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Friday, December 26, 2014

80 Percent Needing Help is Alcohol-Related

The use of alcohol during the holiday season is always excessive, even amongst those who do not have a problem with the substance. The reasons for the over-consumption of alcohol are varied, but one thing is certain, there is nothing healthy about it. In fact, while historically those who ended up seeking help for substance abuse were usually split 50/50 between alcohol and drugs, new findings indicate that the figures have shifted and up to 80% of the people needing help is alcohol-related, the BBC reports.

The new figures come from Cais, one of Wales' biggest charities, which provides support on substance abuse and mental health issues across north Wales and Powys. Just five years ago, half of the people seeking help from Cais were having problems with drugs. Now that figure has dropped to around 20 percent, Cais’ Chief Executive Clive Wolfendale believes that the recent shift is the result of alcohol being too cheap and that the product is promoted as being "glamorous."

"Pricing is all over the place. It needs to be more expensive. It's not happening quickly enough," Mr. Wolfendale added. "Sadly, no government seems to be able to get a grip on it.”

Wolfendale thinks that people are looking for a cheap and easy release; they turn to alcohol before drugs because of the availability and cost, according to the article.

"Use of opiates has decreased dramatically and is unappealing to many people, particularly young people, whereas drink has increased in popularity. It's promoted as glamorous."

While the recent findings come from across the Atlantic, in America the price of alcohol is also too low and too easy to come by. It is easy to overlook those suffering from alcoholism in the United States, especially since the majority of conversations these days are focused on the opioid epidemic that has been crippling the states for years. The conversation about alcohol abuse should continue, pricing and advertising reform is desperately needed - lest we overlook the big picture of addiction in America.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Methamphetamine Users May Develop Parkinson's Disease

English: Crystal methamphetamine
When people think of methamphetamine, the first thoughts are often times quite negative, such as diminished physical appearance from the toxic chemicals in the drug and erratic behavior due to sleep deprivation. It turns out that those negative side effects may not be the worst of it; a new study has found that methamphetamine users are three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than people who do not use the drug, Medical News Today reports.

What’s more, the researchers who conducted the study at the University of Utah and Intermountain Healthcare, found that female methamphetamine users may be almost five times as likely to develop Parkinson’s compared with women who do not use drugs.

“Typically, fewer females use meth than males do,” study senior author Glen R. Hanson, D.D.S., Ph.D., professor and interim dean of the University of Utah School of Dentistry and professor of pharmacology and toxicology, noted in a press release. “Even though women are less likely to use it, there appears to be a gender bias toward women in the association between meth use and Parkinson’s.”

Patient data from the University of Utah Health Care and Intermountain Healthcare, as well as more than 40,000 records in the Utah Population Database (UPDB), comprised of genealogical, medical and government-provided information on Utah families, was combed through by researchers. The data that contained identifying patient information was removed in order for all participants to remain anonymous, according to the article.

Only patients who had used only meth and cocaine were considered for the study. Patients who had used any other controlled substance or alcohol with methamphetamine or cocaine were not eligible for the research. The control group was then compared to both the methamphetamine and cocaine groups.

The participants in the cocaine group were not found to be at increased risk for Parkinson's.

"We feel comfortable that it's just the meth causing the risk for Parkinson's, and not other drugs or a combination of meth and other drugs," says Hanson.

The research was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tips From Former Smokers Campaign Success

Have you ever wondered how effective anti-smoking campaigns are? In 2012, an anti-smoking campaign called “Tips From Former Smokers” was launched by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a new report has deemed the campaign not only a success, but also cost effective, according to HealthDay. The CDC reported that the campaign cost just $480 per smoker who quit and $393 per year of life saved.

You may remember this particular anti-smoking campaign, one could argue that it is hard to forget considering that it featured graphic images of the effects that smoking has on the human body. Last year, the CDC reported that an estimated 1.6 million people tried to quit smoking as a result of seeing the anti-smoking ads and 100,000 people actually did manage to quit. The CDC reports that the ad campaign was seen by almost 80 percent of American smokers.

“Our mission is to protect the public health, and the 2012 Tips ads did this by motivating 1.6 million smokers to make a quit attempt,” study co-author Dr. Tim McAfee, Director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in an agency news release. “In addition, our responsibility is to spend public dollars as wisely and efficiently as possible.”

In order for a public health program to be deemed cost-effective, the widely accepted price-ceiling is $50,000 per year of life saved, according to the CDC. The “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign only cost of $393 per year of life saved, leaving a lot of money leftover to be directed towards other causes.

“There is no question the Tips campaign is a ‘best buy’ for public health — it saves lives and saves money,” added CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.

The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Developing A Breath Test For THC

In 2014, Alaska and Oregon voted in favor of marijuana legalization, making a total of four states where marijuana can be purchased and consumed legally. Experts believe that more states will follow in 2016, with one of the likely states being California. Many American’s sat back to watch the legalizing pioneer states, Colorado and Washington, develop rules and standards for the safe production, distribution and consumption of the drug. All things considered, a number of Americans contend that, while Colorado and Washington have handled things pretty well, people driving under the influence of marijuana is a major concern.

Unlike alcohol, determining whether or not someone is currently under the influence of marijuana is tricky; police are not equipped with mobile devices that can give them readings one way or the other. Currently, if an officer suspects that a driver is “high,” the suspect will have to submit to a blood analysis to determine the concentration of marijuana in the bloodstream. 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood was set as the legal limit under Initiative 502; anyone testing above 5 is automatically determined to be impaired.

At Washington State University, researchers are developing a breath test for THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, according to The Seattle Times. In Washington, the need for a standardized mobile test that officers can use to determine THC levels is paramount, perhaps the only sure way to dissuade drugged-driving.

Legalization in Washington has brought with it a surge of drivers testing positive for THC. In 2013, the Washington State Toxicology Laboratory reported that 25 percent of all tested blood samples taken from drivers suspected of driving under the influence, tested positive for active THC. In 2012, the year that legalization passed, only 18.6 percent of blood samples tested positive.

Washington State University chemistry professor Herbert Hill and WSU doctoral student Jessica Tufariello believe they can re-purpose devices, like the ones used by airport security and customs agents to detect drugs and explosives, into mobile units that can test one’s breath for THC. According to Hill, preliminary devices probably won’t be able to pinpoint the level of THC in the body, just whether or not THC is present. However, Hill believes that such a device could help law enforcement determine whether to arrest a suspected impaired driver for further testing.

“We believe at least initially that it would lower the false positives that an officer would have,” Hill said. “They would have a higher level of confidence in making an arrest.”
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