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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Substance Abuse

Teen Substance Abuse in America: Public Health Problem No. 1

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A new report released by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, New York City, revealed the most pressing public health problem faced by our nation today: teen substance abuse.

teen drug abuseA feature on WebMD shared details included in the report, which indicated that a significant 46 percent – representing nearly half – of students in high school are either smoking, drinking alcohol, or using illicit substances. One in three of these teens, the report indicated further, are already addicted to these substances.

In addition, a quarter of those in the U.S. who began using drugs or drinking alcohol before the age of 18 eventually fell under the criteria for addiction to drugs or alcohol. The most common substance of choice, according to the report, is alcohol, followed by cigarettes and marijuana.

Susan E. Foster, vice president and director of policy research and analysis for CASA and study author, shared: “I was surprised at the prevalence of substance use disorders among young people… Do everything you can to get young people through their teen years without using drugs or alcohol… Every year they don’t use drugs or alcohol reduces their risk of negative consequences, such as addiction.”

The report is based on an analysis of the results of a survey conducted on 1,000 high school students, 1,000 parents of high school students, and 500 school officers, as well as expert interviews, focus groups, and a literature review of 2,000 scientific articles. The report also analyzed seven data sets.


New York Drug Screening


Substance Abuse

Isleton California Criticized Over Pot Farm

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Isleton, a town in Northern California, drew criticism from a grand jury over its decision to approve a plan to put up a medical marijuana town in their locality.

A report by Reuters shared that a grand jury in Sacramento County pointed out that the decision constituted a disregard for federal law. There is, it was mentioned, a conflict between state and federal laws in California; with the legalization of the use of medical marijuana, the possession and cultivation of small amounts of pot for medical purposes is considered legal. However, as far as federal law is concerned, pot – regardless of its use – is basically illegal.

marijuana farmBecause of this disparity between state and federal laws, various pot dispensaries and greenhouses in California, as well as in other states, have been at the receiving end of raids conducted by federal authorities. These raids, according to the report, are aimed at taking down supposed medical marijuana suppliers who are into large-scale drug trafficking.

The grand jury report, which was released on Monday, indicated that the town of Isleton (population: 850) was assured of an annual revenue of $600,000 by Delta Allied Growers, a company that was developing a pot farm in the area. The money, it was mentioned, would be used towards upgrading the town’s current two-person police department, as well as towards maintaining security at the marijuana farm.

The report indicated that the approval was made by the town on the grounds of a “promise of money and jobs,” but added further: “They forgot the old saying, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

The report, however, can only recommend and rebuke; no charges relating to the project have been made so far.

Health & Wellness

Foods That Will Make Your Weight Go Up and Down

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There are a number of factors that may be associated with weight loss or gain, such as amount of physical activity, duration of sleep, and time spent watching TV. There was, however, a factor that stood out in a study conducted by Harvard researchers: diet.

potato chipsA feature on The Atlantic shared details from the researchers’ report, published recently in The New England Journal of Medicine. Among the things discussed in the journal article are the specific foods associated with long-term changes in weight, both for weight gain and weight loss. The researchers were able to determine, among others, the amount of weight gain (or loss) associated with consuming an additional serving of a certain type of food, over a four-year period.

Among the foods that may trigger weight gain are potatoes and potato chips, sugar-sweetened beverages, processed meats, and unprocessed red meat. Foods associated with weight loss are vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and yogurt.

The study gathered data from a total of 120,877 participants, from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHS II), and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS). All the study participants did not suffer from chronic diseases and were not obese at the start of the evaluation process.

Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, and co-author of the study, expressed the following in a press release: “The idea that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods is a myth that needs to be debunked.”

Health & Wellness Home Health Hazards

Chlorine Gas Leak in Arkansas Plant Prompts Evacuation of Workers

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A number of workers from the Tyson Foods Plant in Springdale, Arkansas, were brought to hospitals after a chemical accident occurred in the company’s chicken processing facility.

chlorine gasNWAOnline reported that 173 Tyson workers were sent to five hospitals, by ambulance and Ozark Regional Transit buses, on Monday morning. The Tyson plant on Berry Street had experienced a chlorine leak, which led to an evacuation of its workers. The employees were overcome with chlorine gas fumes; chlorine in its gaseous form, according to Northwest Medical Center – Springdale primary care physician Dr. Tammy Tucker, may be very dangerous, even in small doses.

The gas gets into the system through the eyes and lungs, according to Dr. Tucker, and it may result in the burning of lung capillaries and mucous membranes as it acts as an acid when inside the body.

The workers from Tyson were decontaminated at Northwest Medical Center – Springdale. Workers removed their clothes at the entrance of the hospital’s emergency room, and changed into hospital gowns. Hospital officials revealed that there were hazmat materials available, but no one was washed down.

The report revealed that twelve employees needed to be admitted, while an estimated 130 workers were retained for observation and treatment for exposure as of Monday evening. The most serious injuries involved three workers, who needed to be admitted into intensive care. Two of the workers were admitted in Northwest Medical Center – Springdale, while one was admitted in the hospital’s Bentonville facility.

Tyson plant manager Brent Holman shared that the plant had around 1,200 employees, 600 of whom were working the first shift that day; all were accounted for.

Substance Abuse

NY Senator Schumer Wages War Against Prescription Drug Abuse

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A recent wave of violence involving pharmacies has captured the attention of New York Sen. Charles Schumer, who is now calling for a federal crackdown against prescription drug abuse.

The senator has announced that he is co-sponsoring a new legislation, along with Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, that will call for tougher penalties for pharmacy theft, as well as better training for doctors prior to issuing prescriptions for such opiate-based drugs as Oxycontin and Vicodin, as shared in a report on AM New York.

prescription drugsSen. Schumer made the announcement a week after a massacre involving four people in a pharmacy in Long Island. WPIX.com reports that according to Suffolk County Police, suspect David Laffer had walked into Havens Drugs in Medford a little after 10 in the morning on June 19. Laffer opened fire, killing the pharmacist, a clerk, and two customers; he fled the pharmacy with a bag filled with 10,000 hydrocodone pills, and jumped into vehicle driven by his wife, Melinda Brady.

The couple was arrested three days later at their home, a mile and a half away from Havens Drugs.

Schumer linked the increase in armed robberies in pharmacies – which, according to data provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, has increased by 81% between 2006 and 2010 – to over-prescription of addictive drugs. Schumer commented: “Once they become crazed, as you say, and they need these drugs they do lots of bad things… We’re trying to stop them from getting to that stage.”

The senator also recommends the doubling of prison sentences for crimes related to prescription drugs.

New York Drug Screening

Early Disease Detection

National HIV Testing Day: Everyone Needs to Test for HIV

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There is a stigma associated with undergoing HIV testing, as it seems to imply promiscuity and engaging in inappropriate behavior. Hence, there is the thought that not everyone needs to undergo this testing, and that it is only reserved for people who fall under a certain stereotype.

HIV testingExperts believe, however, that this should not be the case. A feature on the Silicon Valley Mercury News shared the story of Naina Khanna, an Oakland resident of South Asian descent, who was told by her doctors in 2000 that she did not need to undergo testing for HIV. She did not, it was said back then, display any behavior that would place her in a high-risk category that merited the test.

In 2002, however, Khanna did get tested, and she was found to be HIV positive.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended in 2006 that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should undergo HIV tests, in settings where there is less than 0.1% prevalence of undiagnosed HIV infection. In addition, it was recommended that those who had an increased risk for HIV infection should undergo retesting annually. Monday’s observance of National HIV Testing Day is a good a time as any to be reminded of this.

National HIV Testing Day puts a spotlight on the significance of testing towards the prevention and timely treatment of HIV infection. It is only after learning that one is HIV positive that one can receive proper treatment, monitoring, and care, which would delay the progression of the disease, and prevent patients from unknowingly transmitting it to others.

Substance Abuse

Flesh-Eating Disease Linked to Cocaine Laced with Vet Drug

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Several doctors across the United States have been able to link cases of rotten skin to cocaine that have been laced with the veterinary drug levamisole. There have been incidents observed in New York and Los Angeles, where patients suffer from rotten skin in the nose, ears and cheeks.

rotten fleshABC News reports that a case study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology documented six cocaine users who had decaying, dark purple patches of flesh. The occurrence of rotting flesh has been associated by dermatologist Dr. Noah Craft, as well as several other doctors, to cocaine that has been tainted with levamisole, a drug that is used to deworm cattle, pigs and sheep. Its side effect, when consumed by humans, is the rotting of flesh in the nose, ears and cheeks.

The symptoms may appear days after using the tainted drugs, due to an immune reaction that attacks blood vessels which supply the skin, causing the skin to suffocate.

Dr. Craft, who is with the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, commented: “It’s probably quite a big problem, and we just don’t know yet how big a problem it really is… It’s important for people to know it’s not just in New York and L.A. It’s in the cocaine supply of the entire U.S.”

Unfortunately, a report released in April by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration revealed that 82% of the cocaine seized through the agency’s various drug-busting operations contained levamisole. The reason for its use as an “extender” for cocaine by drug dealers is unclear, although there is speculation that it is being done in order to enhance the effects of cocaine, without necessarily making it too expensive.

New York Drug Screening

Alcohol Testing Celebrity Substance Abuse Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

Lindsay Lohan Blames Failed Alcohol Test on Kombucha

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It seems that Lindsay Lohan’s penchant for the fermented tea drink Kombucha may have gotten her into trouble – at least according to her.

Ms. Lohan appeared before the court on Thursday for a probation violation hearing, after allegedly failing an alcohol test administered on June 13. The actress was confined to her Venice Beach home, serving a jail sentence, at the time of the test.

Lindsay LohanThe culprit for her positive alcohol test result, according to Lindsay, is Kombucha, a tea drink that has an alcohol content of 0.05%. Kombucha tea is one of the actress’ favorite beverages; her love for the drink, however, led a probation officer to raise concerns early this year, due to its alcohol content.

Kombucha distributor Synergy’s GT Dave was quoted in the past as having said that it may be unlikely that the product may trigger the alarm of the SCRAM bracelet that Lindsay Lohan wore around her ankle at that time.

Luckily for Lindsay, there was not much ado about her positive alcohol test result, as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie Sautner ruled that she did not exactly do anything wrong, according to a report on San Jose Mercury News. Lindsay, it turns out, is legally allowed to have alcohol even while in confinement.

The judge did, however, reprimand the actress for having rooftop parties while under house arrest, saying: “What you are guilty of is extremely poor judgment, having parties on the roof…. Poor judgment is not a violation of your probation.” Lindsay had thrown a rooftop barbecue in her home, and three days before the party, an open wine bottle had been photographed on the premises.

Home Health Hazards

How to Keep Your Home Toxin-Free

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One of the things that most parents prioritize for their kids is safety. Keeping kids safe, however, is easier said than done. Sometimes, safety is lost in the unlikeliest of places, where we would never think that our kids would be placed in harm’s way. One of these unlikely places, unfortunately, is the home.

clean homesIn a feature on Time.com, Erica Phipps, director of the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment (CPCHE), shared: “Expectant and new parents, in particular, need practical advice to help them safeguard their children from health risks — such as learning and behavioral disorders, asthma, cancer and certain birth defects — that researchers have linked to toxic chemicals found in and around the home.”

In order to ensure that toxins in the home are reduced, the CPCHE shared several tips. Among them:

Bust dust! A common source of toxins for kids in the home is house dust. Dust can contain anything from lead and pesticides, to brominated and chlorinated flame retardants; exposure to these substances has been associated with such medical conditions as cancer and neurological problems. To ensure the safety of your family, vacuum frequently, and keep your home dust-free by using a wet mop for the floor, and dusting with a damp cloth.

Clean “Green.” Thinking green is no longer just a “corporate social responsibility” concept; it is a practice that will benefit individuals and families. While it is easy to fall for scented cleaners and other such household products, it is more advisable to opt for non-toxic, more environmentally-friendly, and cheaper alternatives for keeping your home clean. CPCHE suggested the following: baking soda, for scouring tubs and sinks; and vinegar and water, for cleaning windows and surfaces.

Substance Abuse

Energy Drink Plus Vodka Almost Killed Teen!

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A 17-year-old German boy almost died when he drank a combination of vodka and energy drink to improve his athleticism in school.

He was held in the hospital for 10 days after he drank a mixture of one liter vodka and three liters of energy drink, according to feature on MedicineNet. He was to compete in 100-meter races, but was vomiting and dizzy that school authorities took him to the hospital by ambulance.

energy drinksIn the July 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, researcher Cecil Marczinski says that the case is a classic example of binge drinking among teens. Without any parent to control the situation, it reached extreme levels which can lead to death.

Co-author Dr. Isabelle Schoffl estimates that the boy was able to ingest 380 grams of alcohol, 780 milligrams of caffeine, and 4600 milligrams of taurine when he consumed the beverage. The taurine affected the victim’s kidneys which called for temporary dialysis to save his life.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a warning on children and teens consuming energy drinks as continuous studies are still being conducted on the dangers that such type of drinks may cause in young victims.

Pediatricians have already released a warning against kids and teens drinking energy drinks. Moreover, mixing these drinks with alcoholic beverages could yield fatal results. Now that these energy drinks are bottled in bigger volumes, kids are being offered more of the drink which they can easily experiment with other liquids, such as vodka.

Marczinski says that there was no way a 17-year-old may have gulped a liter of vodka, without the energy drink component that he mixed it with.