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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

23 Percent of High School Students Use Tobacco

It is no secret that the majority of adult smokers began using tobacco products during their teenage years. While smoking rates continue to decline, a new government study has found that almost 23 percent of high school students use tobacco products, HealthDay reports. The study found that more than 90 percent of those tobacco users smoke cigarettes, cigars, hookahs or pipes.

“Nine out of ten smokers tried their first cigarette by age 18,” Dr. Tim McAfee, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Office on Smoking and Health, said in an agency news release. “We must do more to prevent our youth from using tobacco products, or we will see millions of them suffer and die prematurely as adults.”

It has long been known that smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke, but with every year that passes, research indicates that tobacco has a role in a number of other ailments. The U.S. Surgeon General released a report earlier this year warning that smoking tobacco is a causal factor in 10 diseases and conditions, such as:
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Age-related Macular Degeneration
  • Liver Cancer
  • Tuberculosis
  • Impaired Immune Function
  • Orofacial Clefts in Infants
  • Ectopic Pregnancy
The report found that 46 percent of high school students and almost 18 percent of middle school students said they had tried at least one form of tobacco products, according to the article. More than 12 percent of high school students say they use two or more tobacco products, and about 75 percent of teenage smokers will smoke as adults, the CDC estimates.

The CDC report concluded that cigarette smoking contributes to the death of 480,000 Americans each year, previously estimated to be 443,000 deaths.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Smoking Can Cause Bladder Cancer

When most people think of the dangers of smoking they often envision lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While they would not be wrong to think of those two life threatening ailments first, they may be surprised to find out that smoking is also the leading culprit in causing other forms of cancer.

A new study has found that the majority of tobacco smokers with bladder cancer are cognizant of the connection between their disease and the tobacco, Reuters reports. In fact, tobacco has been found to be the cause of more than half of bladder cancer cases in the United States.

“Bladder cancer is actually the second most common smoking-related cancer, second only to lung,” said lead author Dr. Jeffrey C. Bassett of Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Anaheim.

Earlier research indicated that only a small amount of bladder cancer patients understood the connection between their disease and tobacco, Bassett noted. When, in fact, most “Bladder cancer patients smoking at diagnosis appear to accept that their own smoking caused their cancer, positioning them for a more motivated (and more likely successful) attempt at quitting,” Bassett said.

Smoking history surveys were completed by 790 bladder cancer patients that participated in the study. The survey asked participants to identify what could cause bladder cancer from a list of 10 potential causes of cancer. They were also asked which factors they believed caused their own cancer.

The researchers found that almost 70 percent said tobacco could cause cancer, according to the report. Of those participants that were aware of the link between tobacco and bladder cancer:
  • 90 percent of current smokers
  • 64 percent of former smokers
  • 61 percent of those who had never smoked
In 2009, the World Journal of Urology reported that more than 12 million new cases of bladder cancer occur annually worldwide, the article reports.

The findings of the study were reported in the journal Cancer.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Genetic Markers for Alcoholism Recovery

Withdrawing from any addictive substance is extremely difficult and often requires the aid of medications. Opioid addicts, seeking recovery, are usually given drugs like buprenorphine to aid with arduous withdrawal periods. Alcoholics, on the other hand, are often given the drug Acamprosate, which has shown to be effective in a number of cases.

Researchers have found genetic markers that may help in identifying individuals who could benefit from the alcoholism treatment drug Acamprosate, reports Science Daily. When observing patients taking acamprosate, those carrying certain genetic variants have longer periods of abstinence during the first three months of treatment.

Acamprosate, or Campral, is a drug used for treating alcohol and benzodiazepine dependence. The drug is thought to stabilize the chemical balance in the brain that is often disrupted by alcohol withdrawal or benzodiazepine withdrawal. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry indicates that Acamprosate works best with recovering alcoholics when used in conjunction with support groups.

Mayo Clinic researchers and collaborators in Germany studied the association between the genetic variant rs2058878 located in the GRIN2B gene, and the length of sobriety when alcohol-dependent patients were treated with Acamprosate. The findings, at the Mayo Clinic and in Germany, showed that the genetic variant could be associated with increased abstinence when taking Acamprosate.

"This association finding is a first step towards development of a pharmacogenetic test allowing physicians to choose appropriate treatment for specific subgroups of alcohol-dependent patients," says Victor Karpyak, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic psychiatrist and lead author of the article. "We believe that individualized treatment selection will eliminate the need for trial-and-error approaches and improve treatment efficacy in patients with alcohol use disorders."

The findings were published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Marijuana Legalization Results 2014

On Tuesday, while the majority of Americans were concerned about red or blue, others were focused on green. In Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. many voters turned up to the polls to vote on marijuana.

Both Oregon and Alaska are now the second pair of states to have legalized the recreational use of the drug, with D.C. now allowing possession but not retail sales, Reuters reports.

Voters in South Portland, Maine, passed a measure that allows possession of small amounts of recreational marijuana. In Florida, a constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana was defeated.

The Washington, D.C. measure allows adults 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants. However, due that the fact that D.C. is our nation's capital, the measure could be sidetracked by the U.S. Congress, which has constitutional oversight, according to the report.

Preliminary results indicate 52 percent of Alaskan voters and 54 percent of Oregon voters supported the legalization of marijuana. Once the results are certified, state commissions have nine months to decide on regulations. This means the earliest the measures would take effect will be July, 2015. Retail stores carrying the drug would be likely to open in 2016. 

Not everyone in Oregon is happy about the results, opponents of the measure said they will advocate for stricter laws with the goal of limiting access to marijuana by children. 

The co-founder of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), Kevin Sabet, has pledged to strengthen their coalition to counter pro-marijuana groups in 2016. “Tonight is going to inspire us to do better and to try harder and go after the donors we have to go after in order to level the playing field,” Sabet said. “The more people that hear about legalization, the more people are uncomfortable with it. For us it’s about getting our message out.”

Despite recreational marijuana use being legal in four states, marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

WHO Calls for Increased Naloxone Access

Credit: Nigel Brunsdon
The prevention of overdose deaths through the opioid-overdose antidote naloxone has become more common, especially in states that allow the acquisition of naloxone without a prescription. In the wake of the prescription drug epidemic and subsequent scourge of heroin use, in many states first responders have naloxone readily available. The World Health Organization (WHO) is recommending that naloxone availability be increased, estimating that it could prevent more than 20,000 deaths in the United States annually, according to Reuters.

Now that Naloxone can be administered via nasal spray, the range of people qualified to use the drug is greater; naloxone was once only administered through injection which limited the drug's reach. “We’re happy to recommend the intranasal approach as an effective approach,” WHO expert Nicolas Clark said. “Naloxone is cheap but it’s limited really to emergency departments and some ambulance departments.”

Time is of the essence when it comes to overdoses, seconds can oftentimes be the difference between life and death. Many overdoses happen at home, a family member is oftentimes a witness to the overdose and could administer naloxone, Clark noted.

“If opioids are easily available in people’s bathroom cabinets, it might make sense for naloxone to be equally available,” Clark said.

There are 24 states with laws that allow increased access to naloxone. Such laws allow doctors to prescribe naloxone to friends and family members of a person who abuses opioids; what’s more, the laws remove legal liability for prescribers and for those who administer naloxone.