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.


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.

marijuana use

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.

medical marijuana

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:

marijuana workplace policy

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.


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.


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.


Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Important Things You Need To Know About HIV Testing and Treatment

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The HIV epidemic continues to be a major global health threat. A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) showed that by the end of 2014, a total of 36.9 million people around the world were living with the HIV infection. That same year, the organization recorded a total of 1.2 million deaths from the AIDS virus. Since the onset of the epidemic, almost 71 million people have been infected worldwide, accounting for about 34 million deaths, according to this article.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that by the end of 2012, an estimated 1.2 million people of ages 13 and older were living with HIV. Of these, 12.8% were unaware of their condition. There are about 50,000 new HIV cases in the country per year, CDC said.

The world of medical science still has to find a cure for the disease that continues to affect and threaten the lives of a substantial number of people. Through the years, various health agencies and communities have exerted significant efforts to combat the epidemic. Emphasis is placed on prevention, early detection, and immediate treatment. Though the end of the search for the ultimate antidote is not yet in sight, advances in therapies including contemporary antiretroviral drugs have shown to be effective in increasing life expectancy among HIV patients. Next to prevention, the key is early detection.

HIV testing

Types of HIV Tests

HIV tests are used to determine whether a person is infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which triggers a more deadly disease called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).  These tests detect the presence of certain antibodies, antigens, or RNA in a person’s blood, saliva, or urine which signifies that the individual has been infected by the virus.

The tests are available in physician’s offices, clinics, hospitals, health centers, and health departments. Standard tests are either inexpensive or completely free. Testing centers implement a strict confidentiality policy for the protection of the patients. Anonymous testing is also available in most states.

The available types of HIV tests include the following:

Antibody Tests

These are the most common forms of HIV testing. These tests are done to detect the presence of antibodies to the virus in the person’s blood. Some tests can also detect these biomolecules in the saliva. With a normal antibody test, a patient waits for a few days to a few weeks before he gets a result. A rapid antibody test, however, can give the patient the results between 20 to 30 minutes.

There are two general types of antibody tests that are commonly used:

Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA)

This is usually the first test conducted to determine the presence of antibodies to HIV. If such antibodies are detected in the blood, the test returns an HIV Positive result. It is usually repeated for the confirmation of the diagnosis. When the initial ELISA test returns an HIV Negative result, no further tests need be conducted.

Western Blot

This is performed when two ELISA tests return a positive result.  This test is necessary to confirm the diagnosis. It is more difficult and takes longer to perform. Hence, it is also more expensive.

Both tests are highly accurate and when the combination shows positive results, a patient is clinically diagnosed to be HIV positive.

However, the antibody tests cannot successfully detect HIV immediately after exposure because it takes between 2 weeks and 6 months for antibodies to appear in the blood. This is called the “window period” within which a person may be infected and still may not test positive for the virus.

Ideally, antibody tests should be conducted beyond the window period. It is recommended that testing is done at 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after exposure or contact with a person who is HIV infected, as reported in this article.

Other tests

Here are some other tests that may be used to check for HIV:

Antibody / Antigen Tests

These are tests that can detect the presence of both antibodies to the virus and antigens or particles of the virus itself. Antigens of HIV typically show up within 2 to 4 weeks after infection. Thus, antigen/antibody combination tests can detect HIV much earlier than the standard antibody tests. These screening methods are available only for blood testing. A rapid antibody/antigen test can deliver results within as quickly as 20 minutes.

Polymerase Chain Reaction

The PCR test can identify the presence of the virus itself in a person’s blood. It checks to find genetic material of the virus (RNA or DNA) in the person’s white blood cells. PCR testing requires highly technical skills and costly laboratory equipment. Thus, it is not as common as antibody testing.  Not all hospitals and clinics offer this service.

PCR can detect the virus within days or weeks after exposure. It is recommended to be performed when the results of antibody tests are uncertain such as when they were done within the window period. The test is also conducted for the screening of organs and blood intended for donation. In addition, it is done to determine if a baby born to an HIV-positive mother has likewise been infected.

In-Home Test Kits

Home test kits can screen either the blood or saliva for the presence of HIV antibodies. There are two tests currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Some home testing kits are conducted by pricking the finger, placing drops of blood on the given card, and mailing the card to a licensed laboratory. The sample will be tested using the ELISA and Western Blot methods. The screening is done anonymously and the patient is given an identification number to be used when he claims results by phone call within three business days.

Meanwhile, others can detect antibodies in the saliva. To perform the test, the user swabs his upper and lower gums and places the collected sample in the given vial. This is sent to a laboratory for screening. Results can be expected within 20 to 40 minutes, but a follow-up test should be done if the initial results are positive.

Benefits of Early Detection

CDC recommends that all persons of 13 years of age and older must be tested for HIV, regardless of risk factors, based on the agency’s report. It is also advised that routine screening for adults, adolescents, and pregnant women be conducted in healthcare settings in the United States, according to this informational article.

Persons exposed to risk factors such as those having multiple sex partners, engaging in unprotected sex with a possibly HIV infected person, engaging in risky sexual behavior such as men having sex with men (MSM), and sharing needles for intravenous drug use should get themselves tested right after the lapse of the window period.

It is important to confirm a possible diagnosis as soon as possible for several reasons:

  1. To avoid transmitting the virus to others, including to other sexual partners or to an unborn child;
  2. To reduce the viral load in the blood;
  3. To get immediate treatment.

The earlier the virus is detected, the sooner can treatment and monitoring can begin. Treating the condition in the early stages can significantly slow down the growth rate of the virus. This increases life expectancy and delays the onset of AIDS.

Over the years, newer HIV treatment options have developed including advanced anti-retroviral medication which has shown to greatly increase a patient’s life expectancy.

HIV signs symptoms

HIV Treatment

Untreated, the HIV virus will spread rapidly and the illness will progress to AIDS, the most advanced stage. When the immune system is considerably damaged, the body will be susceptible to a host of life-threatening opportunistic diseases and cancers until death occurs.

Early medical attention can effectively delay progression and when administered properly, patients can continue to live normal and productive lives although they must employ special precautions to avoid contaminating other people.

HIV patients are treated with a combination of several medications. This regimen is called the antiretroviral therapy (ART). While the medicines cannot cure the virus, they control the spread and reduce the viral load or the number of HIV copies multiplied in the body. With a lower viral load, the immune system is maintained strong enough to fight off and recover from a number of infections and cancers. Having lesser HIV copies in the body also reduces the risk of transmitting the disease.

For instance, a research published in 1994 showed that the use of the drug called zidovudine or AZT by HIV-infected women and by their newborns reduced the risk of HIV transmission from about 25% to 8%.  Another study showed that pregnant women who received at least two weeks of ART reduced the risk of perinatal transmission to less than 1 percent.

There are 6 major classes of drugs for HIV treatment, according to These are non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs), nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), protease inhibitors (PIs), fusion inhibitors, CCR5 antagonists (CCR5), and integrase strand transfer inhibitors (INSTIs).

The 6 classes include several medicines, depending on how each fights the virus.  There are 25 medicines that are currently approved for HIV treatment. A treatment regimen will usually combine at least three different medicines from at least two of the six categories, based on this article. A mixture of drugs is necessary to efficiently reduce the viral load and prevent resistance to medication.

In prescribing the medications, the doctor will consider several factors including the patient’s health history, results of other diagnostic tests performed after the diagnosis which measure the viral load in the patient’s body (e.g. CD4 Count), results of drug-resistance testing, possible side effects of the medicines, possible contraindications, convenience, and costs.

The drugs can cause several side effects. The most common reactions are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, skin rashes, and insomnia. In considering an ART regimen, doctors will consider a combination of drugs that will efficiently control the disease with the least possible side effects.

ART is a lifetime treatment plan to which a patient must religiously adhere. His commitment to the regimen and to certain lifestyle changes will determine the effectiveness of the therapy and the quality of life he can expect while living with HIV.

Any concerns that arise while on certain medications should be discussed immediately with the health care provider or physician. Barriers to effective treatment should be reduced or eliminated as soon as possible.

While research continues to provide critical information for the development of advanced treatment plans and therapies, medications will not solve the global epidemic. The thrust of government and health agencies should focus more on education and prevention methods. Controlling and combatting the crisis requires a combination of measures including increasing access to screening methods and testing facilities, intensifying health campaigns, providing more HIV and AIDS support programs, and strengthening partnerships between government health agencies, communities, and the private sector to maintain effectual prevention programs.


Drug Testing

How To Choose Between The Most Common Types of Drug Testing

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Drug testing has earned a massive following because of its importance in human life, particularly in office and industrial settings. Aside from reducing employee absenteeism, conducting drug tests helps increase employee productivity and promotes a healthier and safer workplace. Aside from that, implementing an effective drug policy could result to a significant reduction in workers compensation premiums.

In any testing program, the goal is to generate trustworthy results. Depending on the methodology of testing and the kind of medium, there are different levels of drug testing in terms of risk. It is important to select the testing method that caters to the needs of your company while providing an acceptable level of risk mitigation.

Drug and alcohol testing may help mitigate the dangers of injury and property damage. At the same time, it may strengthen corporate safety culture. Given the wide variety of drug testing options, you can decide on the testing service to use.

You may either conduct testing in your office or in an external clinic. You have the prerogative when to start the program and what method you are going to use. These are important considerations that you need to think about before conducting drug testing in your office.

The need for drug testing has increased dramatically, especially in high-risk industries.

The need for drug testing has increased dramatically, especially in high-risk industries.

Where To Conduct Drug Testing

If you choose to conduct your drug testing at a clinic or laboratory, ensure that the testing firm that handles the procedure is a reputable and certified one. Credible testing programs will usually involve two steps, namely initial and confirmatory.

With on-site drug testing, you can immediately see the results of the testing. On-site drug testing is becoming popular because the employer can make decisions at the time of the testing. For confirmatory tests, an employee can conveniently return to the testing facility and resume work immediately.

When the sample requires further investigation, your manager will immediately know and have the capacity to monitor your testing as indicated in your drug and alcohol policy. Your sample will be sent to a NATA-accredited laboratory for confirmatory testing. When the confirmatory test has been returned, your doctor will help you interpret the results.

On-site testing can be incorporated into your drug and alcohol testing program or you can train your staff to collect the samples based on the AS/NZS 4308:2008 or AS 4760. This way, you can test your own staff whenever you want.

On the other hand, laboratory-based testing is done at a NATA-accredited laboratory for screening and confirmation (if needed). This reduces the possibility of on-site false positive and false negative results. At the same time, it provides confidentiality of drug testing.

Negative results can be retrieved usually a day after the samples have been received in the laboratory. A confirmation positive result is usually available after two business days after receiving the sample within the laboratory.

Type of Drug Testing

Before proceeding to choose the right drug testing method for your business, let us first discuss the different types of drug testing procedures available in the market. A “panel” refers to a drug or family of drug that is included in a drug test. The more panels included, the wider the scope of the test.

5 Panel Drug Test

This panel examines a specimen in order to test for 5 different substances: THC, cocaine, opiates, phencylcidine, and amphetamines. This is the most common drug test method, and is used by the Department of Transportation and the Federal government.

There are other options available outside of the 5-panel drug test. With these procedures, you simply add more drugs to the panel. Although the number of drug panels is dependent on the employees being tested, combinations of drugs constitute a panel more frequently than others. If you want several panels tested, you will just add another drug to each additional panel.

6-Panel Drug Test

In this type of test, benzodiazepines are added. Benzodiazepines are designed for treating panic attacks, generalized anxiety, seizures, and alcohol withdrawal. Common examples of benzodiazepines are Valium & Klonopin. Although well-tolerated, the usual side effects associated with abuse of benzodiazepines  include fatigue, dizziness, and weakness. The 6-panel drug test is recommended for industries that require alertness, such as jobs that involve heavy machinery.

7-Panel Drug Test

In a 7-panel drug test, barbiturates are added to the panel aside from benzodiazepines. These substances are sedative-hypnotic drugs designed to reduce anxiety and fight insomnia. Also known as downers, barbiturates can affect the brain in the same way alcohol or sleeping pills do. These substances are frequently used in suicide attempts and may result to death or coma. When abused, barbiturates can lead to drowsiness and confusion. The 7-panel drug test can be used in industries where safety is a major concern.

8-Panel Drug Test

With the 8-panel drug test, the drug quaalude is added to the equation. Quaalude is a brand name for the drug methagualone. It is usually used recreationally for relaxing the muscles of an aphrodisiac. Currently it is not frequently used in North America, and that’s why the 7-panel drug test is more recommended than an 8-panel drug test within the U.S.

9-Panel Drug Test

In a 9-panel drug test, the drugs benzodiazepines, barbiturates, quaaludes, & propoxyphene are added to the list of substances identified by the test. Propoxyphene is a highly addictive narcotic pain reliever. Once it interacts with other drugs, it can slow down heart beat, create confusion, cause fainting, and trigger seizures.

Testing an employee using the 9-panel drug test may make sense. Employees who experience so much pain will require a narcotic pain reliever, but the risky complications and the addictive nature of propoxyphene cannot be denied.

10-Panel Drug Test

In a 10-panel drug test, methadone is added to the previous nine drugs. It can be abused as a pain reliever and result to extreme exhaustion and numbness.

When the test is conducted in the laboratory, the results are usually available 24 to 48 business hours after collecting the samples. Confirmatory tests will take 48 to 72 hours after completion of the test.

11-Panel Drug Test

An 11-panel drug test includes everything on an 8-panel drug test but adds methadone, oxycodone, & tricyclic antidepressants. The latter is no longer popular as an anti-depressant mainly because of its many side effects. The drug is known for causing moderate cognitive impairment, anxiety, and exhaustion.

12-Panel Drug Test

A 12-panel drug test usually tests everything a 10-panel drug test does, but adds on percoset/oxycodone and Ecstasy/MDMA. This type of drug test essentially checks for additional opiates and painkillers that may not be detected in fewer panels. This fairly comprehensive drug test is utilized in industries that have great responsibility for public welfare.

The 12-panel drug test is an accurate method for detecting recent drug use. It is widely popular for drug testing due to its speed and accuracy.

Employers need to know which type of drug testing works for them.

Employers need to know which type of drug testing works for them.

Which Drug Testing Method Is Best For You?

If you are not legally required to conduct testing beyond these substances, the 5-panel drug test is the most recommended procedure for drug testing. The test is designed to detect the presence of commonly abused street drugs. Larger panel drug tests aim to detect prescription drugs and painkillers as well.

However, determining the best drug testing method that is best for your company depends on several factors such as the industry you are in, the laws that govern the industry, and company culture.

Industry-Based Drug Testing Standards

  • In the Department of Transportation, the standard testing method for all drivers is the 5-panel drug test. They are required to undergo a pre-employment test, random drug test, and an annual drug test.
  • For home health aides, the recommended test method is the 8-panel drug test.
  • For construction and heavy machinery firms, the usual testing type involves 9 or more panels. These jobs entail alertness, and one of the side effects that need to be checked is fatigue, which can be extremely dangerous in high-activity industries.
  • Those who work in the civil service industry need to undergo and pass a 5-panel drug test, although some states require passing a 10-panel drug test.
  • For some employers looking to strictly enforce a drug-free workplace policy, employees need to pass a rigid 12-panel drug testing.

Corporate culture

For companies who employ wealthy and white collared workers, it is recommended to test them for designer drugs as well. These substances are designed to enhance focus. Although cocaine is still the most commonly abused substance, there has been a rise in the popularity of substances such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Provigil.

In addition, there are also companies that may have a culture that does not have any objection to a commonly tested drug. With the legalization of marijuana now extending to other states as well as different corporate views about the drugs, some companies might opt for a 4-panel drug test – that is, testing drug metabolites found in a 5-panel drug test but with the exception of THC panel.

More Details About Drug Testing

Although not unlimited when it comes to the number of drugs that can be tested, there are still several drugs that are available which includes: marijuana, cocaine, PCP, amphetamine, Ecstasy, methamphetamine, opiates, oxycodone, methadone, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, buprenorphine, tricyclic antidepressants, propoxyphene, tramadol, fentanyl, sufentanil, zolpidem, carisoprodol, meperidine, antihistamines, synthetic cannabinoids, designer stimulants (bath salts), dextromethorphan, direct ethanol biomarkers, high potency opioids, ketamine, propofol glucuronide, & Ritalin.

There is also an option for testing alcohol but since it cannot be detected from urine and the bloodstream, it is usually implemented for random testing and due to reasonable suspicion. Breathalyzer tests are best for detecting alcohol abuse.

Depending on the drug and testing medium, screening can make use of urine, hair, blood, or saliva for testing. The selected testing medium can have an effect on how far back the substances can be detected. Aside from that, the size, weight, health, hydration level, and similar factors may affect the extent of detection of drug abuse.

Bear in mind that opioid use can lead to further addiction (such as heroin), and so the standard 5- and 10-panel drug tests may not be enough to fulfill your requirements. A 12-panel drug test may be the right procedure that will satisfy your need as it also detects opiates and painkillers that will not be detected by a test that uses fewer panels.

Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Washington State Records More Car Accident Deaths After Marijuana Legalization

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A recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that the number of traffic-related deaths more than doubled in Washington after the legalization of marijuana use and sale. This remarkable increase in marijuana-related road mishaps is very alarming, said foundation president Peter Kissinger in a news item.

Washington legalized the sale and use of recreational marijuana on December 2012. As per recorded fatal vehicular accidents from 2013 until 2014, the percentage has gone up from 8 percent to 17 percent, all of which are attributed to marijuana use. Marijuana legalization in the state is seemingly leaving policymakers and safety advocates worried that people who are high on pot are being allowed to drive freely.

In most accidents, drivers are immediately tested for alcohol toxicity. If found positive, they will be slapped with charges. In contrast, drug testing becomes a second option not unless the driver is suspected to be drug-impaired. Authorities cannot yet disclose on the extent of the accountability of pot use in these accidents since THC does not carry the same effects in all users regardless of the amount used. Some people automatically become impaired even with minimal consumption, while some users on high dosage don’t seem fazed.

Authorities can only be hopeful that Washington will serve as a case study for future states planning to legalize recreational marijuana, so that flaws on the enforcement of the law may still be corrected.

The use and sale of recreational marijuana has been legalized in Washington and four other U.S. states, but driving under the influence of marijuana is still illegal in all areas in the country. Bottom line, people who are drug-impaired are not allowed to drive.


Substance Abuse

Smoking Cessation Significantly Lowers Health Care Costs, Says Study

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Smoking is one of the major causes of chronic diseases in both smokers and non-smokers, resulting to casualties due to heart diseases and respiratory problems. Nevertheless, according to the American Heart Association, smoking is the most preventable root of untimely deaths among Americans.

According to a recent study published in PLOS Medicine, cessation of smokers – especially in areas where the policies to reduce smoking were strongly implemented – has improved the lives and health conditions of residents, resulting to lower medical costs. In addition, study first author James Lightwood (associate professor in the UCSF School of Pharmacy) said via a news release that a remarkable drop in health care disbursements is noticeable after the smokers decided to kick the habit.

The researchers emphasized that in 2009, the reported health care cost in California was less than $15 billion, far below the national average. On the other hand, Kentucky’s medical cost is above the average, at roughly $2 billion more in the health care expenses.

In related news, proponents of a study from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) believe that even a 10 percent decrease in smoking will help lower the cost of U.S. health care by $63 billion on the succeeding year.


Substance Abuse

Strength of Ecstasy and Party Drugs Reaches Alarming Levels

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The use of party drugs has gone up significantly, especially in the U.K. Most of these drugs – which come in the form of ecstasy or MDMA – are manufactured in the Netherlands, according to police records.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addiction (EMCDDA) warned the public of its spread and the hazards it poses to human health and society.  The new formula in recent pills and crystals has a component concentration that is stronger than what it used to be in the ‘80s.

According to a news report, law enforcement authorities in the U.K. recently showed a 17-year-old minor as the new victim of ecstasy. Faye Allen, a resident of Liverpool, died after being in a rave party in Manchester during the weekend.  The authorities suspected the cause of her untimely death to be an adverse response to a strong variant of ecstasy called “Mastercard”.

Harry Shapiro, who works as editor of an online drug information service called Drugwise, commented that it is irresponsible to design a tablet of deadly strengths. He even questioned the legitimacy of these “street chemists” to be manufacturing an illicit pill so strong. Furthermore, he advised the public to completely avoid ecstasy and similar drugs, and under no circumstances should it be taken all at once.

The revival of disco music plays a big role in the rebirth of ecstasy use. To date, the rising demand for and easy access to the drug have reached alarming levels. Estimated dose of these pills is around 75 to 100 milligrams per tablet, and it is believed that a lot of pills with extremely higher doses are also being circulated in the streets of UK. This has been discovered in ecstasy of either powder or crystal form.


Substance Abuse

All You Need To Know About Steroid Abuse

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Steroids use has become one of the worst problems in the field of sports.

The use of anabolic steroids has increased over the years, primarily used by body builders, athletes, and fitness “buffs” for the various benefits it gives them. We have seen a lot of athletes use this banned substance for enhancing performance.

In this article, we shall delve into the increasing problem of steroids abuse.

What are steroids?

Steroids are synthetic versions of testosterone, the primary hormone found in males. These substances produce a wide range of side effects in different parts of the body such as the muscles, bones, hair follicles, liver, kidneys, immune system, reproductive system, and central nervous system.

At puberty, an increase in testosterone level can result to the development of male characteristics such as beard and body hair growth, linear growth, deep voice, sex drive, and accumulation of muscle mass. Testosterone also contributes to the laying down of bone minerals and can boost competitiveness, self-esteem, and aggressiveness.

Anabolic steroids can be administered orally, injected, or applied to the skin. It travels through the bloodstream and makes its way to the muscle tissue where they are bound to an androgen receptor. The drug then interacts with the DNA of the cell to activate the promote synthesis leading to cell growth.

Anabolic steroids may be administered through injection.

Anabolic steroids may be administered through injection.

For non-medicinal purposes, steroids are usually taken in a cycle of 6 to 12 weeks, followed by 4 weeks to several months off. This helps reduce the likelihood of undesirable effects.

Even with the risk, some body builders continuously take anabolic steroids. This may result to tolerance and may lead to the body producing its own testosterone. It is often combined with other kinds of steroids or incorporated into supplements for maximum effectiveness.

Statistics on Steroids Use

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) revealed that over half a million 8th and 10th grade students are using steroids. Another study revealed that 1,084,000 Americans or 0.5 percent of the adult population revealed that they used anabolic steroids. Meanwhile, a separate study reported by Reuters revealed that 5% of middle and high school students have used anabolic steroids to bulk up.

Signs and Symptoms of Steroid Abuse

The first signs of steroids abuse will usually involve the rapid lean muscle growth within the first 10 weeks of use. There is also the desire to work out more and frequent receipt of random packages in the mail. If the pills are in a bottle, the patient would often be heard rattling around.

As steroids can also come in vials, you may often see packages that contain warnings that the contents are fragile. Patients will also be ordering syringes and needles.

Injectable steroids can leave holes in the skin in the form of red and inflamed track marks. You may also find pill packets in the trash or in the bag of people who abuse steroids.

Acne is another symptom of steroid abuse. Pimples may break out, which signals that something is wrong. Be aware, though, that acne is a common problem among teenagers.

Steroids abuse can also bring a strange odor especially if someone you know who is using steroids is applying the substance topically.

Anabolic steroids also have androgynous effects that may affect sex-specific characteristics. One unpopular side effect of steroid use is the shrinking of testicles and the development of breast tissues in men, as the steroid is converted into estradiol. Steroids abuse can also cause infertility.

In women, steroids are converted into testosterone resulting to an increase in body hair and menstrual irregularities. It can also result to deepening of the voice.

The long term effects for both men and women include increase in cholesterol level and elevated blood pressure. It is also likely to increase the likelihood of diabetes. In addition, testosterone can lead to extra acne which results from the stimulation of oil-producing sebaceous glands and can also hasten balding.

Steroids abuse can also cause muscle dysmorphia or “reverse anorexia syndrome.” It also causes the patient to develop feelings of low self-esteem and depression during withdrawal. The latter may be related to temporary hypogonadism, a condition that involves the failure of the gonads to secrete the right amount of testosterone or estrogen.

Steroid abuse for building muscle mass may result to adverse health effects.

Steroid abuse for building muscle mass may result to adverse health effects.

Dangers of Using Steroids

Steroids abuse can have a wide range of side effects on the individual, including the following:

Physiological Dangers

Steroids can have a huge impact on the functions and activities of individuals. It can affect the organs, tissues, cells, and chemical reactions between them. When left untreated, physiological side effects can be serious and even fatal.

Gonad Effects

Anabolic steroids can put in disarray the production of sperm, maintenance of sex drive, erectile potency, and prostate glands functioning. It can also hamper the natural production of testosterone by the set of hormones called gonadotrophins. When this process is hampered, it can cause testicular atrophy, impotence, reduced sex drive, decreased mental and physical activity, infertility due to reduced sperm production, and bone loss.

Skeletal-Muscular Injury

While steroids can have a positive effect on bone and muscle strength, any alteration in the structure of connective tissues induced by using the drug can cause the weakening of the tendons. Likewise, steroids can lead to the abnormal growth or development of collagen fibrils, which could lead to a reduction in tendon strength.

Steroid usage can also cause tricep tendon rupture. This is most common in the usage of Winstrol and Stanozolol, which is more prominent in sports requiring hard starts and stops such as in track and field or baseball.

Cholesterol & Lipoproteins

Recreational users and patients receiving steroids therapy often experience fluctuations in lipid profiles. In a study that involved body builders who don’t use steroids and people who do, it was revealed that the latter showed lower levels of good cholesterol (high density lipoprotein or HDL) and increased levels of bad cholesterol (low density lipoprotein or LDL). In the same manner, weekly administration of nandrolene decanoate to hemodialysis patients led to a significant decrease in HDL.

Cardiovascular Effects

Studies on rodents have revealed that steroids abuse can increase water concentration in the body and hamper the conversion mechanism that manufactures corticosterone, resulting to hypertension. This is an important matter because retention of fluids can contribute to the development of hypertension.

Meanwhiele, autoradiographic and biochemical analysis of the hearts of female rhesus monkeys and baboons revealed androgen receptors, one of steroids’s primary absorption site, in the arterial and ventricular heart cells. These receptors suggest that sex steroid hormones can have direct impact on heart function and may be the reason for the peculiar differences in heart diseases of men and women.

Hepatic Effects

Studies have revealed a connection between different abnormal live function tests with steroids abuse. Jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and whitening of the eye as a result of liver problems, frequently occurs in patients due to hepatotoxicity. Cholestatic hepatitis results from the failure of the bile to flow from the liver to the duodenum and the failure of the stomach to connect to the jejunum. If jaundice occurs, it will generally develop in 2 to 5 months.

Psychiatric Effects

Anectodal evidence discovered that steroids abuse may result to “roid rage” phenomenon, a condition characterized by an increase in aggression and irritability. The scientific validity of this assertion is doubtful in consideration of the fact that almost all evidence in support of this behavior is based on either case reports or studies that are related to each other.

Few well-managed studies have shown an association between steroids usage and the feelings of aggression, alertness, irritability, anxiety, suspiciousness, and other mood overactive behaviors. However, some of the results of these studies were contradicted by other studies that found zero evidence of aggressive behavior when supraphysiological doses of steroids were administered.

Steroids use has become one of the worst problems in the field of sports.

Steroids use has become one of the worst problems in the field of sports.

Treatment of Steroids Abuse

The good news is that steroids abuse is curable. Some strategies can help users quit the drug and live a normal life again. Here are some of the available treatments for steroids users:

In-Patient Treatment

In-patient steroid abuse treatment programs offer 24-hour care with access to medical services whenever necessary so steroid users can receive the best and most professional care possible.

Most in-patient programs will start with a supervised detox period involving management of serious steroid withdrawal symptoms, which may vary from one person to another and may include the following:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Anorexia
  • Mood disorders

As depression with suicidal ideation is one of the immediately life-threatening symptoms of steroids abuse, an in-patient-program will keep track of changes in the mood of the patient. In case of severe depression symptoms, an in-patient program will provide close supervision and will use antidepressant medications and similar forms of treatment.

When the initial period of withdrawal is over, the treatment of substance abuse may involve ongoing therapy, which can also be done on an outpatient basis, in order to address any issues that trigger the abuse and addiction. The treatment will provide users with a wide range of benefits as it will help them improve self-esteem and will also help them love themselves and appreciate their bodies.

Studies have shown that some people use steroids due to their dissatisfaction with their body. In addition, they are also obsessed to having a muscular body or abnormally desire to get increasingly bigger.

Therapy sessions are designed to help patients cope with any triggers that can result to a relapse. Participating in adjunct therapy like yoga and meditation can also help patients in reducing stress and anxiety related to withdrawal.

There are also support groups that can help provide additional support for continued abstinence from steroids use.

Getting the right treatment is dependent on three factors:

  • The severity of steroid use
  • Abuse of other substances aside from steroids
  • The presence of other symptoms such as anxiety or depression

Aside from inpatient program, the following treatment methods are also being offered to overcome steroid abuse:

  • Doctor’s consultation. Your doctor may be able to address some concerns that you have about abstaining from steroids use and may refer you to other kinds of substance abuse treatment methods.
  • Outpatient program. Outpatient programs may require sessions a few times a week for about two hours. These programs may involve individual and group counseling, as well as management of withdrawal symptoms.
  • Rehabilitation program. There are live-in facilities that offer individual and group counseling and continuous medical supervision.

Steroids abuse can have serious consequences on the body if not treated right away. Immediate intervention is the key before everything becomes too late.