Testing It Up » July 2011

Monthly Archives: July 2011

Celebrity Substance Abuse Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

Alcohol Withdrawal May Have Caused Amy Winehouse’s Death

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When it was revealed that singer Amy Winehouse was found dead in her home in north London, a connection was almost immediately made between her history of drug and alcohol abuse, and her untimely demise.

To date, no official cause of death has been declared. Looking at the circumstances around her death, however, the easiest assumption to make was that she had overdosed, or had gone binge drinking.

Rumors to this effect actually began circulating, where it was said that the late troubled singer had gone on a 36-hour drug and alcohol binge, which eventually led to her death. A feature on Metro online, however, shared information provided by an unnamed source close to the Winehouse family, stating otherwise.

Amy’s father, Mitch Winehouse, would like to dispel these rumors. He had shared in his eulogy for his daughter that Amy had been determined to kick her alcohol habit, declaring that she has had enough of drinking, and said: “I can’t stand the look on your and the family’s faces anymore.”

The unnamed source revealed that Amy had been advised by her doctor to gradually wean herself off alcohol. The singer, however was so determined to kick her habit, and decided she would go “all or nothing” – and gave up alcohol completely.

Quitting cold turkey, however, has its associated dangers – some of which may prove to be fatal. A feature on MedPage Today shared that physicians confirmed that alcohol withdrawal syndrome may lead to fatal seizures and delirium tremens. This actually occurred in an episode of the reality show Celebrity Rehab, where Mindy McCready suffered a seizure.

Substance Abuse

IAAF VP Rejects Shorter Bans for Athletes Linked to Drugs

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The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Vice President Sebastian Coe has denied approval for calls to have shorter bans on athletes who are caught using performance-enhancing drugs.

A representative from the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) commission has suggested that there should be a line drawn among athletes who fail on drug tests. Those who fail the tests due to recreational drugs or valid medications such as asthma inhalers should not be put on the same category as those who use drugs to boost performance.

But Coe, who plans to run for the IAAF presidency, believes that this is not necessary. He is now the current chairman for the London Olympics organizing committee and he even sees the need to double the sanctions of athletes caught using drugs.

In a report from The Independent, Coe says, “Let’s get real here. What is the message we are putting out to young people? It’s very clear. There is no ambiguity. You want to be a part of this project then don’t take drugs. You can’t mix messages.” He adds that if only he had a say in the track and field division, he’d increase the ban to four years.

There are other officers from the UKAD that does not see eye to eye with Coe. Chairman of the Science and Medicine committee for UKAD believes that the IAAF rules should be flexible, and that “morality and ethics” should not be the only considerations in including some medications in the list of prohibited substances.

Steve Cram also gave a piece of his mind to Coe, differentiating recreational drugs, saying they are not the type of drugs that enhance an athlete’s performance. This is why the two-year ban should be lifted or minimized for those who use them.

Health & Wellness

Childhood Depression: Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatment

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It is normal for a child to feel sad sometimes, but when sadness becomes persistent, or if it disrupts with normal social activities, interests, schoolwork, or family life, then it could be childhood depression.

When it happens, the child feels alone, despondent, powerless, and worthless. With such incessant sadness, the child’s daily activities, schoolwork, and relationships are disrupted.

The primary symptoms of childhood depression are sadness, feeling of hopelessness, and mood swings. Although signs and symptoms may vary, these consist of change in appetite and sleep patterns, difficulty in concentrating, fatigue and low energy, extreme sensitivity to rejection, social withdrawal, irritability, physical ailments that do not go away with treatment, thoughts of death or suicide, and vocal outbursts or crying.

Risk factors of childhood depression, according to a feature on EverydayHealth, include:
• a history of depression in one or both parents,
• early traumas,
• a history of sexual, physical or emotional abuse,
• having chronic illness,
• having a parent in a war zone,
• substance or alcohol abuse in the family,
• having a parent in prison,
• recent immigration, particularly when unexpected

Treatment options for childhood depression include cognitive behavioral therapy, which help the child know and modify negative thinking patterns that increase chances of depression. Antidepressant medication Prozac is approved by the FDA for pediatric use (ages 8-18).

Early Disease Detection

Breast Cancer Screening and Decline in Breast Cancer Deaths

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Advocates of breast cancer screening will not consider the results of a recently-released research as good news, as scientists indicated that falling deaths due to breast cancer are not mainly due to more aggressive screening, but may be attributed more to better treatment and health systems.

A feature on Reuters shared the results of a study led by Philippe Autier of the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, France, and published in the British Medical Journal, which indicated that “improvements in treatment and in the efficiency of health care systems may be more plausible explanations” for the declining rates of death attributed to breast cancer.

The study consisted of an analysis of data from three pairs of countries in Europe, sourced from the World Health Organization (WHO). The team, consisting of researchers from Britain, France, and Norway, found that despite a disparity in the time period at which breast cancer screening programs were introduced, there was not much difference in the rates of decline of deaths due to breast cancer.

The team wrote: “Trends in breast cancer mortality rates varied little between countries where women had been screened by mammography for a considerable time compared with those where women were largely unscreened… This is in sharp contrast with the temporal difference of 10 to 15 years in implementation of mammography screening and suggests that screening has not played a direct part in the reductions of breast cancer mortality.”

For this study, the researchers compared WHO data from the following pairs of countries: Northern Ireland versus Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands versus Belgium and Flanders, and Sweden versus Norway.

Health & Wellness

Foods That Could Help Fight Depression

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The brain releases hormones and natural chemicals called neurotransmitters that regulate the body’s chemistry. These things are also absorbed back in order to control body functions such as hormone release, reflexes, to mood cycles or even menstrual cycles. Since food is the fuel the body uses for energy and sustenance, a balanced nutrition can make the body perform efficiently.

Several clinical studies supported that cold-water fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines may be favorable foods to fight depression. Canola oil and walnuts are also loaded with omega-3. Scandinavian and Asian countries having a rich diet in fish have lower cases of depression.

There is also a link between carbohydrates and mood-boosting neurotransmitter called serotonin., but one needs to limit carbohydrate intake to whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Whole grains include whole-grain pasta, brown rice and oatmeal. Fresh fruits such as banana, apple, orange, and pineapple provide the body with the adequate sugar it needs. Eating vegetables especially dark green ones and beans are great choices.

Tryptophan is an important amino acid that also helps in making serotonin. Tryptophan is found in high-protein foods like lean meat, fish, beans, and eggs.

Also, folic acid, vitamins B2, B6, and B12 have all been proven to lower levels of homocystine, which is a protein that linked to depression. B vitamins are naturally obtained from fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts.

Most of the foods mentioned cannot be proven as cure depression; however, studies are ongoing. Doctors agree that psychotherapy and medications are still the best treatment for depression.

Substance Abuse

Death Toll Rises on Prescription Drug Abuse

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The abuse of such illicit substances as cocaine and heroin may prove to be fatal, but just as these substances may take away the life of a person, so can the abuse of prescription drugs.

According to a feature on GBP News, the deaths that can be attributed to the abuse of prescription drugs in the state of Georgia has been on the rise, as more and more people turn to them. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation released the results of an analysis of autopsy data, which indicated a 10 percent increase in deaths due to prescription drug abuse.

Cassandra Price, executive director of the Division of Addictive Diseases in the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities , shared: “When I’ve treated people who are addicted to, let’s say Xanax or oxycodone, it’s all about, well, I’m in pain and my doctor gave me this… There’s this level of justification and a level of denial that’s very, very hard for people to come to grips with and admit that there’s actually an addiction.”

Price shared further that the results of a recent national study reflect the same trends as that observed in Georgia, in as far as the occurrence of deaths due to prescription drug abuse is concerned: “[The study found] a 400 percent increase in the number of people seeking treatment, age 12 and above, for prescription pain relievers.”

The feature shared that more than 700 people had died due to overdose in 2010, three-quarters of which were due to abuse of prescription drugs, which are mostly narcotic pain killers.

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

Four Major Types of Antidepressants

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A person suffering from severe depression may find relief in taking antidepressant medications under the supervision of a mental health professional. Antidepressants act to stabilize the levels of natural chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters.

The four primary antidepressants prescribed for depression, according to a feature in HelpGuide.org, are:

SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) work on the brain chemical called serotonin. They are the commonly prescribed medications over the four types since, they have less adverse side effects. Effects include increase in suicidal thoughts, hostility, and anxiety. Increase in the risk of bone loss and fractures are common for patients 65 and older.  SSRIs are available as Prozac, Luvox, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, and Celexa.

Atypical Antidepressants target other neurotransmitters either alone or in addition to serotonin. Wellbutrin blocks the reabsorption of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. Trazodone, Cymbalta, Effexor, and Remeron affect both norepinephrine and serotonin (which is why they are sometimes called serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs). Side effects may vary such as nausea, dry mouth and blurred vision.

Tricyclic antidepressants work by inhibiting the brain’s reuptake or serotonin and norepinephrine. They also partially inhibit the reabsorption of dopamine. Because the tricyclics have such a broad mechanism of action, they tend to cause more side effects than the other classes of antidepressants. They may cause irregular heart rhythyms. These drugs include Elavil, Anafranil, Norpramin, Sinequan, Tofranil, Pamelor, Aventyl, Vivactil, and Surmontil.

MAOIs (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors) are the oldest class of antidepressants. Mixed with food and medicines containing tyramine can cause abrupt rise in blood pressure, which may lead to stroke. MAOIs include Nardil, Parnate, Marplan, and Emsam.

Celebrity Substance Abuse Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

UK to Look into Waiting Times for Rehab in the Wake of Amy Winehouse’s Death

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As the family and friends of talented British singer, Amy Winehouse, bid her goodbye for the final time, MPs are gearing up to investigate the speed at which those who need help are given access to rehab.

A feature on The Telegraph shared that Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, gave his word that MPs will investigate the speed at which addicts get access to rehab in the UK.

At the singer’s funeral, held Tuesday at Edgwarebury Cemetery in north London, Amy Winehouse’s father, Mitch Winehouse, shared to mourners that addicts have to wait for two years in order to get into rehab for treatments. Mr. Winehouse also stated that some addicts are so desperate to receive treatments, that they commit crimes so they could be sent to rehab quickly.

Mr. Winehouse said: “In this country, if you cannot afford a private rehabilitation clinic, there is a two-year waiting list for help. With the help of Keith Vaz MP, we are trying to change that.”

The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA), however, is contesting this claim. The agency said that in 2009-2010, 94 percent of patients waited for rehabilitation for less than three weeks. In that period, the NTA was dealing with nearly 207,000 addicts.

Mr. Vaz share that “Mitch Winehouse gave powerful evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee during our inquiry into drugs in 2009… I am very happy to help Mitch in any way I can with his important campaign to help rehabilitate those most vulnerable in our society.”

Early Disease Detection Pregnancy & Fertility

Understanding Post-Partum Depression

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Mothers who just gave birth usually go through an emotional rollercoaster ride – mood swings, lack of appetite, sleeping problems, and more. This is a normal experience for all mothers and usually last for a few weeks. This is often referred to as the baby blues.

However, if the baby blues go on for months and already affect the ability to take care of oneself and the baby, this may be Post-Partum Depression.

According to a feature on HelpGuide.org, the symptoms of post-partum depression include mood swings, crying jags, sadness, insomnia and irritability.

Anxiety is prominent in post-partum depression. One excessively worries about the baby’s health and welfare. One may be troubled with disturbing thoughts of injuring the baby. There is lack of concentration, motivation, energy and pleasure. There are repeating feelings of death or suicide, lack of worth and guilt.

Post-partum depression usually starts soon after childbirth and builds up steadily over a period of several months. There is also a possibility of delayed onset; so a depressive episode within six months of childbirth should also be considered.

Women with a history of depression or experienced severe PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) or pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder have an increased risk of developing post-partum depression. Stressful incidents during and after pregnancy such as pre-natal problems, difficult delivery, premature or even still birth, can also elevate one’s risk factor. Finally, marital problems or lack of social support may also lead to greater risk of having post-partum depression.

It is important for sufferers to seek professional treatment. Psychotherapy can be very effective. It does away with concerns of taking medications while breastfeeding. Estrogen replacement therapy, used in combination with an antidepressant, may help. If marital problems or feeling of inadequate support is experienced, marriage counseling may be of great benefit.

Health & Wellness Pregnancy & Fertility

Breastfeeding Helps Lower Asthma Risk for Baby

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Breastfeeding has been regarded as the best method for providing nutrition to babies. According to a new study, breastfeeding one’s child for six months brings yet another advantage: it may help lower your baby’s risk of developing asthma.

A feature on WebMD shared that the study, which was published in the European Respiratory Journal, is the first to link breastfeeding to the amount of wheezing a child has in the later years.

Liesbeth Duijts, MD, PhD, a researcher at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, said: “Children who were never breastfed had almost 50% more risk of wheezing symptoms as compared to children who were breastfed for more than six months.”

On the other hand, it was determined that children who were breast-fed, but were given other milk and solids at an early age, were 20 percent more at risk when compared against babies who were only given breast milk.
The study conducted by Dujits and colleagues involved an evaluation of more than 5,000 children in the Netherlands. Parents were asked whether the participating children were breast-fed, and for how long, as well as when they were given other milk and solid food.

The evaluation indicated that 92.3% were reported to have never been breastfed; the data of how long they were breastfed and if it was exclusive were available for about 80% of the children.

Children who were never breastfed were reported to have an increased risk of dry cough, shortness of breath, constant phlegm, as well as wheezing during their first 4 years compared to babies who were breastfed for six months.