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.

diabetes awareness

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.

prescription drug abuse cocktail drugs

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.

prescription drugs

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.

excess prescription drugs

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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Medical Marijuana

Dealing With Employee Medical Marijuana Use in the U.S.

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Marijuana is a psychoactive substance prepared from the dried leaves and flowering tops of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. It is composed of several compounds including over 60 cannabinoids.  The main psychoactive component is delta-9-tetrahdrocanabinol (THC). When taken, marijuana can induce altered perceptions and mood upswings, colloquially called a “high.”

The drug is used for both recreational and medicinal purposes but because the substance is highly addictive, it is either totally outlawed or restricted in most countries. Its therapeutic effects are vastly debated and controversy surrounds the legalization of its use.

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Brief History of Medical Use of Marijuana

The use of marijuana for medical purposes began in ancient China where it was first used as an anesthetic. According to Wikipedia, the narcotic properties of the plant were explored in the country as early as during the first millennium B.C. and it was one of the fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. This practice of utilizing Cannabis to treat various ailments including chronic pain, fever, and dysentery later spread throughout Asia, Africa, Middle East, and the western countries.

Legal History in the United States

Marijuana first entered the United States sometime during the 1900s and was used for recreational purposes. During this period, it became associated with criminality and was banned in several states which passed marijuana prohibition laws. In 1970, it was formally categorized as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Then U.S. President Richard Nixon was strongly opposed to legalizing marijuana and he firmly rejected the recommendations of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse to decriminalize personal possession and use of marijuana and to remove it from the scheduling system.

From the middle to the late 1990s, voters in the United States began showing their support for cannabis prescriptions, against federal policy and FDA regulations.  California was the first state to pass an initiative to permit the use of medical marijuana in 1996, and several other states followed. As of March 2016, 24 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis while 6 other states have pending legislation, according to this report. Meanwhile, marijuana is approved for recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia.

At present, the use of marijuana for any purpose is still criminalized by Federal laws and the substance remains to be classified as a Schedule 1 drug, along with heroin, LSD, and other dangerous substances. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) denied the petition to reschedule marijuana in 2001, maintaining the position that “it has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use for treatment in the United States, and has a lack of safety for use under medical supervision,” as reported in this article.

The FDA policy likewise maintains the same stance. It has only approved two drugs that contain THC. While it is allowed in some states, its use and acquisition are subject to strict qualifying conditions. Only those patients diagnosed with epilepsy, seizures, cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, wasting syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder are legally allowed to obtain cannabis to help alleviate their conditions. However, the use, dosage, and distribution of medical cannabis for the treatment of the aforementioned conditions vary from state to state, according to respective legislation.

As of March 2016, the Marijuana Medical Project recorded an estimate of 1.2 million users of medical marijuana.

Studies on Beneficial Effects of Medical Cannabis

A number of studies have shown that marijuana is effective in controlling and treating various medical conditions. For instance, a 2007 study published in the journal Neurology and conducted by Donald Abrams and colleagues among HIV patients revealed that marijuana is more efficient at reducing neuropathic pain as compared to morphine or other opiates.

Another research which was conducted at the University of Cologne and published in the journal Translational Psychiatry in 2012 found that medical cannabis may be effective for the treatment of schizophrenia.

Also related to mental health was an investigation published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in March 2014. The findings of the study conducted by Dr. George Greer and other physicians revealed that cannabis reduced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorders among patients diagnosed with the illness.

Other studies have found cannabinoids to be effectual in managing nausea and vomiting among patients undergoing chemotherapy.  Moreover, a cancer study conducted by Sean McAllister, Ph.D. in 2011 suggested that the drug could be helpful in controlling metastasis and tumor progression in breast cancer cases.

Other investigations disclosed that marijuana is useful in the treatment of other ailments including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, glaucoma, Parkinson’s Disease, Chron’s Disease, and ALS. In addition, several published studies showed that medical cannabis provides substantial appetite stimulation among HIV and AIDS patients.

Despite numerous findings, the American Medical Association, and other medical organizations stand firm in their opposition to the use of cannabis, arguing that the clinical samples are too small to render the results conclusive and that the reported therapeutic benefits do not outweigh the adverse side effects.

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Legal Controversy Affects the Workplace

Employers in the private sector are not spared from the effects of the controversy. The divergent positions taken by federal and state laws pose a dilemma relevant to the proper application of anti-drug policies in the workplace.

Companies and human resource practitioners find themselves confronting serious questions such as: Should the regulations be relaxed in view of state legalization? May an employer still validly terminate the services of an employee found positive for marijuana use? Must the policies allow employees to smoke marijuana during working hours? The answers have profound effects on the companies’ policy formulation strategies as well as on the industries’ compliance with federal laws.

What makes it more challenging for employers is that legislation varies among states and no standard set of guidelines could be implemented. Thus, they must look to jurisprudential doctrines within their respective jurisdictions for guidance.

In the case Roe v. Teletech Customer Care Management, LLC decided in 2011, the Washington Supreme Court held that the Washington State Medical Use of Marijuana Act does not prevent an employer from validly imposing disciplinary sanctions including termination on an employee for using medical marijuana. This means that the state law legalizing medical cannabis does not impose upon the employer the duty to accommodate the use of marijuana even for medicinal purposes anywhere within the workplace premises.

The same doctrine was laid down by the Oregon Supreme Court in the case of Emerald Steel Fabricators, Inc. v. BLI decided in 2010, which confirmed that the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act did not oblige employers to accommodate the medical use of the drug in the workplace. The Court upheld the validity of the employer’s revocation of the employee’s permanent employment and his subsequent termination.

In a more recent case of Coats v. Dish Network, LLC decided in June 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the validity of the termination of an employee (Brandon Coats) for violation of the company’s anti-drug policy. In the case, Coats had tested positive at a random drug test conducted by the employer and was subsequently discharged. Even though the plaintiff only consumed marijuana in his home after office hours in compliance with Colorado’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities statute, the Court opined that his use of medical marijuana could not be considered lawful per se in view of the strict federal laws that declare it illegal.

The rulings are consistent in upholding the validity of employers’ zero tolerance policies on drug use as well as in maintaining that state legislation authorizing the use of medical marijuana only provide an affirmative defense against criminal prosecution for possession and use of the substance. Such defense, however, does not lend its application to the workplace policies.

How To Deal With Employees Using Medical Marijuana

It can be inferred from the above rulings that courts tend to interpret the laws in favor of the employer and to uphold the employer’s efforts to adhere to federal laws. So how does an employer balance the scales between protecting his business and respecting his employee’s disabilities? Here are a few guidelines:

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Stay abreast on current laws and jurisprudence

It is incumbent upon the employer and the HR professionals to keep up to date with current state laws and case rulings in their respective jurisdictions. Cases doctrines such as those mentioned should be resorted to as basic guidelines in reviewing their company regulations and formulating strategies for the implementation of their policies.

Employers must strive to ensure that their workplace rules are compliant with both federal and state laws. The best way to protect themselves against lawsuits is to confirm that their policies are pursuant to the applicable statutes and case laws.

Discuss accommodation requests

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employee can request an employer to “reasonably accommodate a disability” so that he can perform his work duties. When this request is raised, the employer should be sent to the HR Department where dialogue should be conducted as to the extent of accommodation requested. At this point, the workplace policies must be explained to the employee.

The employer is not mandated to accommodate conditions that may impair work performance or pose potential hardships on the business. Although the Act protects employees against discrimination on the basis of their disabilities, the protection does not extend to use of marijuana. Thus, an employer may qualify that while the “medical condition” may be accommodated, it is subject to the requirement that elected treatment options including medical marijuana will not impair work functions.

Handle exceptions with extreme caution

Employers may choose to make “reasonable exceptions” to their drug policies. But this approach should be taken only after thorough deliberation and careful considerations of possible repercussions. The same note of caution applies in defining “reasonable accommodations.”

For instance, companies that are federal contractors are required to implement the Drug- Free Workplace Act and those operating under the Department of Transportation are mandated to observe certain drug testing standards. Hence, employers must take these matters into strict consideration when attempting to modify their policies to ensure that the implemented regulations do not compromise the company’s adherence to federal laws.

Measure work performance

In the event that accommodation is granted, employers should carefully monitor the employer’s work performance without being discriminatory. Like all other employees, a medical marijuana user is subject to the same performance evaluation procedures but in this case, the employer must check to see if the use of the substance in any way impairs or negatively affects his work output.

For instance, does it cause him to incur tardiness or absenteeism? Does it result in failure to meet work quotas?  If performance issues are linked to cannabis use, the employer is certainly entitled to address the matter and review the accommodation considerations.

Train and communicate

Lawsuits and termination disputes often arise due to a lack of effective communication of company policies and procedures. These could be avoided if the employees are made aware of the employer’s stand on the issue of drug use, to avoid misinterpretation of regulations.

Line managers, supervisors, and HR personnel should especially be trained in communicating and implementing anti-drug policies as well as in handling drug-related concerns. Given the sensitive nature of the issue, it is best addressed professionally. Supervisors and HR personnel should be consistent as to their answers to queries and positions taken on the matter.

Implementing a drug-free workplace policy remains a sound practice that protects the industry from the dangers of drug use. Fortunately, more case laws are now emerging to address the gray areas that affect the implementation of these regulations.  Employers can be assured that their zero-tolerance policies can be validly applied and upheld despite state legalization and decriminalization statutes. Employers must monitor legal developments and consult appropriate legal counsel in cases of doubt to ensure their policies keep up with current laws.

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Health & Wellness

Nutrition Facts Label on Food Products Revised by FDA

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that there is a need to redesign the nutrition facts panel to include sugar content and its appropriate portion per serving. This is to address the unhealthy consumption of individuals leading to diseases. The organization would also like to put emphasis on “calories” and “servings” equated on the number of grams of sugar that is being added on the food, together with the percent daily value for “added” sugar.

It is necessary to have a barometer for these criteria in order to meet the nutrition requirements while staying within the allowed proportion of one’s sugar limits without compromising the scientific mark that supports the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to a news release.

The new law will slated to take effect on July 26. By this date, labels will no longer display “calories from fat”, but instead will indicate the amount of “Total Fat”, “Saturated Fat”, and “Trans Fat” per serving.  Nutritionist and dietitians are all looking forward to this milestone in the history of nutrition. In addition, First Lady Michelle Obama is expected to deliberate on the redesign on Nutrition Facts Label, being an advocate on obesity prevention herself.

The FDA added that it is easier to monitor one’s calorie and nutrient intake if the food or drink is packed per single portion.  The buying public normally looks at the label to define its suitability to their health and dietary requirements.  According to Dr. Robert Califf, FDA Commissioner, the current label system needs some revisions to better help Americans make intelligent decisions in choosing their food to avoid the complications of heart ailments, obesity and diabetes due to their eating patterns.

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Substance Abuse

Leftover Prescription Drugs Not Disposed By Parents

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In a poll survey conducted among 1,200 participants, results showed that one third of the participating parents said their children received narcotic painkillers, as reported in a news release. About 8 percent of parents said they returned excess medicine to the doctor or pharmacy. Another 30 percent of them said they disposed the medicines by flushing it in the toilet or simply put it in the garbage. A good six percent reported keeping the leftovers to be used by other family members, while 9 percent of them said they misplaced the pills.

In addition to all the illicit drugs being used in the U.S., prescription painkillers have become agents of substance abuse due to excess medicine left unattended by parents with children aged 5-17 years old.

Opioid painkillers like Oxycontin or Percocet are used to treat severe to chronic pain due to surgery and illnesses. However, an overdose of these drugs can lead to physiological, cognitive and behavioral problems.

In the U.S. some physicians overprescribe opioid drugs, which may lead to the opportunity to misuse the medication. Oftentimes, the amount of prescribed drugs for pain is far greater than what the patient actually needs.  In the case of children prescribed with painkillers, parents simply keep the excess pills instead of taking these back to the prescribing doctor or the pharmacy.

The issue on leftover prescription drugs not disposed by parents can lead to early addiction of young adults who are very curious, said Sarah Clark, co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

Clark also added that parents may lose the opportunity to inhibit their kids from misusing prescribed medicines. Ignorance and apathy towards the treatment of leftover prescription medication may result to drug addiction in their teenage children.

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