Testing It Up » May 2012

Monthly Archives: May 2012

Early Disease Detection

Is Your Child Having Simple Colds or Allergies?

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Most children normally get 6 to 10 colds per year, but when your child begins to show symptoms of a cold, the wisest thing you can do is to never rule out allergies.

Dr. Teresa Copeland, an allergist, explains “Untreated allergies can sometimes turn into a sinus infection or middle ear fluid in young children and lead to other complications and it is not a trivial thing and makes a lot of people miserable.”

“With year end allergies or seasonal allergies that can also impact on a child in terms of sinus infections, days lost from school, ear infections, needing to tubes in the ears, tonsils out, so you want to catch that before it got so bad that the child needed surgical intervention,” adds Dr. Copeland.

Children as young as three years old can already undergo an allergy test to determine whether a child is allergic to dust mites, grasses, molds and other irritants that could trigger allergic reactions, such as frequent sneezing or rashes.

For children with allergies, it’s important to keep an eye out for asthma.

“Somewhere between 70 to 80 percent of patients with asthma have an allergic component if they are younger group of asthmatics and the flip side to that is, 25 to 30 percent of patients who start out with with allergic rhinitis may progress to asthma during their life,” said Dr. Copeland.

Substance Abuse

World No Tobacco Day Observed

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The observance of World Tobacco Day provides an opportunity for people to pause and take a serious look at the effect of tobacco use on people’s health.

Now on its 25th year, World No Tobacco Day helps raise awareness on the health impact of using tobacco on the user as well as the people around him or her – on the day of the observance itself, and, hopefully, beyond.

Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that 6 million people die from tobacco use each year around the world. Of that number, 600,000 are due to second-hand smoke.

A report from the World Lung Foundation, on the other hand, showed that if tobacco use trends continue, there may be as many as 1 billion tobacco-related deaths worldwide within this century.

A study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows positive feedback regarding the observance of World No Tobacco Day. A statement from researcher Joanna Cohen, Ph. D., of the Institute for Global Tobacco Control of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said: “The majority of smokers do want to quit, and World No Tobacco Day is an effective reminder and inspiration… This research encourages all of us to continue the long fight against tobacco, but we should never let down our guard against the tobacco industry’s devious tactics to undo the public health gains we have been able to make.”

Dr. Ann Wending, M.D., MPH, medical director of Tobacco Cessation at Heathways, shared: “The annual celebration of World No Tobacco Day provides an opportunity to remind us of the dangers of tobacco use. Although, here in the U.S., we have made progress in the use of tobacco, both here and around the world, use and exposure to tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death.”

Health & Wellness

NYC Plans to Ban Giant Sodas

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In an effort to put an end to the rise of obesity, the City of New York has a plan that they hope will help people cut back on the calories, by instituting a ban on the sales of large sizes of sugary drinks and sodas in movie theaters, snack carts, and restaurants alike.

The proposed plan calls for a ban on selling a cup or bottle of sweetened beverages that is more than 16 ounces, which is about the same size as a medium coffee and is smaller than a ordinary soda bottle. The proposal will have an impact on practically the entire menu of sugary drinks in delis, fast food franchises, and sports arenas, including energy drinks and pre-sweetened iced teas.

In an interview Wednesday in the Governor’s Room at City Hall, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: “Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible…’ New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something.”

The proposal, however, received criticism from the New York City Beverage Association. Stefan Friedman, industry spokesman, shared: “The New York City health department’s unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top… It’s time for serious health professionals to move on and seek solutions that are going to actually curb obesity. These zealous proposals just distract from the hard work that needs to be done on this front.”

Substance Abuse

Former UK Government Adviser: Drug Regulations Suppress Research

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A former government adviser in the UK has expressed that such drugs as ecstasy and cannabis should be freely available for medical research purposes.

David Nutt, the government’s former chief adviser on drugs and professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, suggested that the UK’s laws on misuse of drugs may need to be rewritten in order to reflect their relative harms more accurately. He also called for a more regulated approach to making these drugs available for medical and research purposes.

Speaking during a briefing held in London on Wednesday at the launching of his book, Drugs Without the Hot Air, Nutt said: “Regulations, which are arbitrary, actually make it virtually impossible to research these drugs… The effect these laws have had on research is greater than the effects that [George] Bush stopping stem cell research has had because it’s been going on since the 1960s.”

Almost all the drugs that would help researchers understand such brain phenomena as consciousness, perception, mood and psychosis are illegal. These include ketamine, cannabis, MDMA, and psychedelic drugs.

A spokesperson of Home Office shared: “The Home Office licensing regime enables bona fide institutions to carry out scientific research on controlled substances while ensuring necessary safeguards are in place.”

Nutt shared further: “I wonder how many other opportunities have been lost in the last 40 years with important drugs like MDMA, with its empathetic qualities, drugs like LSD in terms of treating addictions, cannabis for all the possible uses and insights which it might have for things like schizophrenia. All of those opportunities have been wasted because it is virtually impossible, when a drug’s illegal, to work with it.”

Drug Testing

Michigan Catholic High School to Implement Random Drug Testing

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A Catholic high school in Michigan is set to implement random drug testing for its students and staff, in the coming fall term.

St. Mary Catholic Central High School in Monroe, Michigan will have random drug testing for students and staff. A survey conducted by the school indicated that 80 percent of parents in the school supported the plan, while there were some concerns regarding privacy.

The school clarified, however, that the implementation of the new drug policy is not an indication of an increase in drug and alcohol use. On the contrary, the move is a proactive way to ensure that students are kept drug-free. In addition, it serves as a deterrent for students who are being pressured into using drugs at parties or gatherings, as they can say that they are being tested at school.

Michelle Burman, a mother who has two children attending St. Mary, shared: “As a mom who’s really concerned about what’s out there it makes me feel good to know that we’re really doing what we can to help the kids.”

Principal Jenny Biler, on the other hand, shared: “We know that there are students who experience things… I don’t think that’s unusual in their day and age and we know that drugs are readily available.”

Students and staff will need to provide hair samples for drug testing. A computer program will randomly select students, staff, teachers, and coaches throughout the school year for testing; nobody will now when they will be tested, or how often.

Drug Testing

Louisiana Welfare Drug Testing Bill Stalls

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The welfare drug testing bill that would require certain welfare recipients to submit to random drug testing hit a snag on Tuesday, after members left a committee hearing on the bill before a vote could be taken.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sherman Mack (R-Livingston), would require 20 percent of the adult recipients of aid from the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program to submit to random testing. Those who test positive will be required to seek treatment, in order to continue receiving cash assistance.

Mack shared that the goal of the bill is to encourage people who may have issues with substance abuse to seek treatment. He said: “This bill is not about punishing people. It’s really about deterrence and helping people.”

The first drug test, which costs $7.75, will be paid for by the state. A person who tests positive, however, will shoulder the costs of additional tests, if they want to continue receiving cash assistance. Those who test positive will need to participate in an education and rehab program within 90 days of a positive test result. They can continue to receive cash assistance after passing their next drug test.

There are senators, however, who have concerns about the bill. Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans), for instance, expressed concern about the fact that children may suffer if their parents are unable to receive cash assistance: “They could be cut off from sustenance.”

Sen. Gary Smith (D-Norco), on the other hand, shared that it is unlikely that recipients will be able to pass a second drug test within 3 months: “They’re addicts. And addicts don’t get healed, or don’t recover with their first round of treatment.”

The committee will resume Wednesday.

Substance Abuse

Senate Measure to Help with Prescription Drug Abuse

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An amendment approved last week by the United States Senate may contribute to the fight against prescription drug abuse in America, by reclassifying drugs that contain hydrocodone as Schedule II substances.

The rider, which was attached to a reauthorization bill called the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, was introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), along with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), and Sen. Jay  Rockefeller (D-West Virginia).

The amendment would reclassify drugs that contain hydrocodone – a highly-addictive substance found in such drugs as Vicodin and Lortab – as Schedule II substances. Such a step will mean that patients will need an original prescription for refills, and that pills would be stored and transported more securely; traffickers will also be subjected to increased fines and penalties.

In addition, the amendment provides law enforcement with more tools for the monitoring of the distribution of hydrocodone drugs, and aims to reduce access to the drugs by people who intend to use it for non-medical purposes.

Manchin was quoted in the report as saying: “I’m truly pleased that this amendment has passed and will make it much harder for anyone to abuse these prescription drugs… I offered this legislation on behalf of the countless West Virginians whose lives have been cut short by drug abuse and the families who are picking up the pieces. I’m committed to working extremely hard across the aisle to see this most important legislation passed.”

With the approval of the Senate, the measure will now move to the House of Representatives.

Early Disease Detection

Maryland High School Student Develops Pancreatic Cancer Test

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A 15-year-old high school student from Maryland has developed a test to detect pancreatic cancer, the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

Jack Andraka, a freshman at North County High School, was able to discover a way to diagnose pancreatic cancer before the disease spreads. The young scientist professed a love and passion for science, and these won him the grand prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for having developed a test that detects early stage pancreatic cancer.

Andraka shared: “I’m really passionate about science. It’s just my thing… I like working on medical research.”

Dr. Anirban Maitra, professor of Pathology, Oncology and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, shared that Jack’s creation “detects an abnormal protein that you find in the blood when you have a pancreatic cancer… He conceived this idea and I think the fact that he is 15 makes this whole story more remarkable.”

The young scientist shared: “I got interested in early detection because that’s the best chance of treating the cancer… The only practical way of doing this is through routine blood tests so that’s what I developed here.” The test that he developed is 90 percent accurate, and costs less compared to other tests.

Andraka was awarded at a ceremony in Pittsburgh, and won more than $100,000 in prize money that he intends to use for college. Jane, Jack’s mom, said: “They gave him an opportunity to make his dreams come true.”

Drug Testing

California High School Students Sign Up for Voluntary Drug Testing

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More than 1,800 students at William S. Hart Union High School District signed up for the Comprehensive Alcohol and Drug Reduction and Education (CADRE) program.

The program is handled by MEDTOX Laboratories, and is entirely voluntary, random and confidential. The results of the test are sent directly to the parents, and school administrators do not receive a report. Those who test positive for drugs are given the option to receive counseling services and substance abuse treatment.

Funds for the program are provided by a federal grant, as well as local and county money.

Based on statistics, around 375 drug tests are administered on a monthly basis, and 209 tests from the entire school year come back positive. Most of the students who test positive use marijuana, followed by amphetamines and opiates.

According to Kathy Hunter, coordinator of student services, shared that the number of students who sign up for the free program has increased over the last three years. During school year 2009-10, 457 students signed up for CADRE. Hunter shared: “We would like to enroll a large percent of incoming seventh-graders… We like to get them to start at the beginning of junior high.”

Once a student enrolls in the program, they remain enrolled in the program in all the succeeding school years, unless a parent opts them out. Hunter shared further: “We’re offering a free service to parents to help them help their children… It’s really not a school issue. It’s a societal issue.”

Drug Testing

Illinois High School Students May Soon Face Drug Testing

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Students at Murphysboro Community School District 186 may undergo drug testing in the coming school year.

Murphysboro students involved in extra-curricular activities may be subjected to random drug testing. Superintendent Chris Grode shared that he expected the proposal to be in the July agenda of the school board.

School administrators, Grode shared further, will be looking at drug testing policies that are already currently in place in schools that implement them, and use their observations in coming up with a drug policy for the school. The school board will then discuss the recommendation presented to them by administrators.

The idea for implementing a drug testing policy, Grode said, came from some parents who have been calling for such a policy for several years now. He shared: “It comes up a lot… Really what it is, is you get community members who want their kids to be able to say, ‘I can’t do that because I might be tested.”

Among the schools that already implement a drug testing policy is Carterville High School, and Principal Keith Liddell shared that he has been satisfied with the results: “It works great for us… We’ve had random drug testing for students involved in extra curricular activities for about 10 years now. I’ve been at the high school for four years and we’ve had one hot test.” “Hot test” is the term used for a failed drug test.

Liddell shared further: “We’re all in this together and we’re all trying to accomplish the same thing… It wasn’t perfect here when we first started it, so if we can we want to help people avoid any issues we ran in to.”