Testing It Up » December 2011

Monthly Archives: December 2011

Drug Testing Substance Abuse

Cocaine Use in United States Going Down

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For the most part, this piece of news is good news: use of cocaine in the United States is on a decline, so much so that drug cartels are allegedly trying to find new markets for the drug.

Based on the results of the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, use of cocaine in the United States went down by 37 percent – a significant figure. In addition, data from the major testing firm Quest Diagnostics Inc. indicated that positive results for cocaine in workplace drug testing went down by 65 percent in the same period.

Cocaine use among teens has also gone down to the lowest levels since the 1980s, according to the results of the “Monitoring the Future” survey. Use of crack (cocaine in rock crystal form, usually smoked) is also at levels that are far lower than levels in the 80s and 90s.

Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy, shared that these figures “should be heralded as basically very good news about cocaine.” Dr. Westley Clark, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment of the Department of Health and Human Services, on the other hand, gave the opinion that “the crack epidemic, as it was, appears to be over.”

The decline in cocaine use is being attributed to the fact that the price of cocaine has increased since 2007, but quality of the drug has gone down, according to data provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration. It also seems like drug education and prevention programs, which have been going on for decades, are slowly taking effect.

Health & Wellness

3 Ways to Keep Your Cholesterol in Check During the Holidays

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Christmas dinner is practically just around the corner, and most of us are probably already thinking about what yummy things mom and grandma intend to serve.

While it may be good to indulge once in a while, it is still very important to remember that the last thing we want to do, if we want to continue living healthy over the holidays, is to throw caution to the wind and totally forget about watching what we eat.

Here are a few tips on how to eat right during the holidays, thereby keeping one’s cholesterol levels in check.

Be conscious of food portions. We have probably heard it time and again, the key to almost everything is moderation. In terms of food, it is advisable to us to be conscious of food portions, as it is excessive portions that may contribute to gaining weight and increased cholesterol levels.

A helpful thing to keep in mind is to use our hand when figuring out portions. One serving of meat or fish, for example, should be about what fits in the palm of your hand. One serving of fruit, on the other hand, is about the size of one’s fist, while one serving of cooked vegetables, rice, or pasta should fit in one’s cupped hand.

Choose wisely. Since this is a time when we either eat out or eat at someone else’s place, where you have no control over how food is prepared, it is important to choose wisely. When at the buffet table, steer clear of fried food and go for those which are broiled, baked, steamed or grilled.

Exercise! After a night – or several nights – of partying, make sure that you lace up your sneakers and head out to the gym, or simply resolve to run around the neighborhood, or do physical things around the house that you have put off for quite some time.

Health & Wellness

How to Throw a Healthy Holiday Party

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‘Tis the season to be jolly – and to party! The holidays are notoriously associated with gaining a few extra pounds, what with all the parties and get-togethers that people end up throwing, or going to.

When it is your turn to throw a holiday party, however, you can resolve to change that image and have a healthy holiday party, by remembering a few things.

Load up on the fruits and the veggies. Instead of laying out the standard chips and salsa, why not serve up heaping platters of sliced fruits and veggies? Carrots, celery sticks, apple slices, and cherry tomatoes make tasty yet healthy party starters.

Ensure that about half of your buffet table is filled with these healthy munchies, and you and your guests will be able to enjoy the party, without worrying about gaining those extra pounds. Another plus: these fruit and vegetable platters are super easy to prepare, you don’t have to sweat it out before all the merriment!

Get physical! Don’t just throw a party where all that everyone will do is talk and eat. Work in a bit of dancing, for instance, or a fun game of tag out in the yard. That way, whatever excess calories you may have served up may eventually be burned off.

Do away with the grand plates. Let this NOT be the occasion for you to take out your fancy china and big plates. Bring out small plates instead, so that you and your guests will not be tempted to load these up with huge portions of anything and everything.

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

CA Medical Marijuana Dispensary Gives Away Free Pot on Last Day

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Magnolia Wellness pot shop in Orangevale, California, was closing its doors to the public starting on Saturday. They were, however, determined to do so with a bang – and by striving to help out those who are in need of their services for the last time.

The medical marijuana cooperative, which had been hit by California state attorneys’ crackdown on the cultivation and retail sale of pot, created a lot of buzz by giving away a gram of pot – enough for two marijuana cigarettes – to its customers on Friday, its last day of operations.

Among those who were in line bright and early, before Magnolia Wellness opened at 10 am, is Darrell Coffman, who takes medical marijuana for depression and bipolar disease. He said: “I know you’re all sad, but everyone should have a smile because it’s free stuff! It’s going to go down like a Bob Marley concert in here!”

Steven Lee, spokesperson for the store, said that the free pot was partly a gesture of appreciation to the members of the cooperative. It was also a political protest against the federal crackdown on California’s medical marijuana law.

For those who would like to receive more than just a gram of medical marijuana, Magnolia Wellness offered a discount of 15 percent for larger quantities.

Giving medical marijuana away is not exactly something that the cooperative is doing solely as a going-out-of-business gesture. It has traditionally given pot away to those who suffered from such illnesses as cancer and AIDS, and to those who could not afford to pay. Tuesdays were observed as “cancer compassion day,” while Fridays were observed as “HIV and Crohn’s compassion day.”

Early Disease Detection Substance Abuse

Study Links Smoking to Risk for Skin Cancer in Women

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Women smokers who would like to kick their tobacco habit may add the results of a new study to the list of reasons why they should quit smoking.

Smoking was linked to skin cancer in women, as the study indicated that women who suffered from squamous cell skin cancer were more likely to have smoked, when compared against women who did not have the disease. In addition, women who have been smoking for at least 20 years were found to be twice as likely to develop squamous cell skin cancer.

The study involved an analysis of data from 383 patients suffering from skin cancer, which were compared against those of 315 study participants who did not have the disease. The participants answered questions regarding how much they smoked, when their smoking habit began, and how long they have been smoking.

The results of the analysis showed that the more people smoked, the likelihood that they will develop skin cancer also increases.

The study authors also noted that men smokers had a modest risk for two types of non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer), although the results were not statistically significant. Dana Rollison, lead author of the study, shared that while both men and women get a lot of sun exposure, the main risk factor for skin cancer, they do not know why there was a difference between the risk of developing the disease among men and women.

The study was published online in the journal Cancer Causes Control.

Health & Wellness

Physical Activity Equivalent Discourages More Teens From Drinking Soft Drinks

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A study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore indicated that physical activity equivalent is more effective at discouraging teens from consuming unhealthy beverages, as opposed to such information as calorie counts or recommended daily caloric intake.

The study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that teenagers, who were shown how much physical activity they needed to do in order to get rid of the calories they will take in when they consume a fizzy drink, were half as likely to drink them.

The study involved the posting of three different signs outside corner shops, to determine which ones were most successful at discouraging teens from drinking soft drinks. One sign asked whether they knew that an average fizzy drink contained 250 calories, while another asked whether they knew that an average serving of fizzy drink was equivalent to 10 percent of their daily intake.

The third sign simply asked: “Did you know that working off a bottle of fizzy drink or fruit juice takes about 50 minutes of running?”

Based on the results, it was determined that while providing information regarding calorie counts brought about a 40 percent reduction in sales, it was the physical activity equivalent that was most successful, by managing to reduce sales by half.

Dr. Sara Bleich, study author, shared: “Providing easily understandable caloric information-particularly in the form of a physical activity equivalent, such as running-may reduce calorie intake from sugar-sweetened beverages and increase water consumption among low-income adolescents.”

Alcohol Testing Substance Abuse

Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over: Keeping Your Holidays Safe

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We have heard it time and again: the holidays are a season to be jolly and merry. There is, however, nothing merry about being involved in a traffic accident – or being the cause of a tragedy – because you had a little too much to drink.

The Department of Transportation is spearheading a campaign called “Drive Sober, or Get Pulled Over.” The objective of the campaign is to reduce the number of alcohol-related car crashes over the holidays.

Here are a few things to remember before taking that first sip at your next holiday party.

Assign a designated driver. If you are going to the party with a group, then pick a designated driver and ensure that there will be someone sober for the drive home.

When in doubt, call a friend. It can be difficult to admit that one is already too drunk, but it is one of the things that you should be keen about when at a party. When you find yourself doubtful about your sobriety, have no second thoughts about not getting behind the wheel, and call a friend to pick you up, or a taxi service to take you home.

Carry an alcohol level test. Nowadays, there are a number of breath alcohol detector tests that are available in the market. In the interest of your own safety, as well as that of other people you may encounter on the road, testing before hitting the road is definitely a good idea.

Early Disease Detection

HPV Testing Recommended for Women Aged 30 and Over

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A study reported in The Lancet Oncology indicated that HPV testing may be beneficial for all women aged 30 and older, as undergoing these tests may lead to the prevention of more cases of cervical cancer, as opposed to these women exclusively undergoing Pap smears.

The study involved 45,000 women, aged 29 to 56. Based on the results of the study, researchers were able to determine that the new DNA tests, which are known to work well in detecting the human papillomavirus (HPV), were better than Pap smears alone.

The five-year Dutch study, conducted by Chris Meijer and colleagues from the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, was the first to show the performance of HPV testing in relation to Pap smears. They revealed that using HPV tests led to the earlier detection of pre-cancerous lesions, which allowed patients to undergo treatment that improved protection against cancer. In addition, the results of the study were able to provide the strongest evidence, thus far, in favor of the use of HPV testing in cervical cancer prevention.

The results of the study, according to Hormuzd Katki and Nicolas Wentzensen of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, lent more credence to previous findings and provided “overwhelming evidence” to support a move to include HPV testing in screening programs for cervical cancer.

HPV is responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. Infection by the human papillomavirus is usually cleared naturally by the immune system. However, persistent infection with certain strains of HPV may result in cervical cancer. Tests for these “high risk” strains of HPV have been developed by such companies as Roche and Qiagen.

Substance Abuse

Pot Use Among Teens on the Rise!

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A study led by Lloyd Johnston of the Institute of Social Research of the University of Michigan indicated that drinking and smoking among teens is at its lowest at this time in the last 30 years, although marijuana use is on the rise.

Health experts are attributing the rise in pot use to the widespread availability of medical marijuana. Johnston also attributed the overall increase in drug use among the youth over the last four years to the rise in the use of marijuana.

When marijuana is not considered, the proportion of teens who admit to using illicit substances showed a decline through the first half of the 2000s, and has been stable over the last three years.

The 2011 Monitoring the Future report revealed that of the 47,000 teens who responded to the survey, one in four admitted to using marijuana in the last year. The researchers also determined that one in 15 of the oldest students said they used pot on a daily or near-daily basis. The survey respondents included students in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades nationwide.

Researchers also asked the students, for the first time, about synthetic marijuana, usually marketed under such brand names as K2 or Spice. Until states began to implement bans against the substance, synthetic marijuana used to be widely available online, and through tobacco shops. The survey indicated, much to the surprise of the researchers, that 11 percent of the high school seniors who participated in the survey admitted to having tried the substance.

Early Disease Detection

Blood Test May Be Used to Diagnose Traumatic Brain Injury

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Among the diagnostic tools that the Pentagon is looking at in order to diagnose traumatic brain injury is a hand-held device that detects protein fragments released into the bloodstream after suffering a head injury.

However, no single diagnostic tool is likely to be the “magic bullet” that will determine the extent of a mild head injury, as shared by an official of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Katherine Helmick, deputy director for traumatic brain injury at the Centers, shared that it was likely that field medical personnel and physicians will most likely use several methods, as they try to arrive at a decision as to whether a service member is healthy enough to return to work after a head injury or concussive blast.

These methods include a computer device called EYE-Trac, which assesses visual cuing, in order to determine inattention and loss of memory; lab tests for biological markers found in saliva or on skin after a brain injury; and advanced magnetic resonance imaging which shows a portrait of a working or malfunctioning brain.

Helmick shared further: “You can often ask a service member if they have a headache, and they tell you, ‘I’m good to go,’ and they are totally faking it. You can make them run five minutes and ask them again, and they can have the worst headache in the world, and they still tell you, ‘I’m great.’ They want to get back in the fight.”