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Friday, February 27, 2015

Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH)

The ever growing popularity of e-cigarettes has many chomping at the bit for regulations to be set for the devices. While most will agree that e-cigarettes appear to be a healthier alternative to traditional nicotine products, many hold concerns about teenagers who may be attracted to the fruity flavors of nicotine e-juice.

Experts are concerned that a landmark government study on tobacco use may not have much insight about e-cigarette use, Reuters reports. Insufficient data will provide a challenge for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set policies about e-cigarettes. The study is unlikely to contain data regarding the average dose of nicotine consumed from using e-cigarettes, due to the fact that e-cigarettes can be adjusted to release different amounts of nicotine.

"When you get to e-cigarettes it's really complicated," said Kurt Ribisl, a professor at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, who also sits on the FDA's tobacco products scientific advisory committee. "It’s a vexing and complex issue."

The Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study, draws from over five years of data from 46,000 people, according to the article. Experts contend that the study may lack the detail required for determining whether, or not, e-juice flavors are appealing to children.

“While all this data that is being accumulated through the PATH study is great, it is unclear to me how much is going to be useful for setting the policy and regulations of the future.” said Scott Ballin, a health policy consultant based in Washington, D.C.

The study will most likely, according to the article, provide information regarding smoking behavior that could influence tobacco regulations on warning labels, new product approvals and advertising restrictions.

"It is going to provide the most fine-grain, comprehensive, highest quality data on tobacco use that has ever been collected in the United States," said Stanton Glantz, a tobacco control expert at the University of California, San Francisco.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Middle Schools Report Rise in Drug Incidents

English: one high-quality "bud " nug...
While marijuana legalization is in its infancy, Colorado has already witnessed some down sides. After a little more than a year since recreational sales began, Colorado middle-schools report a 24 percent increase in drug-related incidents, USA Today reports. While the schools have not reported which drugs are involved in the incidents, experts directly attribute the rise to marijuana legalization.

Across the state, middle schools reported a total of 951 drug violations, which is the highest the state has seen in a decade. The Denver Public Schools’ Executive Director of Student Services, John Simmons, says schools in his city witnessed a 7 percent increase in drug incidents (almost all involving marijuana), from 452 to 482.

"According to our data, middle schools are where most people begin to experiment," said Simmons. "It's much easier to stop someone from using in the first place than it is to stop it once it's started." Marijuana use has been a problem for many years, but, due to increased social acceptance and easier access, school officials say more students are trying the drug.

“We have seen parents come in and say, ‘Oh that’s mine, they just took it out of my room,’ and that sort of thing,” said school resource officer Judy Lutkin of the Aurora Police Department. “Parents have it in their houses more often, and the kids just can take it from home.”

“Middle schoolers are most vulnerable to being confused about marijuana,” said Dr. Christian Thurstone, attending physician for the Denver Health Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment program. “They think, ‘Well, it’s legal so it must not be a problem.’”

Supporters of legalization point out kids do not go into marijuana stores and buy the drug, and packages leaving stores do not market to children, according to the article.

"We have gone above and beyond to make sure that we are not marketing to children," said Meg Sanders, owner of MiNDFUL, which operates in several cities in Colorado selling the drug. "We feel it's our responsibility as a responsible business to card not just once but twice for any recreational customer, and medical patients have to show several documents before they can purchase marijuana."

Friday, February 13, 2015

Smoking is More Deadly Than We Thought

It is no secret that smoking cigarettes can be deadly; and it can be tied to a number of forms of cancer and disease. A new report has found that the number of Americans who die from smoking-related diseases is significantly higher than previously estimated, The New York Times reports. It’s somewhat hard to believe that the problem could get any worse when you consider that every year in this country smoking was already linked to nearly half a million deaths, from 21 diseases and 12 types of cancer.

In the new study, researchers analyzed health data from almost one million people who were followed for 10 years, giving them the ability to tie at least five diseases and 60,000 more deaths a year in the United States, according to the article.

“The smoking epidemic is still ongoing, and there is a need to evaluate how smoking is hurting us as a society, to support clinicians and policy making in public health,” said researcher Brian D. Carter of the American Cancer Society. “It’s not a done story.”

The new research indicated that smoking can cause:
  • Kidney Disease
  • Intestinal Disease
  • Increased Risks of Infection
  • Types of heart and lung diseases previously not associated with tobacco.
“The number of additional deaths potentially linked to cigarette smoking is substantial,” study co-author Eric J. Jacobs, PhD, said in a news release. “In our study, many excess deaths among smokers were from disease categories that are not currently established as caused by smoking, and we believe there is strong evidence that many of these deaths may have been caused by smoking. If the same is true nationwide, then cigarette smoking may be killing about 60,000 more Americans each year than previously estimated, a number greater than the total number who die each year of influenza or liver disease.”

The findings were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Second Mechanism in Cocaine Addiction

A research team has found a mechanism in the brain that is key to making cocaine seem pleasurable, which could lead researchers to finding drug treatment for addiction, Science Daily reports. Led by the University of Colorado Boulder and assisted by scientists at University of Adelaide in Australia and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, researchers discovered that cocaine's impact on neurons does not fully explain the drug's dramatic effects on reward.

The effect of cocaine works by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain, a neurochemical associated with feelings of pleasure and blocking the ability for the brain to reabsorb the dopamine. The temporary blocking of dopamine reabsorption is what makes the user feel euphoric for an extended period of time.

The researchers' focus in this study was on a second mechanism in the brain which may contribute to the abuse potential of cocaine. They found that the second mechanism centers on glial cells, an important component of the brain's immune system. Researchers found that cocaine binds to glial cells which then triggers an inflammatory response in the TLR4 area of the brain, exciting neurons and further increasing the amount of dopamine released in the brain.

"We've demonstrated conclusively that cocaine interacts with TLR4 to produce a pro-inflammatory effect in the brain," said Alexis Northcutt, a CU-Boulder research associate in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and lead author of the paper. "The effect is necessary to convey the drug's rewarding effects. Without it, reward is greatly reduced."

Previous research has found that using the drug (+)-naltrexone inhibits opioids from binding to TLR4, according to the article.

"We found the same results when studying cocaine, which means the same drug, (+)-naltrexone, might be useful for treating a wider range of drug addictions," said senior author CU-Boulder Professor Linda Watkins. "The exciting news is that this drug is already in development by Xalud Therapeutics."

The findings were published in Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry.
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