Testing It Up » March 2012

Monthly Archives: March 2012

Substance Abuse

FDA Mandates Reporting of Levels of Chemicals in Cigarettes

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a preliminary guidance on Friday, requiring tobacco companies to report the levels of dangerous chemicals in cigarettes, among other products.

This was the first time that tobacco companies are being mandated to report the amounts of 20 chemicals associated with cancer, lung disease, and other health problems. Starting next April, tobacco manufacturers will be required by the FDA to display this information, in a consumer-friendly format.

Aside from cigarettes, chews and other products will also fall under these rules, which aim to tighten the regulation of the tobacco industry. Other products that will need to follow these rules include, among others, ammonia, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde.

There are 93 harmful or potentially harmful chemicals in tobacco products that have been identified by regulators. The FDA, however is only focusing on 20 of these chemicals for the coming year. The FDA is accepting comments on the recently-released guidance until June 4, before the list is finalized.

In addition to the guidance involving the reporting of chemical levels, they also issued a guidance that enumerated the required scientific studies before a company will be allowed to market a modified-risk tobacco product. This includes extensive testing on health risks, user behavior and consumer understanding of marketing materials for new products.

Dr. Lawrence Deyton, director of the tobacco center at the FDA, said: “The law sets a high standard to make sure that tobacco products marketed to reduce risk actually reduce risk.”

Substance Abuse

Study Focuses on Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana Use

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Concern over synthetic marijuana, which carry such brand names as “Spice,” “K2,” “Mr. Smiley,” “Red X Dawn,” and “Blaze” continue to increase, and a new report in Pediatrics highlights why these concerns are valid.

Researcher Johanna Cohen, M.D. and emergency room doctor at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. shared in a statement: “Parents and teens need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of synthetic marijuana use and know that it is out there.”

Synthetic marijuana products produce the same high as marijuana, when these are ingested or smoked. Unlike marijuana, they were relatively easy to procure, as they were available in convenience stores and gas stations, at least until recently. Five chemicals found in Spice and K2 have been banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); however, these substances could still be bought from the Internet.

Most teens are attracted to using these drugs because they are easy to get, and could not yet be detected in most drug tests.

Dr. Cohen shared further: “The big danger is that kids’ brains are still developing and we don’t know about the long-term effects. It can have serious consequences such as memory loss, [mental] deficits, and psychosis with long-term, repeated use.”

In an e-mail, Arthur T. Dean, chairman and CEO of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, wrote: “The truth is these products are a guise for a very scary and potent drug. We know from our members across the country that K2 and Spice are sending kids to the emergency room, causing aggressive and unusual behavior, and even suicides.

Substance Abuse

Using Meth While Pregnant May Affect Children’s Behavior

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A study conducted by Linda LaGasse of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and colleagues determined that the children of women who use methamphetamine while pregnant are more at risk for behavioral problems during childhood.

The children who were exposed to meth while they were in their mother’s womb had greater emotional reactivity, as well as higher levels of anxiety and depression, at the ages of 3 and 5. In addition, exposure to meth while in the womb was linked to acting out, as well as symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), at the age of 5.

The researchers wrote the following in an online report, prior to the release of the April issue of Pediatrics: “The ability to identify specific behavioral syndromes in children as early as preschool age could lead to the development of preventive intervention programs… early intervention may prevent escalation into delinquency and psychopathology.”

The study authors analyzed data from the Infant Development, Environment, and Lifestyle (IDEAL) study, described in an ABC News feature as “a prospective, longitudinal study of prenatal methamphetamine exposure using participants from Los Angeles, Honolulu, Des Moines, Iowa, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.”

The study included data from 166 children who had been exposed to meth, as well as 164 children who were not. The children were assessed for behavior-related issues at the ages of 3 and 5, through the caregiver-reported Child Behavior Checklist, administered by an interviewer.

Analysis of the data showed that heavy meth use, defined as using the drug at least three days a week while pregnant, was linked to attention problems and withdrawn behavior in both children aged 3 and 5.

The researchers revealed further: “Despite adjustment for demographic factors, the population differences suggest that these effects on behavior problems are quite robust and may have substantial public health implications, because problems as noted on the Child Behavior Checklist tend to persist over time and predict later psychopathology and criminal behavior that place tremendous burdens on society.”

Health & Wellness

Coke and Pepsi Change Recipe to Comply with California Laws

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Coca-Cola and Pepsi, which accounts for almost 90 percent of the fizzy drink market, based on information from industry tracker Beverage Digest, are changing the recipes of their beverage, in order to avoid having to put a cancer warning label on their bottle.

The change to the beverage manufacturer’s recipe consisted on reducing the chemical 4-methylimidazole, a chemical that has been added to the list of carcinogens by the state of California. The chemical is used in the caramel coloring of the drinks manufactured by the two companies.

The new formulation has already been introduced in California, but the companies have said that it will be more efficient to manufacture the drinks if the new recipe is rolled out across the country.

Coca-Cola representative Diana Garza-Ciarlante shared the following information with the Associated Press: “While we believe that there is no public health risk that justifies any such change, we did ask our caramel suppliers to take this step so that our products would not be subject to the requirement of a scientifically unfounded warning.”

The American Beverage Association revealed that while the chemical has been associated with cancer in mice and rats by one study, there is still no evidence to support that the same health risk exists in humans. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it will take drinking 1,000 cans of Coke or Pepsi to take in the same dose of 4-methylimidazole that the animals in the lab test received.

Real Drug Stories Substance Abuse

Indiana Teens Talk About Drug Problems

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Officials, politicians, and law enforcers from La Porte County, Indiana, gathered on March 6 to listen to teenagers talk about the drug problem currently faced by the county.

Tuesday’s event was the fourth drug-free roundtable discussion conducted by the city, aptly called “Let the Teens Talk.”

A number of adults, however, also shared their own perspective about the issue, among them Sandra Miller, whose son Jordan Warnock recently passed away after overdosing on heroin.

She spoke after listening to teens speak, and addressing both parents and teens, she said: “It doesn’t matter who you are. You know right and wrong… You need to speak up. Be a friend. You have to get over that fear.”

Serving as mediator of the discussion is D.E. “Sonshine” Troche, the director of the Worthy Women’s Recovery Home. She knows all too well what life with drugs is, having dealt with people struggling with drug abuse for years – and having been an addict herself, even as a teen. She told the teens in attendance: “Share whatever is in your heart. I’m going to break it out of you. I want you to talk.”

Blair Milo, Mayor of La Porte, expressed gratitude for the large turnout of teens at the event, but she also said that “It is heartbreaking to hear what is going on around you every day… I’ve been talking to the community about a year now. We have a panel of people who are or have been around substance abuse.”

Substance Abuse

FDA Issues Warning to Manufacturer of Breathable Caffeine

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to the manufacturer of AeroShot Pure Energy, the inhalable caffeine product, for contradictory statements regarding the use of the product with alcohol.

A warning letter to Breathable Foods Inc. was posted by the FDA on Tuesday, following calls from Sen. Charles Schumer to review the legality and safety of breathable caffeine.

The FDA gave the following statement in a news release: “Caffeine is not normally inhaled into the lungs and the safety of doing so has not been well studied.” The FDA indicated further that while Breathable Foods, manufacturer of AeroShot, said that the product’s particles are too big to enter the lungs, the company did not have research to support its claim.

AeroShot Pure Energy was launched early this year by Cambridge, Massachusetts- based Breathable Foods Inc. as a calorie-free breathable energy product that “delivers an airborne shot of caffeine through a pocket-sized, single-use device.”

Every shot of the product delivers a blend of caffeine and B vitamins in a fine powder, which quickly dissolves in the mouth. One dispenser of AeroShot contains four to six puffs, delivering a total of 100 mg of caffeine.

The FDA said further that some videos on the company’s website seem to promote AeroShot’s use as a “party drug.”
Breathable Foods Inc explained, however, that AeroShot is not recommended for young people under 18, as well as for use with alcohol. They also clarified that the product is ingested, not inhaled. Tom Hadfield, CEO of Breathable Foods, shared: “We plan to work closely with the FDA to meet their requests for information and labeling changes to ensure compliance with dietary supplement requirements.”

Early Disease Detection

America Observes National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

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March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and all across America, efforts are being made at spreading awareness regarding the colorectal cancer, including the importance of prompt disease detection.

In observance of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a hospital in Indiana is offering colorectal cancer screening home kits throughout the month of March. The kits consist of fecal occult blood tests, a screening tool that is used to help detect colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy is typically recommended to anyone who receives a positive test result after a fecal occult blood test.

Franciscan St. Anthony Health hospital is giving out free testing kits, which are available during business hours throughout the month of March, at the following laboratories: Franciscan St. Anthony Health, 301 W. Homer St., Michigan City; HealthPartners, 1225 E. Coolspring Ave., Michigan City; Franciscan Omni Health & Fitness, 810 Michael Drive, Chesterton. Completed kits are to be returned to the laboratory at Franciscan St. Anthony Health, or mailed using the envelope included in the kit, by April 6th.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. It is, however, highly preventable, if detected soon enough. Hospital officials say that if Americans aged 50 years old and older underwent screenings regularly, as many as 60 percent of deaths attributed to colorectal cancer could be prevented.

Colorectal cancer begins in either the colon or the rectum, with most types starting off as a polyp – a noncancerous growth in the lining of the colon or the rectum that, if left untreated, may eventually become cancerous. Colorectal cancer symptoms include rectal bleeding, weakness, and weight loss.