Category Archives: Substance Abuse
Regular Marijuana Use by Teens Continues to be a Concern
The annual survey of teen drug use by the National Institute on Drug Abuse finds continued high use of marijuana by 8th, 10th and 12th graders, as well as a drop in how dangerous students think the drug is. The survey found that 6.5 percent of high school seniors smoke marijuana daily, up from 5.1 percent five years ago. Nearly 23 percent say they smoked it in the month prior to the survey, and just over 36 percent say they smoked within the previous year. The survey found that use escalates after eighth grade. “We are increasingly concerned that regular or daily use of marijuana is robbing many young people of their potential to achieve and excel in school or other aspects of life," said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD. "THC, a key ingredient in marijuana, alters the ability of the hippocampus, a brain area related to learning and memory, to communicate effectively with other brain regions. In addition, we know from recent research that marijuana use that begins during adolescence can lower IQ and impair other measures of mental function into adulthood." Volkow says that marijuana use that begins in adolescence increases the risk of addiction to the drug. Read a NewPublicHealth interview with R. Greg Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy.
HIV Infections Among African-American Women Drop, But Rise in Young Gay, Bisexual Men
New HIV infections among African-American women dropped for the first time, by 21 percent between 2008 and 2010, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, African-American women still account for almost two-thirds of new HIV infections among American women. Overall, the number of new infections among Americans was stable at about 50,000 per year over the last decade, but new infections among young gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24 continue to rise, increasing 22 percent between 2008 and 2010. Read more on HIV.
Heart Association: Heart Health Varies from State to State
A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association finds that heart health varies among the fifty states. Researchers used 2009 data on seven heart health factors from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, including blood pressure, total cholesterol, smoking, body mass index, diabetes, physical activity, and fruit and vegetable consumption.
- The percentage of the population reporting optimal levels of all seven factors was lowest in Oklahoma, West Virginia and Mississippi, and highest in Washington, D.C., Vermont and Virginia.
- About 3 percent of the total U.S. population reported having ideal heart health.
- About 10 percent of the total population reported having poor cardiovascular health, with two or fewer heart-health factors at optimal levels.
- In general, people living in western and New England states reported having a higher percentage of ideal cardiovascular health.
- Those who were 65 or older reported the lowest percentage of ideal heart health, while the 35-54 age group reported the highest percentage of ideal heart health.
- Women said they were faring better than men.
- Whites and Asian/Pacific Islanders reported highest rates of heart health, while Blacks, Native Americans and Alaska Natives reported the worst results.
- Those in the highest education group reported better health than the other groups.
Thinking Before Drinking During the Holidays
The National Institutes of Health is promoting an online and print booklet to make people think before drinking to excess during the holidays. Information includes medication and conditions that can interact badly with alcohol. Read more on alcohol.
Steep Rise in Recent Substance Abuse Hospital Admissions Linked to People Combining Certain Drugs
Substance abuse treatment admissions for addiction involving use of benzodiazepine together with narcotic pain relievers increased a total of 569.7 percent, to 33,701, from 2000 to 2010, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Overall substance abuse treatment admissions of people ages 12 and older in the same period rose 4 percent, to 1.82 million, the agency said. “Clearly, the rise in this form of substance abuse is a public health problem that all parts of the treatment community need to be aware of,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “When patients are battling severe withdrawal effects from two addictive drugs, new treatment strategies may be needed to meet this challenge. These findings will help us better understand the nature and scope of this problem and to develop better approaches to address it.” Read more on substance abuse.
Snacking on Healthier Foods Can Decrease Calorie Intakes for Kids
What you snack on matters. In a new study in the journal Pediatrics, 200 children in third to sixth grades were randomly given one of four snacks: potato chips, cheese, vegetables, or a combination of cheese and vegetables. The kids were told to snack freely until they felt full, while watching a 45-minute cartoon. Children who ate the combination snack consumed 72 percent fewer calories compared to children who ate potato chips, and they needed significantly fewer calories to feel satisfied. Children offered only cheese also consumed fewer calories than those who were served potato chips. Read more on nutrition.
Synthetic Marijuana Linked to Thousands of Emergency Room Trips Annually
“Synthetic marijuana” was connected to 11,406 emergency department visits in 2010 alone, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Synthetic cannabinoids, which are legal in some states, have been linked to health issues ranging from agitation and nausea to tremors, seizures and hallucinations. “This report confirms that synthetic drugs cause substantial damage to public health and safety in America,” said Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske. “Make no mistake—the use of synthetic cannabinoids can cause serious, lasting damage, particularly in young people. Parents have a responsibility to learn what these drugs can do and to educate their families about the negative impact they cause.” Read more on substance abuse.
NHTSA Calls for Safety Recorders in New Automobiles
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is recommending that all new automobiles be equipped with event data recorders (EDRs) starting September 1, 2014. About 96 percent of 2013 models include EDRs, which collect safety-related data such as vehicle speed, whether the brake was activated before a crash and information about air bag deployment. “By understanding how drivers respond in a crash and whether key safety systems operate properly, NHTSA and automakers can make our vehicles and our roadways even safer,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This proposal will give us the critical insight and information we need to save more lives.” Read more on transportation and health.
Winter Markets up 52 Percent from 2011
The number of winter markets in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Farmers Market Directory is up 52 percent from last year, to a total of 1,864. The markets enable farmers to expand their selling seasons and generate additional income, according to Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "These investments are a win-win,” Merrigan said in a release. “Farmers have more stability, and consumers have a reliable supply of local food, regardless of the season." The top state for winter markets is California, with 284. Read more on nutrition.
Smoking During Pregnancy Harms Reading Comprehension in Kids
Children whose mothers smoke more than one pack of cigarettes daily during pregnancy perform 21 percent lower on reading comprehension tests than the kids of non-smokers, according to a new study in The Journal of Pediatrics. "It's not a little difference—it's a big difference in accuracy and comprehension at a critical time when children are being assessed, and are getting a sense of what it means to be successful," said Jeffrey Gruen, MD, of Yale University to Reuters. Other health studies have linked tobacco use during pregnancy to lower IQs and poor academic performance. Read more on tobacco.
Study: Teens Turning to Steroids to Build Muscle, Meet Body Ideals
Approximately 5 percent of teenagers have use steroids in an attempt to build muscle, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics. Steroid use can lead to a range of side effects, from the minor all the way up to heart attacks and liver disease. Researchers also found that about 11 percent were using other physique-enhancing substances such as creatine or DHEA, all of which raises concerns not just about physical health, but also mental and emotional health. "We specifically asked whether they were doing those things to increase muscle mass or tone," said Marla Eisenberg, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. "If a kid is often exercising for that reason, it might point to body-image concerns." Read more on substance abuse.
Study: Younger, Less Mature Kids Being Misdiagnosed with ADHD
A new study in the journal Pediatrics indicates that some children may be medicated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when in fact they are simply younger—so less mature—than their classmates. Researchers found that kids who were in the youngest third of their classes were far more likely than those in the oldest third to be diagnosed with ADHD. "Educators and health-care providers should take children's ages in relation to their [classmates] into account when evaluating academic performance and other criteria for ADHD diagnosis," said Helga Zoega, a postdoctoral fellow at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "Parents can use these findings to help inform their decisions about school readiness for children born close to cutoff dates for school entry." The number of ADHD cases has been increasing over the past several years, with many in the health community wondering whether it is being over-diagnosed. Read more on mental health.
News from APHA: Veterans More Likely Than Civilians to Seek Treatment for Heavy Drinking
A new study released today at the 140th meeting of the American Public Health Association meeting in San Francisco found that male military veterans with a history of heavy alcohol use are more likely to seek treatment and, later, report better overall health and less depression than their civilian counterparts. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. Read more on military health.
Hurricane Sandy: Experts Urge Safe Food Handling
As the East Coast prepares for Hurricane Sandy, experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture offer critical tips for keeping food safe during a power outage, such as freezing containers of water to keep food cool and knowing how long refrigerators and freezers will stay cool enough to preserve food, even after the power goes out. Read more on preparedness for Sandy and other emergencies.
Study: Quitting Smoking Before Age 40 Avoids 90% of Excess Mortality
A new study published in The Lancet finds that although the hazards of smoking at any age are high, the benefits of quitting are also enormous. While smokers in the United Kingdom lose at least 10 years of life, quitting before age 40 years avoids more than 90 percent of those excess lost years of life. Stopping before age 30 years avoids more than 97% of the excess mortality. Read more tobacco news.
Medical-Legal Partnerships Identify, Help At-risk Communities
Sometimes medical problems have legal solutions. A new study in the journal Pediatrics used pattern recognition, in conjunction with medical and legal expertise, to identify children and communities in need of legal assistance to address inadequate housing and other issues that negatively impact health. By addressing social and environmental factors, medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) can improve both individual and public health, while also identifying additional areas where people did not realize they could be helped legally. “The government has enacted laws and regulations to address the negative health impact of hunger, insufficient income, unsafe housing, and disability,” wrote Barry Zuckerman, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine/Boston Medical Center, in a commentary. “When families do not receive the benefits or protections of these laws, health is undermined. The consequences can be treated medically, but their upstream causes are social and are more effectively addressed by using legal strategies.” Read more on medical-legal partnerships.
Substance Abuse Up Significantly Since 2001
The number of substance abuse diagnoses climbed approximately 70 percent from 2001 to 2009, according to a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Study lead author Joseph W. Frank, MD, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, identified a number of possible explanations for the increase, including a rise in prescription drug use and increasingly effective treatments, such as methadone and talk therapy. "This finding is consistent with trends in substance use disorder-related utilization at the nation's community health centers and emergency departments and, sadly, use of its morgues," according to the study. Nearly 15,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on substance abuse.
Blood Pressure Improving for U.S. Adults with Hypertension
More and more U.S. adults with hypertension have their blood pressure under control, according to new research in the journal Circulation. About 47 percent of patients said their blood pressure was under control in 2010, up from 29 percent in 2001. Study authors cited an increasing use in multiple drugs as a reason for the improvement, as well as lower medication costs and greater awareness. The study also identified at-risk groups prone to higher blood pressure, including older Americans, blacks, people with chronic kidney issues and people with diabetes. The study also found that only 34 percent of Mexican-Americans had their blood pressure under control and recommend further research into the reasons. Read more on heart health.
3-D Mammogram Could Improve Cancer Diagnoses
A new type of 3-D mammogram produces sharper images than traditional CT scans that will allow physicians to identify and treat cancer earlier, according to the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Approximately 210,000 U.S. women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and almost 41,000 died, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new technique combines X-ray imaging and equally sloped tomography to produce an image. It also uses a lower radiation dose than current CT scans. However, researchers noted that the technology to use the technique in a clinical setting does not yet exist. Read more on cancer.
Post-storm Food Precautions from the USDA
As residents of four states hunker down to face Hurricane Isaac, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urges anyone in the storm’s path to take precautions when using and preparing food after a severe storm. According to the USDA, power outages and flooding from weather emergencies compromise the safety of stored food. While people still have power, it is a good idea to access and download A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes. USDA also has dedicated Twitter accounts with updated information on food preparation during and after the current severe weather: @FL_FSISAlert for Florida, @MS_FSISAlert for Mississippi and @LA_FSISAlert for Louisiana. USDA also has a “virtual representative”—Karen—available 24/7 online and on smartphones. Consumers can also find a live representative at the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline by calling 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. Operators speak English and Spanish. Read regular updates from the National Hurricane Center.
Marijuana Use by Teens Impacts Intelligence Later On
Regular marijuana use by teens who continue the drug use into their adulthood can lead to an average drop in IQ of eight points, according to a new study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study looked at more than 1,000 New Zealanders born in 1972 or 1973 who were tested at the ages of 13 and again at 38. The average IQ is 100, or the 50th percentile; an IQ of 92 would drop someone to the 29th percentile. “As an adolescent, your brain hasn’t fully developed. It’s undergoing some critical developmental changes,” said study author Madeline Meier, a postdoctoral research associate in psychology and neurology at Duke University, according to HealthDay. “This research suggests that because of that you are vulnerable to the effects of cannabis on your brain. If you start using as an adolescent and you keep using it, you are going to lose some of your mental abilities.” Read more on substance abuse.
Legionnaires’ Deaths and Illnesses Linked to Chicago Hotel
An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in an outbreak linked to a Chicago Marriott hotel has led to two people dying and six others falling ill, according to Reuters. Officials with the national hotel chain have contacted 80 percent of the approximately 8,500 people who stayed at the hotel from July 16 to August 16. Kathleen Ritger, MD, Medical Director over Communicable Disease at the Chicago Department of Public Health, has said there is “no ongoing health threat” at the location. Legionnaires’—a type of pneumonia—starts with high fever, chills and a cough and can lead to death in between 5 percent and 30 percent of cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on infectious diseases.
Salmonella Deaths Linked to Cantaloupes
Two deaths and approximately 150 cases of salmonella have been linked to cantaloupe in Indiana, Kentucky and Minnesota. Health officials are encouraging consumers to immediately discard any melons purchased from those three states, according to Reuters. Salmonella can cause severe diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. It is especially dangerous for children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. Read more on food safety.
Teens Who Expect Early Deaths More Likely to Take Dangerous Risks
Teens who predict they have a 50 percent or less chance of living to the age of 35 were more likely than they peers to engage in risk-taking behavior, according to a new study published in the August 1 issue of PLOS ONE. The study compared data collected on 19,000 adolescents in 1994-95 to data collected on the same group approximately 14 years later. Researchers also found the teens were more likely to attempt suicide and abuse alcohol and drugs. “The new research extends previous work by the same group that found expectations of premature death can predict future socioeconomic status” and demonstrates the value in early screening to help predict—and stop—later harmful behaviors, according to a news release. Read more on substance abuse.
Antimicrobial Products Identified in Minnesota Waterways
Chemicals found in personal care products—antimicrobial soaps, disinfectants and sanitizers—have been identified in high concentrations in bodies of freshwater in Minnesota. The study was conducted by Arizona State University researchers in conjunction with federal partners. They looked specifically for triclosan and triclocarban, two chemicals that can stay in the environment for decades. The study “shows natural degradation processes to be too slow to counter the continuous environmental release of these endocrine disrupting chemicals,” said Rolf Halden, director of Environmental Security at the Biodesign Institute and professor in the Ira A. Fulton School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. Read more on the environment.
CDC Recommends Against Using Popular Gonorrhea Treatment
Infectious disease experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended this week that the antibiotic Suprax (cefixime) no longer be used to treat gonorrhea. The CDC is discouraging use of Suprax because patients are developing resistance to the drug. As first line treatment, the CDC recommends use of the drug ceftriaxone in combination with azithromycin or doxycycline. Read more on sexual health.
Alcohol Ad Violations More Common in Magazines with High Youth Readership
As the youth readership level of a magazine goes up, so too does the likelihood that alcohol advertisements in the publication are in violation of industry standards, according to a new study. The study was conducted by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The study looked at 1,261 advertisements for alcopops, beer, spirits or wine that appeared more than 2,500 times in 11 different with youth readership levels of at least 15 percent. CAMY Director and study co-author David Jernigan, PhD said the findings indicate the industry standards should be strengthened. Read more on alcohol.
SAMHSA Awards $11M to Treat Substance Abuse in Pregnant and Postpartum Women
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded up to $11 million in grants under the Service Grants Program for the Residential Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women (PPW). There are seven total grants to be utilized over the next three years. They will go toward improving substance abuse treatment, prevention and recovery support services for pregnant women, new mothers and their minor children. “This program offers vital help and hope to women at a crucial time in their lives and in the lives of their children,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde in a release. “By including families in the supportive services that are being provided for these women, we acknowledge that people with substance use disorders are more than just their addictions.” Read more on substance abuse.
A recent article in the New York Times looks at a shift in thinking to combat drug abuse from efforts to prevent drugs such as heroin and cocaine from entering the U.S. illegally, to combating the rising, more significant problem in the fifty states—abuse of prescription drugs.
>>Bonus Link: Read a NewPublicHealth interview with R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.