Archive for the 'Substance Abuse' Category

OTC Diet Pills Can Be Dangerous and Addictive

PillsOver-the-Counter diet pills may have undeclared pharmaceutical ingredients which can be dangerous and extremely addictive, researchers say. In fact the FDA has recently issued several warnings on diet pills with undeclared ingredients, specifically amphetamine-based ones from Brazil.

Harvard physicians report a recent case of a 29-year-old female patient who became addicted to Brazilian diet pills that contained unlabeled ingredients.  She reported taking the Brazilian diet pills for four years and had gone into debt to purchase the pills from an acquaintance, spending $160 per month.

At the time of her first visit with a physician, she had been suffering with a number of symptoms that she attributed to the pills and when she tried to quit, she would experience cravings, tremor, headache, and anxiety.

The diet pills were found to contain an amphetamine, chlordiazepoxide, and fluoxetine, which were illegal, dangerous, and not included on the label.  Apparently, all of these components could have contributed to the woman’s depression, anxiety, and hallucinations, as well as her dependence on the pills.

In an article by MedPage Today, “Diet pills with unlabeled ingredients are nothing new… In the 1960s, ‘rainbow pills’ contained amphetamines, diuretics, thyroid hormone, and cardiac glycosides. They were banned after their use was linked to sudden cardiac deaths.  In the 1980s, diet pills comprised of amphetamines, benzodiazepines, thyroid hormone, and diuretics appeared in Europe and South America. They’ve long been banned but remain widely available.”

Source: Smith BR, Cohen PA “Dependence on the Brazilian diet pill: a case report” Am J Addict 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1521-0391.2010.00034.x.

Source: “Adulterated Diet Pills Could Be Addictive”, MedPage Today, April 5, 2010 


Electronic Cigarettes Contain Chemical Used in Antifreeze

Electronic cigarettes are loaded with carcinogens and addictive nicotine Readily available on the internet and shopping malls, electronic cigarettes are marketed to teens and touted as a healthy substitute for cigarettes.  E-cigarettes, which are often made to look like real cigarettes, are far from healthy.

The FDA has recently analyzed the ingredients in a small sample of cartridges from two leading brands of e-cigarettes. A chemical used in antifreeze that is toxic to humans was found, as well as other  known carcinogens, such as nitrosamines, were detected.   

These products have never been submitted to the FDA for evaluation or approval, so at this time the agency has no way of knowing, except for the limited testing it has performed, the various levels of nicotine or the different amounts or kinds of other chemicals that these products deliver to the user. In fact, little is known about the devices.

The devices, known as e-cigarettes, are battery operated and contain nicotine, flavors, and other chemicals that are converted into a vapor that the user inhales.  Flavors such as chocolate, cola and bubble gum provide a youthful appeal.  Manufacturers provide no health warning on the product and claim that they are a safe alternative to cigarettes because they do not burn tobacco.  

The FDA said it has been examining and detaining shipments of e-cigarettes at the borders since Summer 2008, and is currently involved in a lawsuit challenging its jurisdiction over certain e-cigarettes.
Source: “E-Cigarettes Subject of FDA Warning”, MedPage Today, July 23, 2009

Critical Illness can Trigger Depression

Critical illness can trigger depressionFrequently patients who survive critical illnesses later become clinically depressed, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University.  In their recent study of intensive care (ICU) patients who suffered either multiple organ failure, underwent surgery, or received high doses of benzodiazepine (Xanax, Valium) while in the ICU, 26% of the participants were suffering symptoms of depression at six months after ICU discharge.

Depression is a true medical condition that strikes people of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnic groups. The exact cause of it is not entirely certain, but we do know: depression tends to run in families, it is cyclical and tends to recur, it is usually triggered by a stressful event, and it is associated with an imbalance of chemicals in the brain.

Normal function of the brain involves a complex interaction of chemicals, called neurotransmitters. Depression is associated with an imbalance of these neurotransmitters.

Depression occurs in waves, or spells, and can last for months or even years if left untreated.  Sometimes people who are depressed try to feel better by using alcohol or drugs. This doesn’t help the depression in the long run; in fact, alcohol and illegal drug use are well known for making depression worse and can easily lead to a vicious downhill path of substance abuse and addiction.

Depression is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw. It is a true medical condition like diabetes or hypertension, and it is often an overwhelming disease. Depression deeply affects not only the person who is depressed, but close family and friends are usually greatly impacted as well.

More people suffer from depression than you might think. Twenty-five percent of all women and up to 12% of all men in the U.S. will experience an episode of major depression some time in their lives. A person who is depressed to the point that it interferes with daily activities should seek medical care.

There are many treatments available. Prescription medicines for depression or anxiety may be helpful. Talking to a mental health professional and your friends and family about your feelings and the experience can also help. Regular daily exercise, if you are medically able, is extremely helpful in treating depression.

Read about

Source: Dowdy D, et al “Are intensive care factors associated with depressive symptoms 6 months after acute lung injury?” Crit Care Med 2009; DOI: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e31819fea55.

Smoking Pot Linked with Testicular Cancer

Marijuana plantsSmoking marijuana increases the risk of testicular cancer, according to researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.  In their recent study, men diagnosed with testicular cancer were 70% more likely to be current marijuana users, although the risk was especially elevated in men who had started using the drug before they were 18 or who used it frequently. Much of the increased risk is associated with tumors which typically peak between the ages of 20 and 35 and account for about 40% of all cases of testicular cancer.

Although little is known about the long-term health consequences of marijuana, it is known to have adverse effects on the reproductive system.  Researchers have also found a link between long-term heavy cannabis use and shrinkage in certain areas of the brain.  In addition, studies have found an increased risk of mental illness in pot smokers, such as depression and schizophrenia.

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the developed world.  The naive notion that smoking pot is harmless takes its toll on our society. Marijuana is not harmless and it is addictive. More young people are now in treatment for marijuana dependency than for alcohol or for all other illegal drugs combined.  Photo courtesy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Source: Daling JR, et al “Association of marijuana use and the incidence of testicular germ cell tumors” Cancer 2009; DOI: 10.1002/cncr.24159.

Exercise may help in preventing drug & alcohol addiction

New research is underway to answer the question whether exercise can prevent addiction to drugs or alcohol. There has been mounting evidence to suggest that regular physical activity might spur natural changes in the brain powerful enough to fight against the devastating addictions of alcohol and drugs.

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence, is a disease that includes the following four symptoms, according to the Nat’l Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

  1. Craving–A strong need, or urge, to drink.
  2. Loss of control–Not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun.
  3. Physical dependence–Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety after stopping drinking.
  4. Tolerance–The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get “high.”

Answering the following four questions can help you find out if you or a loved one has a drinking problem:

  1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  2. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

One “yes” answer suggests a possible alcohol problem. More than one “yes” answer means it is highly likely that a problem exists. If you think that you or someone you know might have an alcohol problem, it is important to see a doctor or other health care provider right away. They can help you determine if a drinking problem exists and plan the best course of action.

via Nat’l Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Facts for the General Public”
via Bay Area Medical Information, Drug Abuse Resources for U.S. and Pinellas Co., FL
via Bay Area Medical Information, Alcohol Abuse Resources for U.S. and Pinellas Co., FL

A new college drinking ritual with deadly outcomes

Alcoholic drinksIt’s called “21 for 21,” students down 21 alcoholic drinks on their 21st birthday, and some students are dying from this game, according to researchers at the University of Missouri.  

In an article about this ritual in HealthDay, Dr. Evaristo Akerele, vice president and director of medical and psychiatric affairs at Phoenix House in New York City said, “What generally happens is that we are normally protected by alcohol when you pass out before you get too drunk and get to the stage of death. What happens here is somebody keeps the mouth open and keeps putting more and more alcohol so you override [the tendency to pass out first]. It’s potentially fatal.”

In an effort to get the word out to college students, many universities have instituted the “birthday card,” which is sent out before a student’s 21st birthday and provides information about the dangers of this type of drinking.  Apparently this has had only limited success and the dangerous game continues.

via Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology/HealthDay/Medline Plus, June 2008

Long-term pot smoking shrinks the brain

Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the developed world yet little research, until now,  has been done regarding its harmful effects.  Researchers are now finding a link between long-term heavy cannabis use and shrinkage in certain areas of the brain.  

The naive notion that smoking pot is harmless takes its toll on our society. Marijuana is not harmless and it is addictive. More young people are now in treatment for marijuana dependency than for alcohol or for all other illegal drugs combined.  
via Arch Gen Psychiatry 2008;65(6):694-701,  June 2008
via Office of National Drug Control and Policy

It helps to quit smoking with a friend

People tend to quit smoking when they have the support of others going through the same ordeal, researchers say.  A recent large-scale analysis of Framingham study participants found people were more likely to quit smoking if friends, family or co-workers were trying to quit smoking as well. This new study from Harvard Medical School and University of California  adds to mounting evidence that social relationships have a big effect on health care decisions and life-style choices. This same team of experts also found in a previous study that obesity may be socially contagious as well.

via Reuters/New England Journal of Medicine, May 2008

Hookah smoking popular with college students

A large number of college students have tried smoking waterpipes, often with the erroneous assumption that they offer a “safer” way to smoke, researchers from the Virginia Commonwealth University report. Previous studies have shown that waterpipe smoke contains the same toxins as cigarette smoke.

via Journal of Adolescent Health, May 2008

Marijuana use worsens depression in teens

A recent report reveals that some teens are using drugs to relieve depression, when in fact, marijuana use is known to worsen the problem. Using marijuana increases the risk of developing mental disorders by 40 percent, and teens who smoke pot at least once a month over a yearlong period are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than nonusers.

In this report from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, during this past year, two million teens felt depressed at some point during the past year, and depressed teens are more than twice as likely as non-depressed teens to self-medicate with marijuana and other illicit drugs.  They are also more than twice as likely as their peers to abuse or become dependent on these drugs.

Overall, marijuana use among teens has decreased 25 percent since 2001. This is down to about 2.3 million kids who used pot at least once a month.

via Office of National Drug Control Policy, May 9, 2008