Health and Fitness

FDA Cautions Drug Makers About Potential Abuse

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Food and Drug Administration "this week released a draft of voluntary guidelines to assist drug makers in figuring out which compounds should be placed under the Controlled Substances Act. The law regulates the handling, record-keeping and dispensing of drugs deemed to be dangerous or addictive if misused -- in some cases imposing criminal penalties for misuse. The guidelines urge researchers to look beyond traditional indicators such as whether a compound is addictive and consider other characteristics that could lead to abuse." One example of a drug that could be more tightly restricted is the anesthetic propofol, part of the "cocktail of drugs that caused the death" of Michael Jackson (Zajac, 1/28). This information was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with kind permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery at kaiserhealthnews.

Obama Administration Issues Rules Requiring Parity In Treatment Of Mental, Substance Use Disorders

The U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury jointly issued new rules providing parity for consumers enrolled in group health plans who need treatment for mental health or substance use disorders. "Today's rules will bring needed relief to families faced with meeting the cost of obtaining mental health and substance abuse services, " said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "The benefits will give these Americans access to greatly needed medical treatment, which will better allow them to participate fully in society. That is not just sound policy, it's the right thing to do." "The rules we are issuing today will, for the first time, help assure that those diagnosed with these debilitating and sometimes life-threatening disorders will not suffer needless or arbitrary limits on their care, " said Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. "I applaud the longstanding and bipartisan effort that made these important new protections possible.

Alcohol, Energy Drinks Add Up To Higher Intoxication Levels, Increased Driving Risk

Energy drinks, favored among young people for the beverages' caffeine jolt, also play a lead role in several popular alcoholic drinks, such as Red Bull and vodka. But combining alcohol and energy drinks may create a dangerous mix, according to University of Florida research. In a study of college-aged adults exiting bars, patrons who consumed energy drinks mixed with alcohol had a threefold increased risk of leaving a bar highly intoxicated and were four times more likely to intend to drive after drinking than bar patrons who drank alcohol only. The study appears in the April issue of the journal Addictive Behaviors. "Previous laboratory research suggests that when caffeine is mixed with alcohol it overcomes the sedating effects of alcohol and people may perceive that they are less intoxicated than they really are, " said the study's lead researcher Dennis Thombs, an associate professor in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions' department of behavioral science and community health.

Intense Sweets Taste Especially Good To Some Kids

New research from the Monell Center reports that children's response to intense sweet taste is related to both a family history of alcoholism and the child's own self-reports of depression. The findings illustrate how liking for sweets differs among children based on underlying familial and biological factors. "We know that sweet taste is rewarding to all kids and makes them feel good, " said study lead author Julie A. Mennella, PhD, a developmental psychobiologist at Monell. "In addition, certain groups of children may be especially attracted to intense sweetness due to their underlying biology." Because sweet taste and alcohol activate many of the same reward circuits in the brain, the researchers examined the sweet preferences of children with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. They also studied the influence of depression, hypothesizing that children with depressive symptoms might have a greater affinity for sweets because sweets make them feel better. In the study, published online in the journal Addiction, 300 children between 5 and 12 years of age tasted five levels of sucrose (table sugar) in water to determine their most preferred level of sweetness.

DNA Found To Leak Into Preservatives In Mescal 'Worm' Test

Just because you don't swallow the worm at the bottom of a bottle of mescal doesn't mean you have avoided the essential worminess of the potent Mexican liquor, according to scientists at the University of Guelph. Researchers from U of G's Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO) have discovered that mescal itself contains the DNA of the agave butterfly caterpillar - the famously tasty "worm" that many avoid consuming. Their findings will appear in the March issue of BioTechniques, which is available online now. The BIO researchers set out to test a hypothesis that DNA from a preserved specimen can leak into its preservative liquid. As part of their study, they tested a sample of liquid from a bottle of mescal. The liquor was found to contain DNA, which they amplified and sequenced to obtain a DNA barcode - telltale genetic material that identifies species of living things. Comparing the sample to thousands of records of Lepidoptera DNA barcodes stored in the Barcode of Life Data Systems database at Guelph confirmed that the mescal liquid contained DNA related to the agave's family.

In Chronic Pain Patients, Higher Opioid Dose Linked To Overdose Risk

More and more Americans with chronic pain not caused by cancer are taking medically prescribed opioids like Oxycontin ( oxycodone ) and Vicodin (hydrocodone). The January 19 Annals of Internal Medicine features the first study to explore the risk of overdose in patients prescribed opioids for chronic noncancer pain in general health care. The study links risk of fatal and nonfatal opioid overdose to prescription use - strongly associating the risk with the prescribed dose. A team led by Michael Von Korff, ScD, a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute, studied nearly 10, 000 patients who received multiple opioid prescriptions for common chronic pain conditions like back pain and osteoarthritis. Patients who received higher opioid doses were 9 times more likely to overdose than were those receiving low doses. Still, most of the overdoses occurred among patients receiving low to medium doses, because prescriptions at those levels were much more common. More than 8 million U.

Anthrax Alert For Heroin Users In London

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) and NHS London have confirmed that a drug injecting heroin user has tested positive for anthrax and is being treated in a London hospital. This is the first case of anthrax seen in an injecting drug user in England since similar cases were first seen in Scotland in December 2009. Nineteen cases have so far been confirmed in Scotland. Similarities to the cases in Scotland suggest that the heroin, or a contaminated cutting agent mixed with the heroin, is the likely source of infection. Dr Brian McCloskey, Director of the Health Protection Agency in London, said: "We are working closely with NHS London to monitor the situation. There is no evidence of person to person transmission in this case and I'd like to reassure people that the risk to the general population, including close family members of the infected patient, is negligible. It is extremely rare for anthrax to be spread from person to person and there has been no evidence of a significant risk of airborne transmission associated with the current situation in Scotland.

Marijuana Ineffective As An Alzheimer's Treatment: UBC-Vancouver Coastal Health Research

The benefits of marijuana in tempering or reversing the effects of Alzheimer's disease have been challenged in a new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute. The findings, published in the current issue of the journal Current Alzheimer Research, could lower expectations about the benefits of medical marijuana in combating various cognitive diseases and help redirect future research to more promising therapeutics. Previous studies using animal models showed that HU210, a synthetic form of the compounds found in marijuana, reduced the toxicity of plaques and promoted the growth of new neurons. Those studies used rats carrying amyloid protein, the toxin that forms plaques in the brains of Alzheimer's victims. The new study, led by Dr. Weihong Song, Canada Research Chair in Alzheimer's Disease and a professor of psychiatry in the UBC Faculty of Medicine, was the first to test those findings using mice carrying human genetic mutations that cause Alzheimer's disease - widely considered to be a more accurate model for the disease in humans.

Among Older Drinkers, Social Factors Can Both Predict And Sustain Alcohol Misuse

Social factors have consistently been implicated as a cause of vulnerability to alcohol use and abuse. The reverse is also true, in that individuals who engage in excessive drinking may alter their social context. New research on drinking among older adults has found that older adults who have more money, engage in more social activities, and whose friends approve more of drinking are more likely to engage in excessive or high-risk drinking. Results will be published in the April 2010 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View. "Ours is one of the first studies to focus longitudinally on high-risk drinking among older adults, " said Rudolf H. Moos, senior research career scientist for the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System in Palo Alto, California, as well as corresponding author for the study, "and the first to have 10-year and 20-year follow-ups addressing this issue." Moos and his colleagues examined 719 (399 men, 320 women) 55 to 65-year-old adults at baseline (between 1986-1988), and then again 10 and 20 years later.

Risk Of Addiction Increased By Cocaine Or Ecstasy Consumption During Adolescence

Exposure to ecstasy or cocaine during adolescence increases the "reinforcing effects" that make people vulnerable to developing an addiction. This is the main conclusion of a research team from the University of Valencia (UV), which has shown for the first time how these changes persist into adulthood. "Although MDMA and cocaine are psychoactive substances frequently used by teenagers, very few studies have been done to analyse the short and long-term consequences of joint exposure to these drugs", JosГ MiГ arro, lead author of the study and coordinator of the Psychobiology of Drug Addiction group at the UV, tells SINC. The study, published in the journal Addiction Biology, shows for the first time that exposure to these drugs during adolescence leads to long-lasting changes that increase the reinforcing power of ecstasy or MDMA, and which last until adulthood. MiГ arro's team studied the joint consumption of different drugs in order to carry out an in-depth examination into the effects of this interaction.

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