Substance Abuse

Synthetic Marijuana Use Shoots Up In Austin, Texas

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The ongoing bout against synthetic drugs doesn’t seem to be budging anytime soon, according to a recent report from Texas.

The Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service said that 277 cases of synthetic marijuana intoxication were reported by EMS centers in Austin. Travis County EMS captain Rick Rutledge said that the use of synthetic cannabis products such as Spice and K2 triggered various physiological reactions in reported cases in the past, which include high heart rate and blood pressure, pupil dilation, panic attacks and seizures. However, recent cases were reported to exhibit the exact reverse. “After May 29 for awhile we had the opposite effect… decreased heart rate and blood pressure, comatose and a difficulty waking up,” Rutledge said in a news report. The EMS chief attributes this change in symptoms to alterations in the chemical composition of the synthetic marijuana products.

Austin Police Department Public Information Office spokesperson Veneza Bremner said that the reason behind the spike in use of synthetic pot is the lack of restriction or regulation within the city. “Currently, it is not illegal to possess or use (synthetic marijuana),” said Bremner. This will change come September, when Senate Bill 172 — to categorize synthetic marijuana under the Texas Controlled Substance Act — gets enacted.


Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Toddlers Exposed To Smoking Parents Have Higher Risk Of Weight Gain

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The link may not be as direct, but a recent study found out that children tend to gain more weight when they’re exposed to secondhand smoke at toddler age.

Scientists from the University of Montreal and Sainte Justine Research Centre discovered this link after looking into data from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development, which followed more than 2,000 families with growing children. Study lead author Linda Pagani said that results of the study pointed to an unexpected link between child body mass index and the smoking behavior of parents. “By the age of ten, the children who had been intermittently or continuously exposed to smoke were likely to have waists that were up to three-fifths of an inch wider than their peers. And their BMI scores were likely to be between .48 and .81 points higher,” Pagani said in a news item.

Despite the staggering results of the study, the researchers believe that the numbers don’t quite tell the real story behind the families. “We suspect the statistics we’ve established linking childhood obesity to exposure to parents’ smoking may underestimate the effect due to parents under reporting the amount they smoked out of shame,” Pagani stated. Nevertheless, the study lead author emphasized that their discovery is as dangerous as when pregnant mothers engage in tobacco use. “This prospective association is almost as large as the influence of smoking while pregnant,” Pagani added.

The research team believes that the reason behind the higher weight gain may be related to improper child development in the presence of tobacco smoke. “Early childhood exposure to second hand smoke could be influencing endocrine imbalances and altering neurodevelopmental functioning at this critical period in hypothalamic development, thus damaging vital systems which undergo important postnatal growth and development until middle childhood,” Pagani further said.


Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

New Blood Test Could Predict Alzheimer’s Disease by a Full Decade

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A new blood test could predict if someone is going to develop Alzheimer’s disease by up to 10 years, scientists have announced.

British researchers have identified a single blood protein that acts as a warning sign for mild cognitive impairment – a disorder that is often the precursor to dementia.

In the largest study of its kind, the researchers measured more than 1,100 proteins in the blood of 106 pairs of twins. They tracked the 212 healthy adults over 10 years and found those whose thinking skills diminished the most had lower levels of an individual protein called MAPKAPK5.

The research is still at an early stage, but scientists hope that it might be developed into a test that can help identify those who are at risk of developing dementia.

Study author Dr Steven Kiddle, of King’s College London, said: “Although we are still searching for an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, what we do know is that prevention of the disease is likely to be more effective than trying to reverse it. The next step will be to replicate our finding in an independent study, and to confirm whether or not it is specific for Alzheimer’s disease, as this could lead to the development of a reliable blood test which would help clinicians identify suitable people for prevention trials.”

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Health & Wellness Real Drug Stories

People Who Believe Alcohol is Good for Them Tend to Cite Media Reports, Drink More

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People who believe that alcohol is good for them tend to cite media reports that say this and they also tend to drink more, a new study shows.

Many studies have shown there might be a link between drinking a moderate amount of alcohol per day (usually one drink) and staving off heart disease. But, a new study led by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, found that while 39% of people believe alcohol is unhealthy for the heart, 30% believed it to be beneficial and 31% said they were unsure.

Surprising to researchers was that 80% of people who said alcohol was heart healthy said they discovered these supposed benefits via media reports. Unsurprisingly, these people also consumed an average of 47% more alcohol than those who said it wasn’t healthy.

While many studies have been published suggesting a link between moderate alcohol consumption — particularly red wine — there has been no definitive proof that it has any health benefits.

“It is particularly interesting to note that those who believe alcohol to be heart healthy actually drink more alcohol,” said Dr. Gregory Marcus, director of clinical research at UCSF’s Division of Cardiology, in a statement. “Whether their belief causes this behavior, or merely justifies it, remains an interesting unknown.”

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Health & Wellness

Study: Risk Of Breast Cancer Increased With Obesity in Males

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Breast cancer in men may not be as common as other diseases, but obesity increases the risk according to a new study.

Prof. Valerie Speirs led a team of researchers from the University of Leeds’ School of Medicine to investigate a potential link between obesity and breast cancer in men. “We have known for a long time that fat cells contain enzymes that convert male hormones (testosterone) into female hormones (estrogen). It follows logically that the more fat you carry the more opportunity you have for estrogen production, so men with a body mass index over 25 have more female hormones in their blood. We also know that more than 90 percent of male breast cancers seen in the clinic have receptors on the cell surface that recognize these female hormones and use them to grow,” Speirs said in a news release.

The study, which was published in BMC Medicine, traced the link to high amounts of cholesterol in people diagnosed with obesity. “Obese men tend to have much higher cholesterol levels, so they have more of the estrogen-mimicking compound in their bodies, which also encourages cancer growth,” said study co-author Matthew Humphries.

Obesity is inching its way as the leading cause of cancer, beyond smoking tobacco. The researchers believe that the results of their study will provide more information on the hazards of obesity. “As well as raising awareness of male breast cancer we also wish to stress that obesity is a preventable condition and men can take measures to reduce their risk of developing the disease, including eating a healthier diet. This is especially important for men at higher risk, for example, those with BRCA mutations in the family,” Humphries added.


Substance Abuse

Opioid Overdose in Veterans Linked To Receipt of Benzodiazepines

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A team of researchers from three medical facilities discovered via a cohort study that many of the cases of veterans drying from opioid overdose involved benzodiazepines as well.

Data from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) from October 2004 to September 2009 were traced back to identify a link between painkiller abuse and use of benzos. The results were staggering, as reported by study co-author Tae Woo Park. “The risk of receiving both opioids and benzodiazepines during this six-year period was approximately four times higher than in those who received opioids alone,” Park said in a news release. Benzodiazepines are psychoactive drugs usually prescribed to patients who are taking opioid medication for their pain.

Results of the study revealed that close to half of veterans who died due to opioid overdose were also receiving benzos. “From a public health perspective, this is deeply troubling, because drug overdoses are a leading cause of death in the U.S. and prescribing benzodiazepines to patients taking opioids for pain is quite common. In 2010, 75 percent of pharmaceutical-related drug-overdose deaths involved opioids,” Park added.

The researchers hope that their study could pave the way for better methods of pain treatment. “As we learn more about pharmaceuticals and how they interact with each other, we can try to reduce the risk of harm to patients,” Park said.

The study was jointly conducted by Boston Medical Center, Rhode Island Hospital, and Veteran Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System.


Medical Marijuana

San Francisco Food Truck Scene Hosts Medical Marijuana Edibles Sale

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Supporters of medical marijuana in California will be in for a huge treat Saturday, June 13, as they can get the chance to take pot in edible form.

San Francisco will play host to “Get Baked Sale”, a one-of-a-kind outdoor food fair that puts the spotlight on medical marijuana edible makers. Jared Stratton, who spearheaded the event, put up the cannabis food festival to show how medical marijuana can also be fun. “It’s going to be legal next year, so if we integrate it now, people can come see what it’s like and have fun, that it’s not what they think and it’s definitely going mainstream,” Stratton said in a news article.

The food fair is open to all visitors, but only those with a prescription for medical marijuana will be allowed to purchase marijuana edibles during the event. The special marijuana products will be sold in pancake form during the event’s breakfast session, as well as in forms of various snack items throughout the festivities. Non-users can also enjoy activities during the food event, such as carnival games, music and other food offerings.

Police visibility during the sale will be minimal, according to San Francisco Police Department officer Grace Gatpandan. “We just want people to have a good time and if there are families that go there, to keep it cool,” the officer said.


Drug Testing

Drug Testing Expert Bill Current Discusses Drug Test Cheating

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In a recent webinar, drug testing expert Bill Current gave an overview of some of the most common ways people cheat on drug tests and what companies can do to prevent cheating.

Current identified what he called the ‘Axis of Cheating’, which consists of dilution, substitution and adulteration.

Dilution is when a donor attempts to drink enough water or other liquid that it dilutes their urine specimen and thus dilutes drug traces within the specimen.

Substitution is when a donor tries to substitute either another person’s urine or some other substance (like synthetic urine or animal urine) for their specimen.

Adulteration is when a donor attempts to alter their specimen somehow by adding a foreign substance to it.

With the right precautions and the right wording in a drug testing policy, Current says, testers can easily cut down on cheating.

Click here to read the full article: The Latest Trends in Drug Testing Cheating and How to Stop Them.

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Health & Wellness

Study Discovers Reason Why Obese Pregnant Mothers Increase Risk of Obesity in Babies

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While it has been a long-accepted truth that obese mothers give birth to similarly obese children, a new study reveals a possible reason why this happens.

The study, conducted by a team of researchers led by Kristen E. Boyle of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, investigated stem cells extracted from umbilical cords of babies delivered by women of either normal weight or obese figures. Initial findings showed that the cultured stem cells of umbilical cords from obese mothers produced 30 percent more fat cells than those from women of normal weight.

“Our study looked at the mechanism by which children may be preprogrammed for increased obesity risk, because of changes occurring in utero,” said Boyle in a news report.”It’s clear that there is an inherent propensity toward more fat content in the cells from offspring of obese moms, in culture. We also know that the fat accumulation in these cells corresponded to the baby’s fat mass at birth. The next step is to follow these offspring to see if there is a lasting change into adulthood,” she added.

The ongoing research will next look into the potential of the stem cells to exhibit signs of insulin resistance and other metabolic alterations. After all, obesity is one of the primary precursors to Type 2 Diabetes.

The study was presented during the 75th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association.


Medical Marijuana

Marijuana Legalization Increases Risk of Child Exposure To Cannabis

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Medical marijuana may be considered by many as the wonder drug of the century, but as more states approve the sale and distribution of marijuana, more children below the age of five are at higher risk of exposure.

This was revealed by a team of researchers from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, after conducting a study to review data from the National Poison Database System on child cases related to marijuana exposure. Results of the study showed that the number of cases of child exposure to marijuana rose by 147.5 percent in the U.S. between 2006 and 2013. The figure is more startling in states that have legalized medical marijuana: an increase of close to 610 percent for the same period.

The research team from the hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center also discovered that more than 75 percent of the cases involved kids below 3 years old, most of whom were reported to have ingested marijuana in food-based form. “Very young children explore their environments by putting items in their mouths, and foods such as brownies and cookies are attractive,” said study co-author Henry Spiller in a news release. “The high percentage of ingestions may be related to the popularity of marijuana brownies, cookies and other foods.”

Study senior author Gary Smith added that marijuana legislation must always consider the welfare of kids in the discussions. “Any state considering marijuana legalization needs to include child protections in its laws from the very beginning,” Smith added.

The study was published in the online journal Clinical Pediatrics.