Testing It Up » November 2008

Monthly Archives: November 2008

Drug Testing Substance Abuse

Synthetic Urine for Drug Tests: No to Cheating!

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While the government and several concerned groups from the private sector have been struggling in the battle to stop drug and alcohol abuse, some people are making money by going against the flow.

cocaine.jpgRobert Dennis Catalano, 62 years old, and George W. Wills, 65 years old, are facing charges in the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh for selling products that aim to cheat drug tests. Just last week, they have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government by selling products like Whizzinator, Yellow River and Number 1.

These urinating devices release synthetic urine instead of the user’s real urine, so that they do not test positive on drug or alcohol tests. They have been selling their products over the internet.

Their site (name deliberately withheld), which has been reported to be no longer operational, is still running (as of this writing) and continues to blatantly advertise their products. Their first page even includes the statement “If you need fake urine for testing purposes, we have the product for you”. This is truly terrible and inexcusable!

Their sentence is due on February 2009. According to reports, Catalano and Wills may face up to 8 years in prison and a fine of US $500,000. I am not a lawyer, but I think that, taking into consideration the many lives that have been destroyed by drug and alcohol abuse, eight years would not really be enough.

While it is easy to search the web for several ways to cheat on drug tests, most of these methods are no longer effective as drug testing companies have also improved their test kits to be able to detect any attempt of fraud.

Besides, it will never do anyone good if he cheats on drug tests. The first person he would be cheating if he uses synthetic urine and other urinating devices is actually just himself.

I still believe that the best way to ensure a ‘negative’ result in a drug test is to not take prohibited drugs at all.

Substance Abuse

The Threats of Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Poisoning

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Parents try their very best to teach their kids the right values. Trusting that they have taught their children well, they allow them to soar high and see the world on their own. However, the question still lingers in every parent’s mind — how safe are our kids after they leave our homes?

Last month, Johnny Smith, a freshman of the Wabash College, was found dead at the fraternity house of Delta Tau Delta. The autopsy indicated that the cause of death was acute alcohol poisoning. Indiana’s legal limit is 0.08. Smith’s blood alcohol content was more than 5 times as much.

It has been almost 2 months, but his parents are still looking for answers, still striving to know how their son died. Recently, the couple’s lawyer, Stephen Wagner, presented a series of emails recovered from Smith’s account. The emails are said to show the disturbing environment of the fraternity that Smith has exposed himself into. Some messages contain information about a party that happened during the weekend of Smith’s death.

Losing a child this way can be devastating. A parent can only think of how much more his or her son could have seen and experienced if fate had it differently.

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The problem on alcohol abuse in the United States has grown to disturbing levels. Vehicular accidents, highway crimes, domestic violence and teenage deaths are some of its most distressing consequences. Also, if the abuse does not kill the person who is consuming too much alcohol, it can lead to permanent damages in his or her physical and mental functioning.

We should become more vigilant on the issue of alcohol abuse, especially when it concerns the young adults in our society. Alcohol abuse awareness programs, alcohol testing and counseling must be regularly conducted. We need to encourage more people to understand the risks, to feel for the victims and to make concrete actions so we can prevent more casualties that happen in the name of alcohol abuse.

Home Health Hazards

Your Microwave Oven: Friend Or Foe?

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Many of us are becoming more and more conscious of the health hazards that surround us every single day. One of the basic home equipment that has been getting much attention from health experts these days is the microwave oven. Just this month, the US Food and Drug Administration released a Consumer Update about the safe use of microwave ovens.

It is, of course, to the consumers’ best interest to always follow the instructions from the manufacturer as stated in the User’s Manual. Before using the microwave oven, read the guide carefully to avoid incurring injuries or damaging the oven. It is not advisable to operate the oven when it is open or cannot be closed.

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The manufacture of microwave ovens is regulated by the FDA and finished products must pass strict standards before they are released in the market. Thus, there really is no need to worry much on radiation exposure from our newly-bought or old yet well-maintained units. It is an entire different story, though, when our microwave oven has been damaged or if its door is bent or warped.

The Risks of Microwave Radiation

Constant exposure to high levels of microwave radiation can result to eyestrain, headaches, fatigue, and even temporary sterility. Since the lens of the eyes is one of the most sensitive parts of the body, exposure to radiation can also cause cataracts.

A study on microwave oven leakage indicates that older units leak more radiation than new ones. So, it probably is best to have old units replaced or regularly checked. We can also use microwave oven leakage detectors to determine the level of leakage.

Some experts argue that the amount of radiation that a defective oven leaks is very minimal that it could not cause any noticeable effect on humans. But knowing how serious the effects of microwave radiation are, would we really want to take the risk? I don’t think so.

Health & Wellness

Being A Parent Even Before The Baby Arrives

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When we hear would-be parents say that they are preparing for a baby, we automatically conclude that the woman is pregnant. In reality, though, the preparation should start even before the woman gets pregnant. Responsible would-be parents prepare themselves physically and emotionally to ensure that their baby is born healthy.

If you are a couple planning to have a baby, it is to your advantage if you both submit yourselves to a general health and wellness check up. This will inform you of your overall state of health. Based on the results of this check-up, you can work with your doctor regarding specific health concerns that you need to address before actually getting pregnant.

What does your doctor need to know? A pre-existing medical condition is not just something that only an insurance company is interested in. Pre-existing medical conditions also affect a woman’s pregnancy and the health of the baby. Your doctor will be interested to find out whether you, your partner, or your families have a history of diseases such as diabetes, lupus or hypertension.

Lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking will also affect your preparation for pregnancy, as will your choice of contraception. If you are currently under medical treatment for illnesses such as depression, you will need to inform your doctor about that, too.

Checking for prenatal wellness can also be done at home. There are home wellness evaluation kits specifically designed for checking prenatal health, focusing on factors such as levels of folic acid, magnesium and niacin. The results of these tests can be taken to your gynecologist to help plan your pregnancy.

So before you take the plunge, prepare yourself well. As a couple, choose to improve your lifestyles health-wise. It is best to start making these changes about a year before actually getting pregnant. Do this and get ready to become the happy parents of an equally happy and healthy baby.

Health & Wellness

A Carrot A Day Keeps The Cancer Away

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It is certainly good that more and more people are making a decision to lead healthy lifestyles. For some, though, eating and living healthy is sometimes taken to mean depriving oneself of good food. ‘Healthy living’ has been taken to mean eating bland food and slaving away in the gym for hours on end.

Nothing can be further from the truth! Eating healthy can be an interesting journey for the palate, as well. It can be a chance for you to be creative in how you prepare your meals.

A good starting point will be to use ingredients that are rich in antioxidants. These are substances that reduce the damaging effects of oxidation and are best known for reducing the risks of contracting cancer.

An example of an antioxidant is beta-carotene. This naturally occurring antioxidant is present in fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, leafy vegetables and cantaloupes. Beta-carotene sources can be used to create a well-balanced meal, and can be used for an entire course, starting from appetizers and soups, all the way to dessert.

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My favorite source of beta-carotene is carrots. This is one ingredient which is so versatile, you can use it for practically anything, raw, sautéed or baked! It can be eaten raw, simply sliced and sometimes dipped in dressing. It is a staple ingredient in most green salads. It can also be used as a main ingredient in soup. My mother makes a creamy carrot soup that even the kids in the family enjoy (and they do not realize they’re actually eating vegetables). For dessert, you can enjoy the carrot baked into a moist cake, frosted with cream cheese. Yummy!

If you just made the decision to live healthy, it may help if you know the level of antioxidants in your body. This can keep you informed about your general health, especially that of your immune system.

Health & Wellness

Why We Need To Sleep At Night

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Today’s working environment is undeniably different. Gone are the days of the 9 to 5 work schedule. Some may work from early in the afternoon until late evening. Others may even start early in the evening until the wee hours of the morning. There are also those whose day jobs may end at 5, but have second jobs to go to at night.

What many people do not realize is that the pattern of waking and sleeping is something that naturally occurs in our bodies. This means that it is not simply an issue of getting a certain number of hours of sleep in a 24-hour cycle. The normal sleeping cycle – being awake during the day and sleeping at night – is actually dictated by our brain.

sleep1.jpgSleep is induced by a hormone called melatonin, which is made by a gland above the middle of the brain called the pineal gland. This gland is inactive during the day. When darkness sets in, a special ‘center’ in the hypothalamus called the supra-chiasmatic nucleus (SCN) activates the gland.

The SCN can be likened to a clock that determines the activities that our body does in a day. It is stimulated by a nerve through the eye. This is why it knows when it becomes dark, and proceeds to activate the pineal gland.

When the pineal gland is activated, it releases melatonin into the blood. As melatonin increases, you begin to feel less alert. If we try to fight this natural urge to sleep because we still have work to do (or a party to attend to), remember that sleep will not occur naturally during the day. This is also why it is said that sleep that is lost will never be regained.

If sleep no longer comes readily to you after continuous night time activities, you might want to check your melatonin levels. Since melatonin is a hormone, there are actually synthetic versions available in the market. Work with your doctor regarding your sleeping habits so that he or she can provide you with options you can take.

Drug Testing

Abusing Prescription Drugs

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The mere mention of drug abuse brings with it a negative connotation, and anyone who has fallen into the trap is, more often than not, immediately branded as a delinquent or, worse, a criminal. Statistics will show, however, that while a lot of substance abusers are miscreants, there is a fraction of this population for whom the abuse started out of necessity.

Outside of the illegal drug trade, the next substance abused by addicts is prescription drugs. Not everyone, though, does the deed on purpose. What some people fail to realize is that prescription drugs can bring about addiction and dependency. This is why these medicines will only work for the better under a doctor’s guidance and supervision.

Unfortunately, even when the treatment has taken its course, the physical and emotional boost that prescription drugs can bring to some patients stay with them. This is what they will look for even after they have been cured. This is what will lead them to using the medicine beyond their physician’s advice. Since they started taking the drug for a legitimate purpose, they will see nothing wrong with continuing to do so.

The most common prescription drugs that end up being abused are painkillers and antidepressants. Some medicines that treat anxiety and depression when stopped abruptly can bring about withdrawal symptoms. Doctors usually place patients under a controlled, gradual decrease in dosage and frequency prior to total removal of the drug to reduce these effects.

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The people who fall into this path are usually upstanding people who have been pushed by health issues and circumstance into these situations. Fortunately, there are ways now of testing oneself for substance abuse in the comfort and privacy of the home, away from prying and judging eyes.

At any rate, what is important is realizing and controlling the situation in time. Just remember that for anything, work with your doctor. It may not be an absolute, but he or she will always know what’s best for you.

Pregnancy & Fertility

Infertility: Between Marriage and Divorce?

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While different countries around the world have different laws on divorce, I believe one of the saddest scenarios is when a relationship is severed because one of the couple is found to suffer from infertility. Yes, some countries actually allow divorce due to infertility. Worse, many of these countries have unequal treatment between genders.

In some African countries, where a woman’s worth is measured by her reproductive performance, it is overwhelmingly depressing to note that the husband can divorce his wife when he can prove that she is infertile, but this does not apply the other way around. Women who cannot bear children are often ostracized while their husbands are allowed to find another woman who can give them children.

Marriage is the union of two people who vowed to love each other “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse”. While I agree that one of the purposes of marriage is procreation, I also believe that this is not the only reason.

Confining marriage to such a limiting concept overlooks its more important value, and that is love. Marriage means, among other things, growing together as husband and wife, accepting each other’s strengths and weaknesses, being each other’s best friend, and loving forever.

People must not miss the main essence of marriage and all the other beautiful things that come with it. While a child is truly a wonderful blessing, we must start to realize that finding our one true love is a great blessing in itself.

Did I just sound like a hopeless romantic back there? :D Well, this is my take on the matter. I would love to hear your side. Join the discussion in the Test Country Forum.

I opened an interesting thread with the title “Should couples undergo fertility tests before marriage?” You can post replies or start new threads. See you there!

Health & Wellness

Sleep Apnea Can Cause Sudden Cardiac Death

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Apoor Gami, M.D, a cardiologist from Mayo Clinic, recently presented a study that involved almost 11,000 persons and their sleeping characteristics at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2008 in New Orleans. While it has long been suspected that obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk of Sudden Cardiac Death, only this research effort has been extensive enough to positively establish the connection between the two.

Nighttime low oxygen saturation, which is a critical effect of obstructive sleep apnea, has been found to affect blood vessels and cause heart disease. With the results of this study and future efforts to further validate this relationship, obstructive sleep apnea can now be considered a risk factor just like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking.

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that is characterized by disruptions in breathing during sleep, loud snoring and excessive day fatigue. There are 3 kinds of sleep apnea – obstructive, central and complex. Obstructive sleep apnea involves the relaxing of throat muscles while central sleep apnea involves improper brain signals sent to muscles that control one’s breathing. Complex sleep apnea combines the two earlier mentioned.

Most people who suffer from sleep apnea are unaware that they have this condition. It occurs during sleep and often, only bed partners or family members can detect the symptoms. When left undetected and untreated, sleep apnea can cause stroke or heart attack.

To treat this medical disorder, mouthpieces or breathing devices are often used. Changes in lifestyle, like avoiding alcohol, quitting on smoking, losing weight and sleeping on the side, have also been found to be of great help. In more serious cases, surgery can be an option.

Doctors diagnose sleep apnea by checking on the patient’s throat, mouth and nose, analyzing the patient’s medical and family history, conducting sleep studies, and using effective sleep tests. This is a serious medical disorder that most of us often neglect. To ensure the overall health of your family, it is best to check if this affects any of your loved ones.

Pregnancy & Fertility

Male Infertility & Vitamin D Deficiency Link Found

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Australian fertility experts recently found a link between Vitamin D deficiency and male infertility. We already know that Vitamin D is essential in ensuring a healthy pregnancy. This latest study demonstrates that Vitamin D affects not only the females, but the males, as well.

It is then now recommended for men with fertility problems to get a daily dose of sunshine early in the morning aside from losing weight and giving up smoking, caffeine and alcohol.

Dr. Anne Clark, who serves as the medical director of the Fertility First assisted reproduction clinic in Sydney, Australia, presented this study to the Fertility Society of Australia in a conference in Brisbane. This is actually a part of the research done by Laura Thomson, who is pursuing a Doctorate degree in the University of Sydney.

This is truly a significant step in the struggle to beat male infertility, which has affected millions of couples around the world. Infertility challenges 1 in every 6 couples trying to have a baby. While it has been considered a woman’s issue for several generations, the recent decades have established that a male factor is also present.

Low sperm count has been the most common cause of male infertility, and this can be attributed to different factors such as age, emotional stress, testicular exposure to excess heat, obesity, substance abuse, smoking, malnutrition, varicocele and genetic predisposition. While some of these need treatment to be corrected, most simply require a change in lifestyle and the adoption of healthier practices.

By quitting on the habit of smoking or turning away from prohibited drugs, a man can improve the quality and quantity of his sperm. With sufficient amounts of Vitamin C, Folate, Selenium, Zinc, and as recently revealed — Vitamin D, the chances of fixing male infertility problems may increase.

Several male fertility tests have been used to determine sperm concentration and to assist those who are undergoing a process to improve their sperm count. You may check available kits in the Test Country.