Testing It Up » October 2012

Monthly Archives: October 2012

Substance Abuse

More Maine Kids Placed in Foster Care Due to Increasing Bath Salts-abusing Parents

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Maine is seeing an upsurge in the number of kids needing foster care because of their parents’ involvement in synthetic drugs, particularly bath salts.

The mbpn.net reports that the state has transferred $1 million in unspent funds to the office of child and family services to cover the needs of 200 children whose parents are abusing bath salts.

During the recent Legislature’s Appropriations Committee meeting, Therese Cahill-Low, the director of the Office of Child and Family Services, said there are more children in the state’s foster care program today compared to eleven months ago.

“The reasoning for that, as I talk with staff, is that they are seeing severe, severe neglect on behalf of parents who are particularly involved in substances – particularly finding in the Bangor area, bath salts,” Cahill-Low said. “The effect of that substance has been detrimental to families.”

Officials at Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) were using the unspent funds to cover the unexpected cost of the program, but lawmakers reckon that the state’s foster care cost will increase as families disintegrate in the aftermath of a bath salts epidemic.

Cahill-Low said she is working with Maine’s Office of Substance Abuse to find out how state agencies can better respond to the problems that bath salts drug abuse is creating in the state.

“The problem with bath salts is that when people are taking bath salts they are incredibly unpredictable, and the long-term effects are unknown,” Cahill-Low added. “And so treatment is really kind of an unknown, I believe, at this point as to how to treat that kind of addiction, and whether or not these people are actually ready to be treated.”

Drug Testing Substance Abuse

University of Alabama at Birmingham Students Detect Meth on Currency

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Two students from the University of Alabama Birmingham found traces of methamphetamine on $1 bills. It was the first time that meth contamination has been identified on currency since they began testing for their research in 2008.

In an article published on UAB website, Jessi Mann, a UAB senior participating in the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, and Brandon Fultz, a senior chemistry major, tested a total of four sets of twenty $1 bills from Jefferson County.

The bills were collected from a variety of sources: two sets came from a home-improvement store in the northern part of the county; one set from a fast-food restaurant in downtown Birmingham; and the last from a home-improvement store in the western part of the county.

The highest instance of meth contamination was detected on the bills from the home-improvement store in north Jefferson County, with 17 out of the 20 bills. The lowest instance of contamination was found in downtown Birmingham, with 2 out of the 20 bills.

According to Randy Christian, chief deputy in the Jefferson County Alabama Sheriff’s Office, the students’ finding was “not surprising at all,” saying it reflects the arrests made within the county.

“The majority of meth-related arrests seem to occur in northern and western Jefferson County, while central and southern parts see fewer of these types of arrests. Meth possession appears to be more prevalent in more rural parts of the county. This is likely due to the secrecy involved in the manufacturing process and the demographics of the users,” Christian said.

For Mann, Fultz, and Elizabeth Gardner, Ph.D., a justice sciences assistant professor, their theory is that the contamination came directly from the meth, but Gardner is also saying she thinks “the contamination on currency is coming from sweat.”

In 2009, UAB students found 65 percent of $1 bills in Birmingham had traces of cocaine. Their new finding will be published in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Microgram Journal later this year.

Substance Abuse

How Marijuana Abuse Could Affect a Person’s Health

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Marijuana is the most commonly abused banned substance in the United States. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2009 more than 28 million Americans, age 12 and older, had abused the drug at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. Past studies have reflected the adverse effects of marijuana to its users, but still, the problem of abuse is far from being resolved.

In one of our previous posts, we cited a Duke University study that says people who frequently use marijuana are at risk of  slowing down their IQ. The finding may not be the scariest to date in terms of marijuana side effects, but it’s still worrisome. If you’re a parent, you’re aware how challenging it is to never be able to keep an eye on your children, especially the moment they go out of the house. If you’re raising an adolescent it’s even more difficult because it’s that time when peer pressure is at its strongest and experimenting with drugs may not be far from happening.

Aside from marijuana’s effects on intelligence, it could also wreak havoc on the user’s mental capacities. An Australian study involving 14- and 15-year-olds found that those who used marijuana weekly as teenagers were twice as likely to have depression as a young adult than women who did not use the drug.

Another study which assessed the participants for signs of marijuana abuse and symptoms of depression found that people who initially did not have depressive symptoms but abused marijuana were more than four times as likely to have depressive symptoms.

Marijuana use could also have some negative effects on hormonal system and reproduction. Similarly, it can cause physical problems, ranging from dry mouth and red eyes to increased heart rate and blood pressure.

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Weight Loss Surgery Tied to Increased Use of Alcohol or Drugs

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A new study found association between weight loss surgery and increased use of alcohol or drugs. It said those who underwent gastric bypass were at greater risk of alcohol use after the procedure.

The researchers distributed questionnaires to 132 women and 23 men who had undergone one of two commonly performed types of weight-loss surgery. They found that use of illegal substances increased at the time of surgery, with additional increases at one, three, six, and twenty-four months after the procedure, the HealthDay.com reports.

However, one of the study authors, Dr. Alexis Conason who is a researcher at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center in New York City, said their finding does not suggest that “everybody who undergoes gastric bypass will become an alcoholic.” The study, after all, investigated increased use of alcohol, drugs or cigarettes, not abuse per se.

“Be aware of symptoms of substance abuse if you have undergone bariatric surgery, including changes in your relationship with drugs and alcohol,” Dr. Conason added. “I don’t think this study should be a deterrent for people seeking surgery. The key thing is to monitor following surgery and inform patients of the risks and signs and symptoms of substance abuse before their surgery.”

Meanwhile, some experts theorize that increases in drinking or drug-taking after weight-loss surgery is a result of a phenomenon called addiction swapping, whereby, alcohol or drugs replace the food addiction because a person can no longer eat as much. Another theory cited is that the person can become intoxicated more quickly with less alcohol. In addition, changes in the brain after a weight loss procedure may also be another factor.

The findings were published online on Oct. 15 in the journal Archives of Surgery.

Substance Abuse

Researchers Say Regular Use of Marijuana May Cause Unusual Gastro Disorder

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Two new case studies suggest that habitual use of marijuana may lead to cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, a disorder characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

The two separate reports are presented today at the American College of Gastroenterology’s (ACG) 77th Annual Scientific meeting in Las Vegas. According to the researchers, those who regularly use marijuana, natural or synthetic, are likely to develop this little-known condition which pose a  serious burden to the health care system because  it requires physicians to use costly diagnostic tests and ineffective treatments in an effort to find the cause of a patient’s symptoms and provide relief.

“Most healthcare providers are unaware of the link between marijuana use and these episodes of cyclic nausea and vomiting so they are not asking about natural or synthetic cannabinoid use when a patient comes to the emergency room or their doctor’s office with these symptoms,” Dr. Ana Maria Crissien-Martinez, of Scripps Green Hospital and Clinic in San Diego, said in a Scienceblog.com news feature.

Dr. Crissien-Martinez co-authored the case report, “Marijuana: Anti-Emetic or Pro-Emetic,” which described a series of nine patients with cannabinoid hyperemesis at Scripps Green Hospital. The patients’ average age was 30 years-old and 88 percent of them used cannabis daily.

“Patients who use cannabis whether natural or in synthetic form called ‘Spice’ also don’t realize their unexplained episodes of cyclic nausea and vomiting may be a result of this use, with some increasing their cannabis use because they may think it will help alleviate their symptoms—and it actually makes them worse,” said Dr. Crissien-Martinez. “The only resolution is cannabis cessation.”

The other case report, completed by  a team of researchers from the Walter Reed Walter Reed National Military Medical Center/Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD., may be the first reported case of cannabinoid hyperemesis attributed to synthetic marijuana.

Researchers from both case studies agree that patients frequently have multiple hospital, clinic and emergency room visits with extensive negative work-up to include imaging studies, endoscopies, and laboratory testing before they are finally diagnosed with the condition.

DNA & Paternity Health & Wellness

California Schoolboy Expelled Due to his Genetic Makeup

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An 11-year-old boy carrying the genetic mutation for cystic fibrosis was ordered to transfer to another school despite neither having the disease nor showing any typical symptoms, according to an sfgate.com report.

Colman Chadam, a student of Palo Alto’s Jordan Middle School, was pulled aside by teachers on Wednesday afternoon to tell him to say goodbye to his friends. School officials believe his genetic makeup could be a health risk to its students who do have the disease, thus ordering him to move to another district middle school a few miles away.

Colman’s parents disclosed the child’s condition on a medical form provided by the school at the beginning of the school year as a precautionary measure. But while the child carries the genetic mutation, his parents and his doctor, confirmed that he does not have the disease and is not a threat to other students. Still, the school made the decision to have him change school, thereby prompting Jaimy and Jennifer Chadam to take the district to court.

“They made this decision without seeing one medical record on my son,” Jennifer Chadam told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We were shocked and dismayed.”

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive tract, and other areas of the body. The sweat test has been the gold standard in diagnosing the disease but newer methods, such as genetic testing are now being used in some cases. Though not contagious, the bacteria those with cystic fibrosis carry can be dangerous to people with the same disease, and non-siblings are advised to stay at least 3 to 6 feet away from each other.

A court hearing has been scheduled on Oct. 25 to determine whether Colman can stay or must go to Terman Middle School.

Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Kratom: The New Legal High or Therapeutic Medicine?

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Last year, the wptv.com featured a story about an organic product which doctors say can be more addictive and dangerous than other substance of abuse. The substance being referred to is called Kratom.

According to existing literature, Kratom is a tree native to Southeast Asia. Its botanical name is Mitragyna Speciosa. In traditional medicine, Kratom leaves are used to treat diarrhea and even opiate addiction. There were also claims that it offers therapeutic relief to some people with ADHD. In addition, it is commended for being an effective stimulant, sedative, and painkiller.

In the United States, Kratom has been available for decades in the herbal marketplace. It has in fact garnered a stream of supporters who attest its benefits. Kratom Association, in particular, was established to provide people with as much useful information about this herbal plant, as well as to protect and preserve the legal status of Kratom in free countries.

Lately, however, Kratom has found its way in several news headlines in a bad light. In Thailand, young people were reportedly boiling the leaves and adding cough syrup, Coca-Cola, and ice to produce a strong narcotic cocktail — a drug trend that adds to the country’s woes. In the US, the MSNBC and others had earlier reported that some emergency room doctors had dealt with teenagers who got sick for taking Kratom to get legal high.

The other challenge in catching people who use Kratom for the wrong reason is its inability to show up in conventional drug tests. But a  diagnostic lab has recently developed a kratom urine test that can detect the presence of the major active alkaloids found in the Kratom leaf.

Although Kratom is already banned in Bhutan, Australia, Finland, Denmark, Poland,Lithuania, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), and Thailand, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has only listed it as a “Drug and Chemical of Concern,” the Forbes.com said in its report.

Meanwhile, some physicians and addiction specialists are said to be working on getting Kratom banned because of how teenagers are using them as substitute for drugs like heroin or oxycodone.

Substance Abuse

FDA Warns on the Risks of Injecting Prescription Drug Opana

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns on Thursday that abusing painkiller Opana by means of injection could lead to a serious blood disorder, the Reuters.com reported.

Opana is a powerful opioid painkiller that is meant to be taken orally with a doctor’s prescription and direction. However, law enforcement officials in the country are seeing an increase in the number of people who are abusing the drug, which according to them started following OxyContin’s change in formulation in 2010.

FDA officials said people who abuse the drug by injecting it to their bloodstream are at risk of developing a blood disorder called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) which could result in kidney failure or even death. In addition to kidney failure, the disorder could also lead to other complications with irreversible damage, including stroke and brain damage.

TTP causes blood clots to form in small blood vessels around the body, and leads to a low platelet count. Its symptoms include bleeding into the skin, fever, headaches, weakness, shortness of breath, purplish spots on the skin, confusion, and easy fatigue.

The FDA added that such condition associated with Opana ER only happens when the drug is abuse and injected intravenously.

Like other commonly abused prescription drugs, Opana can be deadly. It is known in various street names, such as “stop signs,” “the O bomb,” and “new blues.”

Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

UCLA Study Shows Benefits of Botox in Soothing Neck and Shoulder Pain

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Many of us have known botox as an anti-wrinkle treatment, but a new study found it could also help people with chronic neck and shoulder pain.

In a study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), more than 100 patients with pain lasting more than two months and already tried other pain medications were given either botox (botulinum toxin type A) or placebo injections. Those who received botox did not only experience greater reduction in pain, but also a significant reduction in the number of headaches per week. Additionally, their headaches became less severe, allowing them to achieve improved quality of life.

According to the HealthDay.com report, the researchers expressed high hopes in their findings which suggest that botox may be an option for people with chronic neck and shoulder pains that have not been relieved through traditional therapies.

“At best, long-term benefit with traditional therapies is transient and unpredictable. Even with these treatments, some people with myofascial pain syndrome get incomplete benefit or no benefit at all,” study author Dr. Andrea Nicol, director of research at the UCLA Pain Management Center, said in an ASA news release.

The study would be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA).  The findings will be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Celebrity Substance Abuse Substance Abuse

Jenny McCarthy Discloses Drug Addiction Days

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Former Playmate Jenny McCarthy releases a new book which details how she once became addicted to prescription drugs.

McCarthy, who began her career as Playboy magazine model, opens up about her struggle with drug addiction during her heydays wherein she experimented on substances including Ecstasy and Vicodin.

An excerpt from her book, cited on Celebuzz.com, recalled one drug-fueled trip to Hawaii with a group of Playmates which turned into a lesbian tryst.

“Holding up drugs in front of a group of Playmates was like holding up an arm to a cannibal tribe,” McCarthy wrote. “We jumped on the box fighting to get as many little white capsules as possible. Instead of saving some for later, we all pounded at least five at once.”

McCarthy also revealed on her book that instead of checking into a rehabilitation facility to seek treatment for her addiction, she tackled withdrawal symptoms by sweating it out.

Aside from modeling and acting, McCarthy is also an advocate of Autism-related causes. She wrote “Louder than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism” which chronicles her own experience dealing with her son who was diagnosed with autism in 2005.