Testing It Up » October 2012

Monthly Archives: October 2012

Substance Abuse

Exclusive Interview: Women for Sobriety Aims to Help Female Alcoholics

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Women today face a myriad of issues — work, stress, domestic responsibilities, hormones, and diet — that can have a significant impact to their health. For some, alcohol  present yet another health challenge that when ignored could wreak havoc not only in their personal lives, but also in their social relationships.

In the United States, an estimated 5.3 million women drink in a way that threatens their health, safety, and general well-being, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

While moderate drinking, defined as no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men, is fine, those who drink more than the recommended limits are at risk for motor vehicle crashes, other injuries, high blood pressure, stroke, violence, suicide, and certain types of cancer. That said, health officials have been urging people with alcohol problems to get into treatment to regain control of their lives.

But oftentimes, the realization of getting sober doesn’t come easy. Good thing there are women-focused recovery groups like Women for Sobriety, Inc. that is dedicated in helping women overcome alcoholism and other addictions.

In an exclusive interview with TestCountry, Nancy Cross, 2nd Vice President of Women for Sobriety Board of Directors, talks about how the organization started and gave details on a specially designed program for women with alcohol and/or other drugs problems. She also shares their stand on synthetic drugs and the efforts that are undertaking to address synthetic drug abuse.

To read the full text of the interview, please visit Women for Sobriety Inc. Exclusive Interview About Alcoholism & Other Addictions.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Experts Talk About Possible Health Risks in Hurricane Sandy’s Wake

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Experts warn residents of  hardest-hit areas to be extra careful as they struggle to get back on their feet in the wake of super storm Sandy.

With high flood waters, debris, and falling trees still visible in many parts of the affected states, short- and long-term health hazards lurk around every bend.

“Don’t try to deal with electricity while any part of your body is touching water,” Dr. Pavani Ram, associate professor of social and preventive medicine at the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions, said in a HealhDay.com report. “If you’re standing in water, you shouldn’t be trying to turn the electricity off or touch any kind of electrical appliance.”

Ram also mentioned the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from small generators, especially those placed in poorly ventilated areas like the garage or basement. Additionally, the amount of water released by Sandy could mean a shortage of clean drinking water, thus, residents are urged to stick to bottled or boiled water until water-related advisories from the health department or local water authority have confirmed the safety of drinking water within their localities.

Build up of toxic molds and pollen is another thing residents should be vigilant about. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), big storms, such as in the case of Sandy, boost concentrations of pollen and mold which could be a threat to people’s health.

On another note, Dr. Joseph Guarisco, chief of emergency services at Ochsner Health System in New Orleans, said clean-up and recovery efforts could raise cases of injuries and illnesses, such as electrical injuries, hand injuries, soft tissue injuries from falls and slips, eye injuries. Thus, he advised that people wear protective gear during clean up and reconstruction and to stay away from power lines.

“We were inundated with recovery and clean-up injury-related illness more than anything for quite some time after the storm,” Guarisco said.

Substance Abuse

More Maine Kids Placed in Foster Care Due to Increasing Bath Salts-abusing Parents

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Maine is seeing an upsurge in the number of kids needing foster care because of their parents’ involvement in synthetic drugs, particularly bath salts.

The mbpn.net reports that the state has transferred $1 million in unspent funds to the office of child and family services to cover the needs of 200 children whose parents are abusing bath salts.

During the recent Legislature’s Appropriations Committee meeting, Therese Cahill-Low, the director of the Office of Child and Family Services, said there are more children in the state’s foster care program today compared to eleven months ago.

“The reasoning for that, as I talk with staff, is that they are seeing severe, severe neglect on behalf of parents who are particularly involved in substances – particularly finding in the Bangor area, bath salts,” Cahill-Low said. “The effect of that substance has been detrimental to families.”

Officials at Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) were using the unspent funds to cover the unexpected cost of the program, but lawmakers reckon that the state’s foster care cost will increase as families disintegrate in the aftermath of a bath salts epidemic.

Cahill-Low said she is working with Maine’s Office of Substance Abuse to find out how state agencies can better respond to the problems that bath salts drug abuse is creating in the state.

“The problem with bath salts is that when people are taking bath salts they are incredibly unpredictable, and the long-term effects are unknown,” Cahill-Low added. “And so treatment is really kind of an unknown, I believe, at this point as to how to treat that kind of addiction, and whether or not these people are actually ready to be treated.”

Health & Wellness

Smoke-free Laws Cut Hospitalizations for Heart Attacks, Strokes, and Asthma

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A new study found smoking bans around the world have significantly lowered hospitalization for heart attacks, strokes, and asthma.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco conducted meta-analysis wherein they reviewed 45 studies that looked at smoke-free laws in the United States and around the world to gauge the effectiveness of smoking bans, HealthDay.com reports.

Based on the findings, the no smoking laws in 33 locales resulted to a 15 percent decline  in hospitalizations for heart attack and a 16 percent reduction in hospitalizations for strokes. Hospitalizations for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory illnesses have also dropped by 24 percent because of smoking bans.

“Smoke-free laws have dramatic and immediate impacts on health and the associated medical costs,” said lead researcher Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco.

Glantz added that while more comprehensive laws have greater impact to people’s health, less comprehensive laws had been associated with more hospitalizations. He also said exclusions of indoor air laws send more people in the emergency room and lead to unnecessary and substantial medical costs for the patients, their employers and taxpayers.

The report was published online Oct. 29 in the journal Circulation.

Drug Testing Substance Abuse

University of Alabama at Birmingham Students Detect Meth on Currency

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Two students from the University of Alabama Birmingham found traces of methamphetamine on $1 bills. It was the first time that meth contamination has been identified on currency since they began testing for their research in 2008.

In an article published on UAB website, Jessi Mann, a UAB senior participating in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, and Brandon Fultz, a senior chemistry major, tested a total of four sets of twenty $1 bills from Jefferson County.

The bills were collected from a variety of sources: two sets came from a home-improvement store in the northern part of the county; one set from a fast-food restaurant in downtown Birmingham; and the last from a home-improvement store in the western part of the county.

The highest instance of meth contamination was detected on the bills from the home-improvement store in north Jefferson County, with 17 out of the 20 bills. The lowest instance of contamination was found in downtown Birmingham, with 2 out of the 20 bills.

According to Randy Christian, chief deputy in the Jefferson County Alabama Sheriff’s Office, the students’ finding was “not surprising at all,” saying it reflects the arrests made within the county.

“The majority of meth-related arrests seem to occur in northern and western Jefferson County, while central and southern parts see fewer of these types of arrests. Meth possession appears to be more prevalent in more rural parts of the county. This is likely due to the secrecy involved in the manufacturing process and the demographics of the users,” Christian said.

For Mann, Fultz, and Elizabeth Gardner, Ph.D., a justice sciences assistant professor, their theory is that the contamination came directly from the meth, but Gardner is also saying she thinks “the contamination on currency is coming from sweat.”

In 2009, UAB students found 65 percent of $1 bills in Birmingham had traces of cocaine. Their new finding will be published in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Microgram Journal later this year.

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

New Poll Shows 54% of Washington Voters Support Marijuana Legalization

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A poll released on Monday finds 54% of voters from Washington state is in favor of Initiative 502 (I-502) that would legalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational use among people age 21 and older.

According to the polls from Strategies 360, a Seattle-based political consulting firm, only 38% of Washington voters opposed the initiative and about 7% said they were undecided, The Seattle Times reports.

Two other states considering similar measure are Colorado and Oregon. The latest poll in Colorado shows 48% of the voters favor marijuana legalization measure, but support is weakening and opposition is firming up. Legalization is also on the ballot in Oregon, however, the measure is far behind in the polls.

The poll by Strategies 360 wasn’t the first to show the numbers of those in favor of marijuana legalization in Washington. Earlier, a survey from SurveyUSA and KING 5 NEWS reveals 55% of Washington voters would want marijuana legalized in the state. In another poll, conducted by KCTS 9 Washington, 51% of the voters support the measure, compared to the 41% who are not in favor of it.

If passed, Initiative 502 would legalize possession of marijuana for adults who are 21 years and older. It would also tax marijuana sales, license and regulate marijuana production and distribution, as well as remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that it authorizes.

Health & Wellness

New Consumer Report Says Caffeine Info on Energy Drinks Not Always Accurate

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Consumer Reports magazine reveal on Thursday that energy drinks manufacturers do not spell out on labels the amount of caffeine in their beverages and when they do, the details are not always accurate.

According to the study conducted by the magazine, 11 of the 27 top-selling energy drinks in the country do not say how much caffeine their products contain. Of the 16 drinks that specified caffeine amount, 5 had more caffeine per serving than was listed and the average amount over was more than 20 percent, the Foxnews.com reports.

“There is no legal or commercial business requirement to do so,” a Monster Beverage official told Consumer Reports about why beverage companies do not divulge exact caffeine levels on their energy drinks. “And because our products are completely safe, and the actual numbers are not meaningful to most consumers.”

The study came at a time when the FDA acknowledged its ongoing investigation on the five deaths that were allegedly associated with Monster Beverage Corp’s Monster Energy drink.

On December 2011, a 14-year-old girl from Maryland succumb to heart attack after drinking just two cans of Monster energy drink. The victim’s parents filed a lawsuit against the energy drink’s manufacturer, but the company maintained they don’t believe their products have in any way caused death.

The drinks that Consumer Reports found to contain more caffeine than was listed on their labels included Arizona Energy, Clif Shot Turbo Energy Gel and Sambazon Organic Amazon Energy, as well as Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc’s Venom Energy and Nestle Jamba.

Celebrity Substance Abuse Drug Testing

Sam Lutfi Told Jurors Britney Spears Shaved Head to Avoid Drug Test

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Britney Spears’ self-styled manager took the stand on Tuesday and told jurors that Britney Spears shaved her head for fear that she’d be subjected to a hair drug test to detect history of drug use.

Sam Lutfi is suing Britney for breach of contract. He said Britney offered him 15% of her $800,000-per-month income to become her manager, but did not receive a dime during months of service, the nydailynews.com reports.

In his testimony, Lutfi claimed the singer “relapsed” on drugs in Sept. 2007. He said he once brought drug-sniffing dogs into her mansion and found a bag of white powder that he flushed down the toilet. His lawyer previously told the jurors that the powder was crystal meth.

“She told me that she had wanted to get clean but that she was struggling with it,” Lutfi said on the stand. “Britney was involved in a wicked child custody battle. She told me someone told her they could scientifically test her hair for history of drug use, so she shaved it all off.”

Aside from Britney, Lutfi was also suing her father for physical assault and her mother for defamation after she called him a “Svengali” and “predator” in her book “Through the Storm.”

Substance Abuse

How Marijuana Abuse Could Affect a Person’s Health

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Marijuana is the most commonly abused banned substance in the United States. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2009 more than 28 million Americans, age 12 and older, had abused the drug at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. Past studies have reflected the adverse effects of marijuana to its users, but still, the problem of abuse is far from being resolved.

In one of our previous posts, we cited a Duke University study that says people who frequently use marijuana are at risk of  slowing down their IQ. The finding may not be the scariest to date in terms of marijuana side effects, but it’s still worrisome. If you’re a parent, you’re aware how challenging it is to never be able to keep an eye on your children, especially the moment they go out of the house. If you’re raising an adolescent it’s even more difficult because it’s that time when peer pressure is at its strongest and experimenting with drugs may not be far from happening.

Aside from marijuana’s effects on intelligence, it could also wreak havoc on the user’s mental capacities. An Australian study involving 14- and 15-year-olds found that those who used marijuana weekly as teenagers were twice as likely to have depression as a young adult than women who did not use the drug.

Another study which assessed the participants for signs of marijuana abuse and symptoms of depression found that people who initially did not have depressive symptoms but abused marijuana were more than four times as likely to have depressive symptoms.

Marijuana use could also have some negative effects on hormonal system and reproduction. Similarly, it can cause physical problems, ranging from dry mouth and red eyes to increased heart rate and blood pressure.

Workplace Testing

North Iowa Health Care Providers Expressed Concerns About Delayed Employee Background Checks

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North Iowa long-term care providers expressed on Monday at a legislative forum some of their pertinent concerns which include delays in obtaining background checks for new employees and the lack of access to the Elderly Waiver for assisted living residents.

The forum was held at the I.O.O.F Home, sponsored by the Iowa Health Care Association (IHCA) and Iowa Center for Assisted Living (ICAL).

“With the technology we have today, I think it’s kind of ludicrous,” Deb Haugen, administrator of the I.O.O.F. Home, told the globalgazette.com.

Haugen is referring to employee criminal background checks that take several weeks to process which in causing them to lose some competent employees who can’t wait that long to get hired.

Steve Ackerson, executive director of the IHCA and ICAL, explained that the process is slowed down because of the growing number of employers requiring background checks. However, he said the problem could be addressed if by upgrading technology and adding more full-time employee hours at the state level.

Other issues discussed at the forum is about the Elderly Waiver and the high property taxes being paid by residents in assisted living homes.

Rep. Linda Upmeyer (R-Garner) and Rep. Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City) who were present at the forum said they often hear complaints about the background checks and Elderly Waivers. Upmeyer suggested legislators to coordinate with the appropriate state agencies to see if there is a way of addressing the problems effectively.