Substance Abuse

Synthetic Marijuana Use Triggers More Hospitalizations in New York

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The thought that New York hospitals take in hundreds of patients a day may sound normal, but not if it’s because of only one cause.

The New York City Health Department issued a statement via a news release, saying that synthetic marijuana has caused 160 people to be sent to emergency rooms in the state within a nine-day period. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that apart from the increase in ER visits, calls received by poison control center have risen as well. “Synthetic drugs are anything but harmless, and this rash of severe health emergencies across the state is direct proof,” Cuomo said.

The city’s health department reiterates that synthetic pot in its various forms — most notably Spice and K2 — is illegal. Dr. Mary Bassett, who works as the city’s Health Commissioner, said that the risk of using synthetic cannabis lies on the fact that the illicit product contains unidentified substances that may be harmful to human health. “There’s no way of knowing exactly what synthetic marijuana contains,” Bassett added.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has frequently warned the public against using synthetic marijuana, saying that some of its side effects include abnormally high heart rate, vomiting, anxiety and hallucinations.

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Early Disease Detection

Italian Doctors Say They’ve Trained Dogs to Sniff Out Prostate Cancer

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Detecting prostate cancer may go to the dogs.

Italian researchers say they’ve trained two female German shepherd dogs to sniff out prostate cancer and the canines have greater than 90% accuracy.

The research team from the Humanitas Clinical and Research Center in Milan, Italy collected urine samples from 362 men diagnosed with prostate cancer at various stages of the disease. They also collected urine samples from 418 men and 122 women who were either healthy, had a different kind of cancer or who had a different health condition.

They then trained Zoe and Liu, three-year-old bomb detection dogs who worked with the Italian armed forces, to detect specific volatile organic compounds in urine associated with prostate cancer.

After the dogs were retrained, they were tested using batches of six urine samples from the men with prostate cancer, positioned at random among the non-prostate cancer urine samples.

One dog correctly identified all of the prostate cancer urine samples and misidentified seven of the non-prostate cancer samples, or 1.3%. The other dog correctly identified 98.6% of the prostate cancer urine samples and misidentified 13 of the non-prostate cancer samples, or 3.6%.

The researchers say the study, published in the Journal of Urology, demonstrates that a rigorously trained dog could sniff out prostate cancer samples with high accuracy. But, more tests are needed to see how well the dogs perform when faced with urine samples collected from men who are being examined for possible prostate cancer.

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Real Drug Stories

Report Says Counterfeit Medicine is More Common Than People Think

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Incidents of counterfeit drugs being passed off as real drugs in actual medical facilities is alarmingly high, according to a recently published report in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, but even more alarming is that many countries may not even be bothering to report incidents of counterfeit medicine.

The study found that of 169 countries, 127 did not report any incidents of counterfeit medicine. Tim Mackey, director of the Global Health Policy Institute says this likely means that many of the countries studied seem to be ignoring the problem altogether.

Counterfeit drugs, the study found, have turned up in places as disparate as small town pharmacies to major clinics in the United States. From 2009 – 2011, the study found just about 1,800 different types of counterfeit medication discovered through just over 1,500 reported “counterfeit incidents” worldwide.

China reported the largest number of counterfeit incidents, followed by Peru, Uzbekistan, Russia, and Ukraine.

The study’s data emphasizes the need for a standardized procedure and system for reporting counterfeit medicine worldwide, Mackey said, especially since 53% of counterfeit drugs fall under “lifesaving-related drug categories.”

“There’s this global drug supply chain, and there’s gaps in it,” Mackey said. “We really need to make this a global priority.”

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Workplace Drug Testing Rules Create Confusion in Marijuana-Friendly States

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With more U.S. states welcoming medical marijuana into the fold, it’s not surprising that employers are confused in terms of implementing workplace drug testing procedures.

A news report revealed how marijuana legalization has changed people’s mindsets about the drug, while employers are scratching their heads as to how the legislation fits into their company rules and regulations. According to Society for Human Resource Management spokesperson Kate Kennedy, workplace drug testing “becoming of increasing interest [to companies], mostly because of changing state legislation on medical and recreational marijuana use.”

Quest Diagnostics, a drug testing company with headquarters in Madison, NJ, recently released a report that shows an increase in positive results for marijuana in the workplace by 6.2 percent in 2013. States that have legalized recreational marijuana were found to have higher increases: Colorado at 20 percent, and Washington at 23 percent.

Although marijuana legislation specifically states that it does not include jurisdiction on existing employment laws, the situation has nevertheless created a dilemma for many employers, whether to enforce stricter workplace policies to ensure zero marijuana-using employees or to accommodate them to a certain degree in order to keep their employees. Some might favor more stringent measures based on a previous report by the U.S. Department of Labor about a loss of roughly $82 billion because of decreased productivity in businesses.

The impact of marijuana use in the business sector is still under assessment, and is still “a changing arena,” said Quest Diagnostics science and technology director Barry Sample.

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Health & Wellness Pregnancy & Fertility

Mothers Who Just Gave Birth May Prevent Smoking Relapse By Breastfeeding

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Women who quit smoking during pregnancy may find themselves going back to the bad habit after giving birth. However, a new study suggests that breastfeeding may prevent this itch to light up a smoke.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York looked into smoking behaviors of pregnant women from the time they were pregnant to months after delivering the child. Although many of the mothers quit smoking during pregnancy, about two-thirds of them relapsed within 3 months after giving birth, while 90 percent of them were found to return to smoking within 6 months.

The study proponents believe that smoking should not be part of the mother’s lifestyle habits even after childbirth. “Increase in tobacco consumption after the birth of a child may have harmful effects on both the mother, and the infant who is at higher risk of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke,” said study co-author Shannon Shisler in a news release.

Upon assessment of data on maternal activities and smoking habits, the researchers found out that women who engaged in breastfeeding for a minimum of 90 days smoked significantly less frequently than those who did not breastfeed their children. “Breastfeeding seems to be a protective factor against increases in smoking after childbirth, so interventions should educate women about breastfeeding to maximize effectiveness. Supporting women through at least 3 months of breastfeeding may have long-term benefits in terms of smoking reduction,” Shisler added.

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Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Teen E-Cigarette Use Increased Three Times In 2014

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The issue on electronic cigarette use by teenagers has escalated to troubling figures, according to a recent report by two of the government’s top health agencies.

A joint report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Center for Tobacco Products of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed that the use of e-cigarettes by high school students increased from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014. The triple increase is “worrisome,” according to CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden. “We’re concerned that there are multiple aspects of e-cigarette use that are concerning that includes addiction to nicotine, effects on the developing brain, and the significant likelihood that a proportion of those who are using e-cigarettes will go on to use combustible cigarettes,” Frieden said in a news item.

The study involved a survey of more than 22,000 students in middle and high school from 2011 to 2014. The participants were asked if they used e-cigarettes at least once for the past 30 days. The representative survey results indicated that the increase in percentage of e-cigarette use represents roughly 2 million high school students hooked on e-cigarettes in 2014, as compared to only 660,000 in the previous year. A similar trend was observed in middle school students, from only 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent last year.

Despite earlier reports of decreased use of tobacco products, Frieden said that this is a bitter pill of a victory. “The decrease in cigarette smoking, of course, it’s a good thing when fewer kids are smoking cigarettes. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to suggest there is a causal relationship between the increase in e-cigarette use and the decrease in child tobacco use,” the CDC director added.

To this day, the FDA has not released any regulations on electronic cigarettes, but discussions are already under way to categorize it in the same group as traditional tobacco cigarettes.

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Substance Abuse

Study: Emergency Department Important In Decreasing Prescription Drug Overdose Cases

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A study recently published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine revealed that emergency departments (EDs) play a vital role in curbing the long-standing issue on prescription drug abuse.

Researchers from Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) surveyed beneficiaries of Project ASSERT from 2011 to 2012 to check the effectiveness of the campaign to offer education and intervention in opioid overdose cases. The initiative provides nasal naloxone rescue kits to emergency departments as a counter-measure for drug overdose patients, as well as education programs focused on overdose prevention.

Results of the survey showed that 73 percent were able to receive nasal naloxone rescue kits from EDs or other sources to counter the overdose. Meanwhile, more than 50 percent of survey respondents were able to report an overdose case and contacted 911 for the necessary assistance, while roughly one third of them were able to use the naloxone kit onto the overdose patient during the rescue.

Study lead author Dr. Kristin Dwyer, who works at the emergency department of BMC, expressed the importance of their research. “This study confirms that the emergency department provides a promising opportunity for opioid overdose harm reduction measures through overdose education and naloxone rescue kit distribution… Our program reached a high-risk population that commonly witnessed overdoses, called for help and used naloxone to rescue people, when available,” Dwyer said in a news release.

Project ASSERT is a banner program of BMC. Beginning in 1993, the project has conducted intervention programs, treatment referrals, and screening for drug and alcohol intoxication.

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Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Marijuana Still A Dangerous Drug, Says Federal Judge

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In a move that will probably delay the acceptance of pot in all U.S. states further, a federal judge did not grant the proposal to exempt marijuana from the Schedule 1 category of dangerous drugs.

According to AP News via Yahoo!, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller refused the removal of marijuana in the category of dangerous drugs characterized as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” The federal judge acknowledges the fact that the drug categorization has not been updated for decades. “It has been 45 years since Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act,” Mueller said. She adds that the changes in society and culture has definitely brought up the need to revisit the classification set by the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) Scheduling.

Despite the circumstances behind a possible yes vote, Mueller said that “this is not the court and this is not the time” to change things in the drug scheduling act.

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws deputy director Paul Armentano expressed that had Mueller rejected the inclusion of marijuana into the Schedule 1 drug category, it “would have been significant because you would have had a federal judge acknowledging what a majority of the public has already concluded: That marijuana does not meet the three criteria of a Schedule 1 drug.”

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Health & Wellness

Type 1 Diabetes Children Have High Risk Of Hospital Admissions

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According to a new study published in the BMJ Open journal, children diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes are more likely to be hospitalized.

The study analyzed data from the Brecon Group Register to assess the main reasons behind kids with Type 1 Diabetes being admitted to hospitals. Close to 1,600 children not exceeding 15 years old and residing in Wales, U.K. were cross-referenced with 7,800 child admission cases selected at random from the Patient Episode Database for Wales (PEDW).

Results of the study showed that kids diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes were up to five times more likely to be sent to the hospital compared to those without the debilitating disease. “It is unsurprising that complications of suboptimal management, such as hypoglycaemia [low blood sugar] and ketoacidosis [excess sugar and acid in the blood] occur, leading to hospitalisation,” the researchers said in a news release.

Type 1 Diabetes continues to be a growing health issue for children worldwide. In the U.K. alone, a steady annual increase of up to 4 percent in the number of diabetes cases has been recorded. Meanwhile, people with Type 1 Diabetes are roughly nine times more likely to die before age 30 compared to the general population.

Real Drug Stories

What does 4/20 mean and where did it come from?

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You may have heard people talking about “four-twenty” (4/20) lately. It usually comes up at this time of year. But, if you’re not familiar with the term, you may be asking yourself just what people are talking about.

It is a kind of code among people who smoke marijuana (although it is well-known among non-smokers, too) to reference marijuana and things associated with it. The term “4/20 friendly” means a person or establishment is accepting of marijuana.

In recent years, 4/20 has been associated with the date April 20. It can also be said in reference to the time of day, 4:20 (usually pm). The number combination, especially in reference to the date, has become synonymous with marijuana culture and the marijuana legalization movement.

On that date, it is common for people to gather in a designated spot and smoke marijuana in mass numbers. Even in places where marijuana is illegal, these types of mass demonstrations almost never result in any arrests because they are usually peaceful and it would be cumbersome for police to try and arrest so many people at once.

If you hear people talking about “going to 4/20” they are almost certainly talking about attending one of these demonstrations in their respective communities on April 20. But, 4/20 can also be used in reference to marijuana in general at any time of the year or any time of the day.

Where is it from?

One common misconception is that the date 4/20 has something to do with late reggae singer and marijuana enthusiast Bob Marley. Typically, it was said to either be his birthday or the date of his death. However, Marley was neither born nor did he die on April 20.

On the Wikipedia page for 4/20 [420 (cannabis culture)], the origins are said to go back to a small group of teenagers in San Rafael, California who, back in 1971, met at a designated spot at 4:20 pm each day to search for an abandoned marijuana crop they had heard about.

The teens would talk to each other about their meetings and hunts for the crop (which they apparently never found) with the phrase “four-twenty.” This eventually became a phrase for them that signified marijuana smoking in general. The phrase was eventually picked up by High Times magazine (a popular cannabis culture magazine) and spread through that media. It was also apparently adopted by followers of the band The Grateful Dead.

Exactly how the date April 20 got connected with the phrase is unclear, but it is now an international counter-culture holiday with unofficial events held across North America and in several countries around the world.

This, of course, makes 4/21 unofficial national “random” drug testing day.

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