Testing It Up » April 2012

Monthly Archives: April 2012

Health & Wellness

Are Softdrinks the Primary Culprit for Obesity?

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It is a reality that the United States is facing at this time, health-wise: that obesity has risen to epidemic proportions, even among children. And among the foods that are being singled out as one of the primary causes of obesity are soft drinks.

Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Children’s Hospital in Boston, said: “Soft drinks and sugar-containing beverages are the low hanging fruit in public health today… Many children are consuming 300 calories per day or more, just in sugar-containing beverages. Compare the challenge of giving up three glasses of sugary beverages, versus getting them to do two hours of moderate physical activity.”

Those who are in the soft drink industry, however, said that these sugary drinks are being unfairly singled out in the fight against obesity. Karen Hanretty, Vice-President of Public Affairs for the American Beverage Association, shared: “Consumption of added sugars is going down… Soda consumption has declined, even as obesity has increased. To say that sugar is solely responsible for obesity, doesn’t make sense.”

The hugely popular Coca-Cola, on the other hand, revealed that it has adapted to meet consumer demand, according to Vice President and Chief Scientific Regulatory Officer Rhona Applebaum. Consumers have increasingly favored low-sugar products, with Diet Coke and Coke Zero making up 41% of Coke’s North American soda sales. She shared: “Our products are part of a balanced, sensible diet, and they can be enjoyed as a valuable part of any meal, including snacks.”

Substance Abuse

Community Comes Together Versus Underage Drinking

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Residents in the Attleboro, Massachusetts have banded together of an undeniably worthy cause: preventing underage drinking.

It is an issue that runs close to home, as the community bore witness to a tragedy involving 17-year-old Taylor Meyer of Plainville, who drowned in a swamp after binge drinking at a party.

It is a situation that has played out in other communities as well. Underage drinking is a concern that the entire country is attempting to deal with, and communities are coming together to ensure that such tragedies do not happen again.

Townhall meetings nationwide are conducted, as part of an initiative to address the issue of underage drinking. One such townhall was hosted by Manhasset CASA, and aims to raise awareness about the negative consequences of underage drinking. The event was supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), along with the federal government’s Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking.

Present during the meeting were experts from the fields of health, science, and the law, as well as the youth.

Dr. Stephen Dewey from the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research of North Shore-LIJ Health System talked about how the young people of today engage in excessive drinking, and what dangers these behaviors pose. He said: “The consequence of being sick the following morning is one thing. But 10, or 20 or 30 years down the road, it is something far more serious.”

Substance Abuse

Rid Your Home of Unwanted Drugs

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April 28 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, and Americans across the country are encouraged to scour their homes and get rid of all unused, expired, and unwanted prescription drugs, before these become a danger to your family and the environment.

Prescription drug take-back events are happening in several areas in America; in Massachusetts, West Virginia, and Rhode Island, there are designated spots that residents can go to and drop off unwanted drugs, so that these can be disposed of properly and safely. The program starts from 10 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon, during which time anyone can drop off medicines that have been sitting in medicine cabinets and cupboards, no questions asked.

The event is part of the program set up by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, in an effort to ensure that prescription medication does not fall into unauthorized hands and abused. It also ensures that these medicines are properly disposed of, instead of being haphazardly thrown away and polluting the environment.

West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw shared: “This initiative addresses an important public health and safety issue… Medicines left in home cabinets are highly susceptible to misuse, and abuse.”

There are studies that indicate that in cases of prescription drug abuse, most of the drugs being abused are obtained from family and friends, including the home medicine cabinet. If anything, the home has become the most convenient and cheapest source of drugs.

Over the past couple of years, nearly 500 tons of drugs have been disposed through these take-back programs.

Substance Abuse

U.S. Teens Found to Have Highest Rates of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

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Young teens in the United States are said to engage in some of the riskiest health behaviors, when compared against their peers from other countries.

A study, published in the British medical journal Lancet, indicated that adolescents from the United States have the highest rates of drug and alcohol abuse in the developed world. They were also found to be more likely to be killed by violence, when compared against teens in Europe, and have the most percentage of teens aged 13 to 15 who are overweight.

Despite these results, however, teenagers in the United States have the highest exercise rates in the world. Sexual behavior, on the other hand, was average for the developed world; about 25 percent admitted to engaging in sex before reaching the age of 15.

The results formed part of a Lancet report on adolescent health, which was formulated based on an analysis of data from UNICEF. According to the researchers, adolescents and young adults have not been able to enjoy the same success as children and infants, in so far as health is concerned; the latter age group has seen an improvement in health in the past half a century.

The release of the report, the second series on adolescent health, coincided with the session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development meeting in New York.

The authors wrote: “Today’s 1.8 billion adolescents are more exposed to harmful alcohol consumption, sexually transmitted diseases, and other risks than in the past, and face other new challenges such as social media.”

Substance Abuse

Addicts and Loved Ones Given Access to Antidote for Overdose

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A drug that used to be present only in emergency rooms and ambulances as an antidote for a drug overdose is now being made available to addicts themselves, as well as their families.

The drug, which carries the generic name naloxone, counteracts the effects of such drugs as heroin and OxyContin, as well as other powerful painkillers. In recent years, public officials have resorted to distributing the drug to addicts and their loved ones, as well as some police and firefighters, for free.

These free antidotes have saved more than 10,000 lives, since the first program was begun in Chicago in 1996, based on the results of a survey conducted by the Harm Reduction Coalition, a group that strives to reduce the consequences of drug use.

The program, however, elicits mixed reactions. Advocates of the program believe that having naloxone, normally issued only through a prescription, in the home saves lives which may otherwise be lost while waiting for help to arrive.

Dr. Russell Portenoy, chairman of pain medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, shared: “The question has always been: How can we get people treated before they die? If an overdose of the drug is taken at home, you won’t have enough time to get that patient to the emergency room before respiratory depression leads to death.”

Others, however, believe that easy access to an antidote may accommodate drug use, and make it less likely for addicts to seek treatment.

Hilary Jacobs, deputy director of the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services in Massachusetts, shared, however: “If you’ve ever talked to a parent who watched their kid overdose, you wouldn’t wonder why we are doing this.”

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Healthy Lifestyle Urged for Cancer Survivors

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The American Cancer Society has issued new guidelines encouraging doctors to talk to cancer patients about the benefits of eating right, exercising, and losing weight, when it comes to preventing the disease from coming back.

Experts are referring to strong evidence that exercise and eating healthy helps prevent recurrence of the disease.

Dr. Omer Kucuk, an oncologist at Emory University who has done research on the effect of nutrition on prostate cancer, shared: “Usually, the last thing on their mind is to talk about diet and exercise.” What doctors normally focus on, he added, is surgery, chemotherapy, or other treatments.

While officials of the American Cancer Society have long been advocates of healthy eating and exercise as a way to prevent the onset and recurrence of certain cancers, the group did not believe that there was enough research to support a strong statement for cancer survivors, at least until now.

In the last five years, there have been more than 100 studies involving cancer survivors, many of which associated exercise and/or a healthy diet with lower recurrence rates for cancer, as well as longer survival. Most of these studies looked at breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer, and involved observational studies. While these studies cannot prove a cause and effect, the volume of research was defined as “compelling.”

Colleen Doyle, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society, shared: “We’ve got enough data now to make these recommendations.”

Celebrity Substance Abuse Substance Abuse

Russell Brand Talks to MPs Committee on Addiction and Rehabilitation

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Stand-up comedian and actor Russell Brand talked about drug addiction, and how it should be treated as a health issue, as opposed to a criminal or judicial concern.

Brand, a former heroin addict, spoke before the Commons home affairs select committee. He wore a black hat, gold chains and crosses, and a torn black vest top.

He shared that it would be “a brilliant idea” to divert the costs associated with “nicking people for possession” to fund drug abuse treatment and education programs. He also stressed his belief in the need for a recovery approach based on abstinence, saying: “We don’t want to discard people by writing them off on methadone and leaving them on the sidelines.”

Chip Somers, chief executive of the detox center Focus 12, where Brand sought help for addiction, shared: “Just to park people on methadone for four to seven years is criminal.”

Brand called for “love and compassion” in society’s response to addiction, sharing that his own addiction to drugs was caused by emotional and psychological difficulties, as well as a spiritual malady; it was important to address these, he said, versus treating addicts as criminals.

The MPs on the committee suggested to Brand that being a celebrity, he could serve as a role model for young people. To this, he retorted: “Who cares about bloody celebrities? Their role is insignificant,” and added that he was not trying to get a message to young people. He said that he was reaching out to people dealing with addiction, and hoped to ensure that the response to addicts was based on “truth and authenticity.”

Health & Wellness

Did Coca-Cola Habit Play a Role in Death of NZ Woman?

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Did Coca-Cola play a role in the death of a 30-year-old stay-at-home mother of eight in February 2010?

The late Natasha Harris, who succumbed to a heart attack, consumed between 2.1 to 2.6 gallons of soda a day, based on testimony from her partner, Chris Hodgkinson. He gave the following statement in a deposition: “The first thing she would do in the morning was to have a drink of Coke beside her bed and the last thing she would do at night was have a drink of Coke… She was addicted to Coke.”

Hodgkinson is saying that Coca-Cola should place warning labels on their products.

On April 19, Dr. Dan Mornin testified that Harris may have suffered from hypokalemia, or low potassium, as a result of her fondness for Coca-Cola. He testified further that the toxic levels of caffeine in the product may also have contributed to her death.

Harris’ family, on the other hand, testified that she smoked about 30 cigarettes a day and had poor nutrition. Her sister, Raelene Finlayson, shared: “They didn’t live the best lives, but Tasha always put those kids first… They never went without food or anything like that.”

She also said that she did not personally hold Coca-Cola responsible for Harris’ death: “Nobody forced Tasha to drink all that … It’s like anything, we all know anything in moderation is ok.”

Coca-Cola, however, gave the following statement: “We concur with the information shared by the coroner’s office that the grossly excessive ingestion of any food product, including water, over a short period of time with the inadequate consumption of essential nutrients, and the failure to seek appropriate medical intervention when needed, can be dramatically symptomatic .”

Substance Abuse

Teens Hospitalized for Trying to Get Drunk on Hand Sanitizer!

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First, we saw the rise of prescription drug abuse, as well as the use of synthetic drugs such as Spice. But it does not end there, as young people seem to continue to look for other ways to achieve that certain “high.”

Six teens ended up in emergency rooms in California, after drinking hand sanitizer in order to get drunk. Dr. Bill Mallon, who works in the emergency room at Los Angeles County USC Medical Center, shared that he had seen a number of young people being taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning, after drinking hand sanitizer.

Mallon said: “It doesn’t sound appealing, but you have to remember that kids don’t have access to alcohol so they’re very creative.”

Cyrus Rangan, director of the toxicology bureau for the L.A. County Public Health Department and a medical toxicology consultant for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, told KTLA that taking hand sanitizer is “essentially a shot of hard liquor.” He said further: “All it takes is just a few swallows and you have a drunk teenager.”

Liquid hand sanitizer is inexpensive and accessible, things that can be attractive to teenagers. It is 62 percent ethyl alcohol, and 120-proof after distillation; instructions for distillation can be found online.

Doctors reveal that hand sanitizer is the latest over the counter product that teenagers are using to get high; other products include mouthwash, cough syrup, and vanilla extract. They suggest monitoring liquid hand sanitizer, or purchase the foam version as it is more difficult to extract alcohol from it.

Celebrity Substance Abuse Substance Abuse

Promoters Gave Me Drugs – Demi Lovato

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Young star Demi Lovato has spoken out a few times about the various challenges that she has encountered in her life – including drug use and an eating disorder.

Lovato talked about struggling with depression, bullying, eating disorder and self-harm, among others. She also talked about how young Hollywood is able to get their hands on drugs and alcohol.

The 19-year-old singer, who went into rehab when she was 18, shared that her drug and alcohol use stemmed from her loneliness.

The New York Post shared the following response from Lovato, when she was asked if she had been using cocaine: “It’s something I don’t really want to talk about… What I can say is that I was depressed. I would come off stage in front of 18,000 people and suddenly be alone in a hotel room. I’d come crashing down and would try to find a way to recreate that feeling, to stay ‘up.’”

Lovato revealed further that it was not a problem to gain access to drugs and alcohol, saying: “Promoters gave me drugs and alcohol in restaurants or clubs… They wanted me to come back so I would be seen there. They were basically kissing my [expletive.]”

She also said: “I thought they were my friends. I thought I was having fun. Being a celebrity can be dangerous. Nobody says ‘no.’ That’s why so many end up overdosing and dying. It could definitely have happened to me.”

The singer said that she no longer drinks alcohol, although she admitted that she was still struggling with self harm and bulimia.