Testing It Up » February 2009

Monthly Archives: February 2009

Substance Abuse

Pop a Pill and Stay Sober?

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Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, published a study in Biological Psychiatry linking a hormone drug to managing alcoholism.

An experiment performed on alcoholic rats showed that when administered with the drug carbegoline (Dostinex), the rats did not drink as much and displayed less alcoholic symptoms. It did not, however, affect their intake of other treats, such as water or sugar. The drug is normally prescribed to help in managing infertility as well as to address menstrual disorders.

rumThe results of the study are viewed as a positive development, as it means that we may have found a drug that may be specific to addressing addiction to alcohol without side effects. Drugs in the market today generally have a side effect that decreases pleasure. This makes it difficult for people to stay on the drug.

Carbegoline in pill form is an approved medication by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but as a drug to address conditions brought about by an increased production of the hormone prolactin by the body. The drug increases the body’s production of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor protein (GDNF). The protein has already been found to trigger a decrease in the desire for alcohol.

The new experiment involved rats which have been trained to press a lever to get alcohol. When these mice were injected with carbegoline, it was observed that the rats pressed the lever less often. When the dosage was increased, it triggers a decrease in the number of presses on the lever.

Another positive effect of the drug as observed by researchers is its being effective in lowering alcohol cravings as well as decreasing the risk of relapse. Giving in to temptation is one of the biggest struggles of a recovering alcoholic, and it seems that carbegoline can manage even that.

San Francisco Drug Screening

Early Disease Detection

Diabetes: Get Tested and Start Living Right

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Why most people would rather not go to the doctor is beyond me, but it is a known fact that many would rather suffer quietly than touch the doctor’s office with a ten-foot pole. But when things start to go haywire, they begrudgingly show up at hospitals and clinics. Sometimes, it is just too late.

Symptoms of DiabetesOne way to alleviate this unfounded dread may be to educate more people not only of the benefits of proactive testing, but of the procedures that they will need to undergo. And one of the diseases that people need to be proactive about is diabetes.

The tricky thing about diabetes, especially if you are someone who is not familiar with it, is that its symptoms may seem normal that you wouldn’t really think you were actually sick with something. But when you start losing weight even if you weren’t really dieting, don’t rejoice just yet; do a double take, because it may be time to go for a diabetes test. Other symptoms that you will need to watch out for in conjunction with sudden weight loss would be a severe feeling of thirst, frequent and sometimes uncontrollable urination and feeling hungry all the time.

Type 2 diabetes may be diagnosed through two tests: the fasting plasma glucose test and the casual plasma glucose test. The fasting plasma glucose test is the more commonly used method – it is cheaper and more convenient, as shared by the American Diabetes Association. A patient will need to fast for eight hours before blood is drawn, which will then be analyzed for blood glucose levels. In contrast, the casual plasma glucose test does not require abstaining from food. The sample for analysis is still blood.

If a fasting plasma glucose test yields normal glucose levels, and the doctor is still unsure about the patient’s condition, he or she may order on oral glucose tolerance test, where the patient is asked to consume a solution prior to the drawing of blood. This is the best method that can be used during the early stages of diabetes, where a patient is already a borderline diabetic; almost there, but not quite.

Early Disease Detection

Don’t Delay Colon Testing

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A few months back, we featured a rather personal piece on how early detection is key towards the prevention and treatment of colon cancer. From that, we learned how colon cancer does not need to be as fatal as it seems to be, only if more people subjected themselves to colon testing. The cancer is highly treatable for as long as it is discovered early enough.

colonHowever, this is hardly an ideal until now, even with the availability of home fecal occult blood testing kits. According to an article from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School) less than fifty percent of people who should undergo colon screening actually go through the procedure. And who should these people be? People who notice early symptoms such as blood with bowel movement and those with a family history of colon cancer are the obvious candidates. There is even data available proving that colon screening is not performed as extensively as those that screen breast, cervical or prostate cancers.

Most people who fit into the criteria that should undergo colon screening hesitate due to the nature of the most common testing method: a colonoscopy. The examination is extremely uncomfortable, starting with the consumption of a solution to clean out the system and then proceeding with the insertion of a scope through the rectum to search the five-foot long colon for abnormal growths.

What doctors would like to stress, though, is that there are other ways to go about colon testing if the discomfort is simply too great. A flexible sigmoidoscopy will examine only the last third of the colon and will not need the patient to undergo sedation. Only if a polyp is found after this test will a patient be asked to undergo a full colonoscopy to search for others. The other choice, of course, is the fecal occult blood test; but just like flexible sigmoidoscopy, positive results will need to be followed up with a full colonoscopy.

Uncomfortable or not, there should be no hesitation when health is concerned. What may be disgusting to you now may well save your life, so why the confusion?

Early Disease Detection

Cholesterol Testing: Key to a Healthy Childhood?

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cholesterol testThe most recent clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics on cholesterol in childhood talks about the role of cholesterol testing in maintaining a child’s cardiovascular health. This report actually replaces a policy statement on the same concern that the Academy released in 1998. The new report was apparently prompted by the noticeable increase in childhood obesity, which eventually leads to other health concerns such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

Further, the Academy’s concern also stems from the fact that research has indicated that over the past 40 years, the process of development of cardiovascular diseases in adults, which is the leading cause of death in the United States, seem to have come from conditions developed and acquired during childhood.

A suggestion presented in the report is to subject overweight or obese children from two years of age and above to cholesterol screening, specifically a fasting cholesterol test. Some people, parents especially, have reacted to the suggestion, especially since the test requires fasting for up to 14 hours before administration. This may be too difficult for a child of two to bear; couple that with the fact that the test will necessitate the drawing of blood and you have yourself a whole bloody mess, forgive the pun.

The recommendation is that children aged two and older who are overweight and have a history of heart disease in the family should be subjected to the fasting cholesterol test. And if the test results reveal that your child has high cholesterol, a prescription of cholesterol-lowering drugs may be given if he or she is 8 years and older.

Is this absolutely necessary? Maybe, maybe not. But what many parents would like to know are the options to lower cholesterol and prevent obesity other than simply pumping children with pills. Who knows, the solution to childhood obesity and high cholesterol may well be simply turning off the TV and taking away the Nintendos; whatever happened to a good old game of catch in the backyard? It may be time to rethink the activities that we let our children engage in and move on from there.

Substance Abuse

Marijuana and Meth Use by Teens Declining

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We have always received bad news from studies that it has become hard to see the silver lining. But for a change, the Associated Press reports that a study is now saying that parents and anti-drug advocates may be getting through to America’s youth.

The study is set to be released today and was sponsored by The Partnership for a Drug-Free America. President and Chief Executive Steve Pasierb says further that one factor for the decline may be due to the proactive effort of parents to reach out to their kids, and their children’s positive response to their efforts. Kids nowadays, it seems, are more willing to listen and heed their elder’s advice, especially the girls.

anti-dope imageA five-percent increase was noticed in the number of teens who indicated that they were “learning a lot” from their parents. The annual survey logged the percentage of these teens at 37%; last year’s figure was 32%. While it may not appear to be much, this is actually the highest it has been in 15 years. Over the past 20 years, the noticeable trend is that teenagers who say that they learn about the consequences of substance abuse at home are half as likely to use drugs versus kids who don’t get advice at home.

And if that figure is increasing, there are figures that are declining, but in a positive way — the percentage of marijuana and meth use.

The most widely abused substance among teens is marijuana, and this year, the number of teenagers who admit to having used the drug at least once in their lifetime went down to 33% last year from 37% in 2005. The percentage of methamphetamine use decreased to 6% from 8%. Figures for teen use of pot in the past month saw a decrease of 30% since 1998.

According to the study, parents usually discuss marijuana and meth the most at home, followed by cocaine, crack and heroin. The least discussed substances that are abused are prescription drugs like Vicodin. The rate of teen abuse for prescription drug has not decreased since 2005.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Also Increase Cancer Risk

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I was casually flipping channels on an unusually lazy weekday morning when I heard Ann Curry say that moderate drinking may increase the risk for cancer in women. It was the Today Show, and I remember thinking, what now? I normally have a half-full glass of chardonnay or pinot noir just before bed time, a sort of treat for the body and the soul at the end of what is usually a long day. And now someone is saying every sip done on a regular basis may be bringing me one step closer towards a cancer diagnosis.

moderate drinking -- good for the heart, but bad for the rest of the body?The statement was actually based on a study done on nearly 1.3 million middle-aged British women. This is said to be the largest study involving the examination of the role of alcohol consumption in the rate of risk for contracting cancer in women. And the final verdict from that study is that my nightly relaxation regimen as well as other practices such as getting together with a few friends for a bottle of beer before catching the last train home or consuming a glass of any alcoholic beverage on a daily basis increases the risk of being diagnosed with cancer.

The study is set to be published in March in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. It was led by Naomi Allen of Oxford University.

It turns out I was not alone in my reaction. Several women have admitted to being confused about the results of the study, especially since it is widely believed that moderate consumption of red wine may decrease the risk of heart disease, among other ailments. Truth be told, it is also for this reason that I found it alright to indulge; I rarely go beyond a glass, and never do it when I’m alone.

Researchers estimated further that 5% of all cancers diagnosed in women in the U.S. annually may be attributed to moderate alcohol consumption.

Pregnancy & Fertility

Suleman’s Ex Claims Paternity Over Octuplets

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The twists do not stop coming. As if Nadya Suleman does not have enough to deal with as it is, an ex-boyfriend is now claiming he may be the father of all fourteen of her children and would like to undergo a paternity test to prove it.

Denis Beaudoin, allegedly a successful businessman who dated Suleman in the late 1990s, talked to the ABC show ‘Good Morning America’ last Monday. He is claiming that he donated sperm to Nadya no less than three times during their three year relationship. He is now saying that Nadya told him that she had ovarian cancer and will need to use in vitro fertilization in order to conceive.

babyNadya has denied his claims, but he is insisting that he is coming forward to offer child support, and has plans to do so regardless of whether or not he is proved to be the father. Why he is volunteering to support 14 children who may or may not be his is baffling most people; he is, after all, married and has two children of his own.

Nadya Suleman, on the other hand, is saying that the sperm donor was a platonic friend named David Solomon. Suleman had six children before giving birth to the now controversial octuplets; all 14 children were conceived through in vitro fertilization. Her situation is now spawning debates and discussions on fertility medicine and its benefits.

Some people are actually questioning Beaudoin’s motives; maybe this is reminiscent of the paternity “battle” over little Maisie Steadman, born to a 15 year-old mom and a 13 year-old dad, where things seem to be happening for publicity purposes. Other people, though, think that he looked sincere in his GMA interview, claiming that he cared so much for Suleman and is confused about how she has been handling her affairs.

Aside from the latest paternity issue, Suleman is being faced with the possibility of not being able to prove that she can provide for her children, which will mean that Kaiser Permanente Medical Center may not release them to her. The children are now in stable condition and in their 34th week of development; premature babies can be released when they reach their 35th week.

One thing is sure — we haven’t quite seen the end of this soap opera.

Celebrity Substance Abuse Substance Abuse Workplace Testing

Steroids & Baseball: It’s Time to Move On

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Enough is enough. After weeks and weeks of moving back and forth and gaining a lot of media attention, the world of baseball is saying, ‘Hey, it’s time to move on’.

baseballNo less than Donald Fehr, the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, declared that the steroid era has come to pass. He made a statement to that effect last Monday during the spring training tour in Florida. And he is not alone; he was but voicing out the sentiments of everyone about leaving what is past in the past and moving forward. Maybe it is, indeed, time to leave A-Rod alone and stop pestering him about steroids and his relationship with a certain trainer from who-knows-when all the way to his native Dominican Republic.

The spring games, after all, are about to begin. The grass is turning green in sunny Florida and Arizona, and its time to focus more on the game than on the controversies surrounding it. No one has the time to talk steroids now. It is time to play ball, and aim for that pennant!

Now that the big guy himself has declared the steroid era as over, the expectation is that everyone should rest easy and stop thinking about who is and who isn’t. It may not be that easy, though, for everyone to move on from this big blow. They had, after all, insisted in the beginning that nothing was afoot. Which was why testing, and random testing at that, did not happen until 2002. And it took three years as well as a lot of pressure from Washington before consequences were spelled and handed out to those who were caught “red-handed”.

And it certainly will not be easy for the fans to forget. Even if A-Rod has said that he has been clean since 2003, his credibility is still shrinking as the days go by.

Testing in baseball may be better this time around, but it is doubtful that it is already good enough. There are simply not enough tests, random or otherwise. Baseball has been tainted, and no matter what anyone will say, people will be looking at its 103 stars with a shadow of doubt.


Florida Health Screening


Early Disease Detection

Calcium Can Help Prevent Colon Cancer

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The occurrence of colorectal cancer may be reduced with high calcium intake, especially in women, according to a study by the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Why calcium does not have exactly the same impact in men as in women is yet to be determined; hormonal or other metabolic factors may contribute to the difference, but this is still unclear.

The study analyzed data collected from nearly half a million participants, both men and women. These volunteers filled out a food questionnaire and were observed over a period of seven years. It is documented in the February 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine and shows that dairy food and calcium consumption could be inversely associated with cancers of the digestive system for both men and women.

Women whose average calcium intake was more than 1800 milligrams a day was determined to have a 23% lower risk of colon cancer as opposed to those who consumed less than 500 milligrams a day. In men, those who had the highest calcium consumption had 16% less risk for colorectal cancer over those who consumed the least amount of calcium.

vegetablesThe recommended daily intake of calcium for adults 50 years and older is 1,200 milligrams, as stipulated by the US Institute of Medicine. This is roughly equivalent to about three cups a day of dairy products, the most common source of calcium. Green leafy vegetables are also an excellent source of calcium.

This, however, does not hold true for all other malignancy. Calcium seems to have a positive impact in the gastrointestinal system, and does not affect the risk factors for other types of cancers, such as breast cancer. The same observation holds true for prostate cancer, where calcium intake has no impact on risk factors.

What may be interesting to note is that the results of the study have been determined by NCI as “consistent with the guidelines for a healthy diet”. While the recommended daily calcium intake can be sourced from various supplements available, it is best met through dietary sources. The bottom line is that eating right and having a sensible diet is still the best way to prevent disease.

Early Disease Detection

Diabetes on the Rise in the UK

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An increasing number in the cases of obesity in the United Kingdom has resulted in a ripple effect, increasing the number of cases in diabetes as well. Between 1997 and 2003, the recorded increase in diabetes cases is 74%. The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reveals that the majority of the newly-diagnosed cases are of Type II diabetes, usually linked with being overweight.

sweetsThese findings indicate that the United Kingdom is surpassing the rate of increase of diabetes in the United States, where diabetes occurrence is already among the highest in the world. Among the more than 40,000 patients who were diagnosed with diabetes in the UK between 1996 and 2005, only a little over 1,250 patients had Type 1 diabetes, the kind which is insulin-dependent and inherited. The rest of the patients were diagnosed with Type 2, the later-onset diabetes which is lifestyle-influenced and is therefore highly preventable.

The overall occurrence of diabetes in the United States is still higher than that of the UK, but the fact that these occurrences is increasing at a faster pace than that of the former may change that statistic soon.

The National Obesity Forum and Diabetes UK have both spoken out about the statistics, in the hopes of raising awareness and increasing the drive for preventing the disease. The rates of diabetes occurrence will continue to increase unless the country does something about addressing obesity. Type 2 diabetes can easily be avoided, as research indicates that the risk of developing the disease can be decreased by as much as 58% by losing weight. A healthy diet and the right amount of exercise will contribute a lot to the prevention of diabetes.

The other crucial factor is early detection. Right now, about half a million people in the United Kingdom may already have diabetes without their knowing it. Early disease detection can significantly help in diabetes management.