribe a combination of insulin types, depending on the patient’s needs and lifestyle.

The treatment for gestational diabetes and prediabetes are similar to the therapies prescribed for type 2 diabetes. Those diagnosed with prediabetic conditions must observe a healthy diet and aim to have at least 150 minutes of aerobic activities per week to delay or prevent progression to type 2 diabetes.

Regardless of the form of diabetes, patients should monitor their blood glucose levels several times a day to make sure they maintain the target blood sugar level.

Risk Factors

The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown and it is difficult to prevent. Among the diabetes risk factors are family history, race, the presence of autoantibodies, and a diet low in vitamin D.

Some people are more predisposed to type 2 diabetes than others. Certain factors elevate the chances of developing the disorder. These include family history, race, age, weight, high body mass index, physical inactivity, and a diet rich in sugar and carbohydrates. Those with health conditions such as hypertension, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and high levels of triglyceride and cholesterol are also predisposed to the disease.

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Various researches and clinical studies are being undertaken to find more remedies for the treatment of diabetes. In the meantime, patients can delay the onset of complications and manage their symptoms. The disease is controllable for as long as those diagnosed are committed to change their lifestyle and cooperate with their physicians.

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Health & Wellness

Celebrate UK Diabetes Week 2016 on June 12-18

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Diabetes Week is being celebrated this week in the U.K. on June 12-18, 2016. Spearheaded by Diabetes U.K., the event is designed to spread information and awareness about the condition, as well as generate funds for their projects.

Diabetes has become one of the most well-known diseases in the world. Approximately 3.5 million British are diagnosed with the condition and an additional 549,000 have diabetes but are not aware of it yet. Many people have friends and family members who are suffering from diabetes. The condition is still hugely misunderstood and there are myths and misconceptions surrounding it.

The theme of this year’s celebration is “Setting the Record Straight.” For this year’s celebration, everyone is invited to share straight talking stories, facts, and videos to let everyone know the real score about diabetes.

Here are some of the ways that people can get involved, even if you’re outside Europe:

  • Download the pack of awareness raising posters here, and share them with your local community in order to spread information to as many people as possible.
  • Share your stories and experiences about diabetes by taking part in the online conversation. Use the hashtags #actuallydiabetes or #diabetesweek.
  • A Diabetes Week for Professionals page is designed for healthcare professionals who want to debunk myths about diabetes care.

For more information, check out the Diabetes Week page.

Substance Abuse

Alcohol Abuse May be Identified Through Social Media Posts

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In this modern age where social media is part of the usual teenager’s life, parents may use social media to help detect their children’s whereabouts and current vices.

Two big universities have conducted research on the so-called “alcohol identity”, which can be traced through the use of social networking sites. A research project by North Carolina State University and Ohio University discovered that college students who post about alcohol on their social media accounts have a greater risk of developing drinking problems than those who actually have active drinking habits.

According to the study as reported in a news release, social networking sites may serve as a window to unlock the drinking habits of adolescents who freely advertise and communicate their interest in alcohol consumption.

The research was conducted through an online survey of 364 undergraduate students who were all of legal age. These students were identified to have consumed at least one alcoholic drink and were active in Facebook, Twitter or Instagram in one month.

Through social the media posts, researchers said that these individuals treat drinking as part of their identity. Through this project, researches noticed two behaviors: missing school or work, and getting into physical conflict due to drinking.

The study proponents further added that a student’s post on alcohol reveals his drinking culture, either currently or in the long run.

The next time you see college students actively posting about alcoholic drinks, you should already know what’s running through their minds.

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Substance Abuse

All You Need To Know About Tobacco Abuse

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Tobacco use continues to account for a considerable number of preventable deaths and diseases in the United States. According to the Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a report prepared by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), approximately 66.9 million people of ages 12 and older were users of tobacco products, including 55.2 million cigarette smokers. The data also disclosed that about 32.5 million people reported smoking cigarettes on a daily basis, according to this report.

Smoking or ingesting tobacco products including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookahs, and smokeless tobacco poses dangerous health threats not just to the smoker but to those exposed to secondhand smoke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that each year, about 42,000 nonsmokers die from diseases caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.

Facts About Tobacco Abuse and Addiction

Tobacco is one of the most frequently abused substances in the country. People are drawn to experiment with tobacco use for a number of reasons such as pleasure, stress relief, weight control, enhanced mental acuity, and image building.

Because it is not declared as a controlled or illicit substance, it is highly accessible compared to dangerous drugs. The convenience of acquisition somehow causes users to overlook the addictive nature of the substance.

The main addictive chemical in tobacco products is nicotine, which is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream when tobacco is inhaled, smoked, or chewed. Nicotine stimulates an increase in dopamine levels which affect the areas of the brain that control pleasure and reward.

The other components of the products such as acetaldehyde may heighten the effects of nicotine on the brain. Over time, tobacco use can lead to physiological addiction or abuse, in the same manner as a user gets addicted to cocaine, heroin or other addictive substance.

smoking cigarette

Addiction is characterized by a compulsive drug seeking behavior, despite knowledge of the negative effects or consequences. There is a high probability of addiction when a person:

  • Cannot stop smoking or ingesting tobacco despite a desire or attempt to quit
  • Feels the need or compulsion to smoke or chew tobacco after meals, during breaks, or after long periods without using tobacco
  • Cannot function normally without tobacco use
  • Seeks a tobacco product during stressful situations
  • Continues smoking or chewing despite illnesses or health problems
  • Has developed a tolerance for the substance and requires more frequent use or higher doses to achieve the desired effects
  • Spends a great deal of time on smoking activities or on trying to obtain tobacco products
  • Continues to smoke even in hazardous conditions (e.g. in bed, near a gasoline station)
  • Experiences withdrawal symptoms whenever he attempts to quit

Withdrawal symptoms include irritability, anxiety, sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, fatigue, increased heart rate, and intense cravings. Avoidance of these symptoms can prevent a user from quitting the bad habit. This prolongs the phase of addiction and increases his risks of incurring medical complications related to tobacco abuse.

Effects of Tobacco Abuse

There are several ill-effects that can arise from prolonged tobacco use or addiction. The detriment can affect several areas including personal health and societal economic costs. Here are some of the dangerous consequences of tobacco abuse:

Impact on personal health

Nicotine is only one of the thousands of poisonous chemicals found in tobacco products. Other substances such as tar, carbon monoxide, acetaldehyde, nitrosamines, formaldehyde, cyanide, and ammonia that also make up these products are toxic chemicals and carcinogenic to humans. The same components are contained in smokeless tobacco.

This is why tobacco use is the leading cause of several cancers. It accounts for about 90% of lung cancer cases, according to drugabuse.gov.

Aside from cancers, it also leads to other severe medical conditions such as bronchial diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders, heart diseases, stroke, vascular diseases, aneurysm, and diabetes. In addition, smoking has been found to cause erectile dysfunction among males.

Secondhand smoke

Tobacco use not only affects the direct user. The exhaled smoke called environmental tobacco smoke or secondhand smoke is likewise hazardous for those exposed to the emissions. Frequent exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risks for developing heart diseases, respiratory infections, and lung cancer.

Secondhand smoke is especially unsafe for children. Children exposed to the smoke can develop severe asthma and other respiratory infections. In worse cases, parental smoking can result in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

child secondhand smoke

Pregnant women

Pregnant women who smoke incur increased risks of miscarriage, stillborn delivery, or giving birth prematurely. This is because exposure to nicotine and carbon monoxide may hinder oxygen supply to the fetus, which leads to severe consequences for the child including respiratory difficulties and sudden infant death syndrome.

Tobacco use during pregnancy could also result in learning and developmental difficulties in the child including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Moreover, maternal smoking affects the child’s behavioral and psychological patterns and he is more likely to become addicted to nicotine when he starts smoking.

Economic costs

Tobacco use is also costly for society. It contributes to loss of productivity and to high costs in terms of healthcare. The CDC reports that the total economic cost of smoking exceeds $300 billion a year. The amount represents expenses for medical care, premature deaths, and loss of workforce productivity.

Treatment Options

Quitting tobacco use is challenging. A tobacco addict will normally attempt to do this several times but the addiction will keep him craving to consume the substance. His dependence on nicotine becomes a chronic disease that will require a combination of treatment approaches guided by medical professionals and counseling experts.

However, with the right attitude, support, and motivation, recovery from tobacco abuse is possible. These are the treatment options for tobacco addiction:

Nicotine replacement therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is a pharmacological treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration as safe and effective for use as a remedy for nicotine addiction. NRT works by replacing the nicotine from the cigarettes by releasing the substance in smaller amounts at a slower pace, controlling the dose that enters the bloodstream. This satisfies the cravings for nicotine that occur during the withdrawal phase.

NRT aids in reducing the withdrawal symptoms and affects the psychological aspects by moderating the patient’s mood. Thus, he is able to function normally even without using a tobacco product. Continuous use will help the patient abstain from cigarette smoking or ingesting other forms of tobacco.

The 6 types of NRT products that are currently approved include transdermal nicotine patches, nicotine nasal sprays or inhalers, nicotine lozenges, nicotine gums, and sublingual nicotine tablets. This form of therapy is most effective for heavy smokers and it increases the quit rate by 50 to 70%, based on data from this article.

However, NRT is not the ultimate remedy for smoking cessation. It is recommended that these products be used in conjunction with non-nicotine preparations to ensure better chances of recovery from nicotine addiction.

Non-nicotine medication

Another approach is to administer medications that do not contain nicotine but help to control and eliminate the physiological dependence on the substance. Two drugs have been approved by the FDA as effectual in smoking cessation therapy. These are:

  • Bupropion, also known by its trade name Zyban, controls the symptoms of withdrawal, especially depression. It has shown to double smoking cessation rates.
  • Varenicline tartrate, which also goes by the trade name Chantix, targets the nicotine receptors in the brain and ensures balanced levels of dopamine. This helps to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

The use of varenicline may increase risks for developing cardiovascular problems such as myocardial infarction, angina, coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, ischemia, and stroke. As such, this remedy should be taken with caution and should only be resorted to after proper consultation with a physician.

The other second-line therapies recognized by the U.S. Clinical Practice Guideline are Nortriptyline and Clonidine. Both drugs have shown to effectively diminish withdrawal symptoms and to elevate abstinence rates.

Combination of pharmacotherapy

In some cases, a combination of drugs and NRT approaches may be necessary to help a patient effectively quit smoking or chewing tobacco.

The use of a passive NRT product such as a transdermal patch may be used together with another medicine with an acute dosing preparation such as a gum or nasal spray. For heavy abusers, the combination of these therapies may be more efficacious than using either product alone.

NRT may also be used together with a non-nicotine medication. For instance, a nicotine patch when with the drug Bupropion may produce better results.

Combining the use of pharmacotherapy methods should be directed and supervised by a physician or a licensed treatment facility.

Behavioral therapy

It is recommended that pharmacological treatment is accompanied by behavioral therapy. The latter is an intervention mechanism that addresses psychological factors which can strengthen a patient’s resolve to focus on recovery and avoid temptations that can lead to relapse.

Methods in behavioral treatment include self-help materials and individual counseling. These are intended to help the patient develop stress management and coping mechanisms as alternative strategies to smoking tobacco during highly stressful situations. It also teaches the patient to recognize situations where he could be enticed to use a tobacco product and to avoid such settings or adeptly handle them.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy methods such as hypnotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) have also been effectual for some patients. These approaches assist the users to change their perceptions and behavior towards tobacco use.

Conventional behavioral methodologies are conducted at formal treatment facilities, smoking cessation clinics, and community health centers. The modern approach, however, permits patients to avail of treatment by phone, mail, or over the internet.

In 2004, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a toll-free number for smokers who want to quit the bad habit. The number is 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) and callers are redirected to their respective state’s cessation quitline or to the National Cancer Institute, according to this article.

Quitting smoking can be tough for a highly-dependent user and the chances of relapse are high. Because intervention programs usually last from 1-3 months, about 75-80% of patients are likely to resume the habit within the first year from treatment. To be effectual, programs are usually extended to about six months or longer. In most cases, long-term management and support including administration of low-dose medications may be necessary.

Advances in medical science research are promising and more potent remedies may be available in the near future. While the alterations to the central nervous system brought about by nicotine dependence could not be completely reversed by pharmacologic preparations, proper treatment can manage the addiction.

The success of any treatment approach ultimately lies in the strength of the patient’s determination to overcome his dependence on the substance. Help from various agencies and clinics are available. However, what a patient needs most of all is an attitude of firm commitment to recovery.

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Substance Abuse

Everything You Need To Know About The Prescription Drug Abuse Problem

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The drug abuse problem in the United States isn’t limited to the category of illicit drugs. Legal medicines such as prescription and over-the-counter drugs are also a huge component of the drug abuse epidemic.

Prescription drugs are among the most frequently abused substances in the country, along with marijuana and alcohol. In fact, the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that about 15 million people from the age of 12 used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons in the past year. It also reports that an estimate of 6.5 million people of the same age used psychotherapeutic drugs non-medically in the past month.

The prevalence of prescription drug abuse is attributed to the accessibility of the products and to the popular misconception among abusers that these drugs are safer to use compared to illicit substances. In truth, the risk for developing drug dependence and addiction is high.

The use of these drugs is regulated in the sense that they should not be taken without prior medical consultation. Medication usage and dosage should also to be supervised by a physician or health care professional. Taking these drugs for non-medical reasons can lead to health complications, overdose, and death. Prescription drug abuse accounts for 60% of overdose-related deaths and for about 1.4 million emergency room visits each year, according to this article.

Misuse or abuse of prescription drugs occurs in three possible ways: by using the medication without a doctor’s prescription or prior medical advice such as by taking a friend or relative’s prescribed medication; taking it in higher doses or administering it in a way other than as prescribed by the physician such as by crushing the tablets and snorting or injecting the powder; or using it for the purpose of experiencing the feelings that the drug elicits.

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Prescription Drugs Commonly Abused And Their Effects

The drugs most commonly abused include opioid pain relievers, central nervous system depressants, stimulants, and over-the-counter drugs. Here is a brief description of each type and a discussion of the effects of drug abuse:

Opioids

Opioids are prescribed to relieve and manage acute or chronic pain. These medications work by reducing the intensity of pain signals sent to the brain. Some examples of opioids are hydrocodone, acetaminophen, oxycodone, fentanyl, methadone, codeine, and morphine.

Some of the side effects from taking opioids are drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and disorientation. Taken in larger doses, the drugs can produce a sense of euphoria. Those who abuse the drugs primarily seek to experience increased levels of elation and to further intensify their experience, they may inject or snort the drugs rather than take them orally, as intended. This manner of abuse can lead to several complications including overdose, severe respiratory depression, and death.

Taking the medications for longer periods than prescribed can lead to physical dependence and increased tolerance for the drugs. Eventually, dependence leads to addiction and the user will experience withdrawal symptoms when use of the drugs are reduced or stopped altogether.

Opioid misuse and abuse continues to be a major public health problem in the United States. From 1999 to 2013, the rate of death from opioid pain reliever overdose nearly quadrupled.

Central Nervous System Depressants

Tranquilizers and sedatives fall under the general classification called central nervous system depressants. These are used to treat common conditions such as anxiety, and insomnia as well as more complicated psychiatric disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other related illnesses.

These medications should be prescribed by a physician only after careful evaluation of the patient’s symptoms. They must be administered with utmost caution and their use must be supervised by a doctor. These type of drugs are susceptible to overdose and can cause potentially dangerous effects. Among frequently used depressants are benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and quetiapine.

These drugs slow down brain activity and induce drowsiness and a sense of calm. They are popularly known as “downers” and are used non-medically by abusers who seek sleep as a form of escape from the reality of their troubles.

Abuse of tranquilizers and sedatives can cause lethargy, nausea, confusion, respiratory depression, and death.

Both tranquilizers and sedatives should not be taken with other medications unless under a physician’s supervision. Taking them with other substances, especially alcohol, can cause dangerous and life-threatening complications.

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Stimulants

These drugs are prescribed to treat or manage conditions such attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Taking these medications help patients with the said conditions stay calm and focused. Examples of these drugs are methylphenidate, dextroamphetamine, and amphetamines.

Stimulants are known to increase alertness and energy levels. They can also cause an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Because these drugs affect the brain’s dopamine levels, taking them in appropriately can produce feelings of elevated euphoria.

Some drug abusers take stimulants in the belief that doing so would improve their cognitive performance because of the drugs’ known effects of increasing energy levels. Stimulant abuse is common among students who take the drugs to improve alertness during examinations and rigorous academic activities.

Taking stimulants non-medically increases risks of addiction, cardiovascular diseases, seizures, and strokes. Repeated use of stimulants can cause paranoia, hostility, and psychosis.

Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances that are associated with the male sex hormones. They are used to treat conditions such as delayed puberty in male adolescents, impotence in men, breast cancer in women, anemia, endometriosis, and other hormonal imbalance conditions. These medications include methandrostenolone, methyltestosterone, danazol, stanozolol, and oxandrolone.

Most anabolic steroids are administered orally while some are injected intramuscularly. Some come in gel or cream form and are used by applying the substances on the skin.

In the United States, these drugs are categorized as Schedule III Controlled Substances because of the probability of harmful adverse effects brought about by the alteration in hormonal production.

Abuse of anabolic steroids is common among those who want to “bulk up” their muscles’ size and reduce body fat. Athletes use anabolic steroids to enhance performance and prolong endurance.

Anabolic steroid abuse can cause severe acne, hair loss and baldness, altered mood, irritability, aggression, depression, infertility, liver disease, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and cancer. Female steroid abusers may experience irregular menstrual cycle and develop male features such as excess facial hair or deepening of voice.

Over-the-counter (OTC) Medications

These are drugs that are readily available at supermarkets, convenience stores, retail shops, and drug stores. They can be purchased even without presenting a physician’s prescription.

The problem isn’t really the drugs but the addictive substances they contain. For instance, cough and cold medications often contain the component called dextromethorphan (DXM) which is intended to suppress cough. However, when taken in higher doses, the ingredient in the drugs cause an “out-of-body” experience, a feeling of being “high”, and can trigger hallucination. Thus, cough medications are the most commonly abused OTC drugs.

Among the effects of cough medication overdose are vomiting, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, hallucination, high blood pressure, and liver damage.

Antihistamines that are sold over-the-counter are also subject to abuse. Some users take these substances for their calming and sleep-inducing effects.

Use of diet supplements are abused for their slimming and fat reducing effects. Most weight-loss products, including herbal preparations, contain a dangerous ingredient called ephedrine. The side effects of ephedrine include insomnia, restlessness, nausea, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, palpitations, and hallucinations.

As with diet supplements, laxatives and diuretics are also chosen for their properties that help promote weight loss. The use is prevalent among teens and young adults who are weight and figure-conscious. Abuse of these substances can cause serious dehydration, electrolyte and mineral imbalance.

Caffeine pills and energy drinks are also frequently abused OTC products. They are taken to achieve higher energy levels and improve performance. Abuse of these substances is common among students and professionals. Large doses can cause adverse effects such as palpitations, anxiety, insomnia, gastric reflux, and increased blood pressure.

While over-the-counter drugs are safe for medical purposes and are beneficial when taken in moderation, they can be harmful when taken in larger doses. They are especially injurious when use is combined with alcohol and illicit drugs.

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Signs and Symptoms

Spotting the signs of prescriptive drug abuse can be challenging because the symptoms vary according to the substance taken. Also, some people are more predisposed to addiction than others due to several factors such as genetics, biological make-up, social environment, and age. These presence of these factors also influence the rate and manner at which the signs become manifest. The more number of risk factors, the greater the chances for a person to develop substance addiction.

Among the common symptoms of abuse include confusion, loss of coordination, nausea, sleeping disorders, mood swings, headaches, dizziness, and vomiting.

Some signs of prescription drug abuse among teens and young adults may involve behavioral changes. These include withdrawal from family and friends, change in hobbies and interests, hostile or aggressive behavior, abrupt change in academic performance, mood swings, and changes in sleeping patterns.

When parents, relatives or friends observe these behaviors in teens and adolescents, it is best that they seek professional advice immediately and implement the appropriate intervention methods to prevent prolonged abuse that can be potentially damaging to their health.

Treatment Approaches

Prescription drug abuse can be treated effectively. For better chances of recovery, the patient’s treatment plan should be customized according to the substance subject of abuse. In many instances, a combination of approaches is necessary to achieve long-term detoxification and rehabilitation goals.

One popular prescription drug abuse treatment approach is behavioral therapy. This is implemented through individual, group, and family counseling sessions. During these sessions, patients are taught strategies to avoid drug use, and to function normally without need for the substances. Effective counseling helps the patients develop improved interpersonal relationships and work functionality.

Some addictions, particularly those where there is significant physiological dependence on the substance, require pharmacological treatments. Medications may be necessary to manage or prevent cravings, as well as to cope with withdrawal symptoms.

As mentioned, it is best that the patient’s treatment plan integrates a combination of these methods to achieve optimum recovery.

Prescription drug abuse is a persistent public health threat in the country that various federal agencies and state legislation are still trying to combat. These efforts include implementation of several regulation, monitoring, treatment, and prevention measures.

However, successful treatment and prevention begins with the individual and within the home. Individuals should not take medications or alter dosages without first seeking a physician or health care professional’s advice. Neither should they pass on these medications to their family members or friends. Personal monitoring and prevention is still the best way to fight this growing crisis.

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Health & Wellness

Obesity Risk Regulated By High Fat Intake on ‘Cheat Days’

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A recent study at the College of Pharmacy of the University of Georgia revealed a new way of preventing obesity. Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the study concluded that alternating between high fat and a nutritionally balanced diet at regular intervals may help in the prevention and treatment of obesity as well as the disorders associated with it.

Scientists at the university fed mice with a high fat diet for a period of five days before changing to regular feed for a period of one, two, or five days. They repeated the process for several weeks and observed the results. The research team discovered that alternating from a regular diet for two or five days between periods of high fat intake will not only help maintain body weight but can also boost insulin sensitivity. Likewise, it can help prevent the accumulation of fat in the liver, which is a common side effect of obesity.

Research authors Dexi Liu and his co-authors Yongjie Ma and Mingming Gao also discovered that an alternating diet can also help reduce obesity in the mice, as reported in a news article. The authors fed several obese mice with an alternating diet for a period of five weeks, which resulted to a 12 percent reduction in fat mass as opposed to controlled animals.

Liu said that the study suggests that people can eat the food that they like, according to what pleases them, but it has to be controlled with periods of rest. Liu warned that the results in mice may not directly apply to humans, although the new findings provide a foundation for new dietary guidelines.

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