Public Health News Roundup: June 7
Data from national surveys reviewed by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows that the number of 50 to 59-year-old adults reporting past-month abuse of illicit drugs — including the nonmedical use of prescription drugs — more than doubled from 2002 to 2010. The number increased from 907,000 in 2002 to 2,375,000 in 2010, or from 2.7 to 5.8 percent of this population.
The NIDA researchers say younger baby boomers were more likely than previous generations to have used illicit drugs in their youth, but abusing these drugs may be particularly harmful in older adults. "As people get older, it is more difficult for their bodies to absorb and break down medications and drugs," says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the NIDA. "Abusing these substances can worsen age-related health conditions, cause injuries and lead to addiction.” Read more on substance abuse.
Millions of people with gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease, may be at risk of running out of treatment options, according to an action plan released this week by the World Health Organization (WHO). Several countries, including Australia, France, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, are reporting cases of resistance to cephalosporin antibiotics — the last treatment option against gonorrhea.
According to the WHO, every year an estimated 106 million people are infected with gonorrhea. The action plan calls for increased vigilance on the correct use of antibiotics, more research into alternative treatment regimens for gonorrhea, increased monitoring and reporting of resistant strains, and better prevention, diagnosis and control of the infections. Read more on sexual health.
Two or three computed tomography (CT) head scans in kids can triple the risk of brain cancer later in life, according to a new study published in The Lancet. The study, which spanned twenty years, also found that the accumulated radiation in five to 10 scans during childhood may increase the likelihood of a child developing leukemia.
Recommendations include keeping radiation doses as low as possible and using alternatives to CT scans such as MRI and ultrasound, when possible.
The risk is about 1 in 10,000 according to the researchers, which may help physicians weigh the risk and benefit in each case. The study comes at a time when concern over sports-related head injuries may be increasing the number of head CT scans for kids. Read more on sports-related head injuries.