Archive for the 'Teens' 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 


Excessive TV and Computer Use Weakens Teen and Parent Relationships

Excessive time on a computer interferes with other relationshipsFor every hour teens spend watching television, there is a 13% increased risk of low attachment to parents and a 24% increase in the risk of having low attachment to peers, according to a recent study out of New Zealand. 

Source: “TV, Computers Linked to Weak Relationships”, MedPage Today,  March 1, 2010
Source: Richards R, et al “Adolescent screen time and attachment to parents and peers” Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2010; 164: 258-62.  1, 2010

Sugary Foods May Contribute to Acne

South Beach Diet found to improve acneA low-carbohydrate diet may help improve skin condition in people with acne, according to a recent study from the University of Miami. 

In a large survey, more than 80% of those adhering to the South Beach Diet reported noticeable improvement in acne within three months of starting the new diet.   And among survey participants taking acne medication, 91% said they decreased the dose of medication or the amount of acne treatment after starting the diet.

Although many dermatologists believe that diet and acne are unrelated, recent evidence suggests that diet-induced hyperinsulinemia (an excess amount of insulin is released in the bloodstream in response to a high carbohydrate meal) triggers an endocrine response that simultaneously triggers unregulated epithelial growth and keratinization as well as androgen-mediated sebum secretion.  

Source: Rouhani P, et al “Acne improves with a popular, low glycemic diet from South Beach” J Am Acad Dermatol 2009; 60(suppl): Abstract P706.

Source: “AAD: Low-Carb Diet Touted as Possible Acne Aid”, MedPage Today, March 13, 2009

Binge Drinking Can Damage the Brain

Binge drinking can damage the brainAs little as four to five drinks in a 2-hr period can actually damage the brain and lead to numerous serious health conditions.  

Defined as five or more drinks during a 2-hr period for men or four or more drinks in the same amount of time for women, binge drinking is a common form of entertainment for adults, but also is highly prevalent in our youth.  In fact, one in three high school seniors are binge drinking at least once per month. 

In addition to brain damage, binge drinkers often suffer a number of very serious and significant consequences: 

  • Accidents and injuries (e.g., car crashes, falls, burns, drowning) Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers.
  • Intentional injuries (e.g., firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence)
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Unintended pregnancy
  • Children born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
  • High blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases
  • Liver disease
  • Neurological damage
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Poor control of diabetes

In a study from Duke, young binge drinkers were found to have significantly smaller prefrontal cortexes on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The prefrontal cortex is an area of the brain associated with complex thinking, planning, inhibition, and emotional regulation. In this study, the size of the prefrontal cortex strongly correlated with the average number of drinks each individual consumed per drinking episode.

Source:  National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institute of HealthMedPageToday, Sept 2005

Source: Dr. De Bellis et al, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, Sept 2005 Reported in

Alcohol Abuse Appears to Cause Depression

All forms of alcohol affect the brainAlcohol dependence or abuse was associated with nearly double the risk of major depression in a recent study of 18 to 25 year olds. 

There appears to be little doubt that heavy drinking adversely affects the brain.  Numerous studies have not only linked alcohol problems with depression, but several other recent trials have found that heavy drinking in teens and young adults can cause brain shrinkage and changes on MRI consistent with early signs of alcohol-related dementia. Young problem drinkers have been found to have significantly smaller prefrontal cortexes, an area of the brain associated with complex thinking, planning, inhibition, and emotional regulation. Also, the size of the prefrontal cortex strongly correlated with the average number of drinks an individual consumed per drinking episode.

People of all ages, especially children, need to learn and use healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise and good eating habits, to control stress.  Heavy drinking to wind down or have a good time often leads to a viscious downhill spiral of self-destruction.  

Source: Fergusson D, et al “Tests of causal links between alcohol abuse or dependence and major depression” Arch Gen Psychiatry 2009; 66: 260-266. 

Psychiatric disorders are prevalent, yet undertreated, in college kids

College drinkersThe college years are a particularly vulnerable time of development. What’s more, the academic and social pressures can be overwhelming for a college student, living in a new, transitional, and highly influential environment. 

The major task of this age is to become their own person. They need to learn to make choices and commitments, follow through with them, and stand up independently in the world. But college-aged kids swing back and forth between dependence and independence as they work on these tasks.   What’s more, college-aged individuals may have less well-developed coping mechanisms or less experience than older adults with romantic disappointments and interpersonal difficulties, making them particularly vulnerable to the effects of these and related stressors. 

A recent large Columbia study of 5,000 individuals, aged 19 to 25, found that mental health problems are highly prevalent among both college students and nonstudents alike.   In this study, an alarming 46%  of students and 48% of non-students in this age group technically had a psychiatric disorder according to objective DSM-IV criteria.

That is not to say that almost half of our youth will go on to suffer mental illness for the rest of their lives.  Many of the 19 to 25 year olds who use healthy coping mechanisms will overcome this challenging and emotional phase of their lives.  Regular exercise, adequate sleep, a well-balanced diet, choosing friends wisely, and seeking professional counseling when needed will build a solid foundation for happiness and success in their later years.  Others who turn to alcohol, heavy partying, excessive sleeping, smoking, or drugs to deal with their stressors, will more likely go on to develop more serious mental illness. Continue reading ‘Psychiatric disorders are prevalent, yet undertreated, in college kids’

Don’t let Halloween become a nightmare

Halloween partiersHalloween can be a great time for both kids and adults, but it can quickly turn into the worst night of your life, for a number of reasons. 

Halloween is a particularly deadly night due to drunk drivers. Over half of all the highway fatalities across the nation on Halloween night involve a driver or a motorcycle rider with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  It’s critical that you never drink and drive — and always remember to designate a sober driver. 

Parents beware of the dangers on the streets and the many other hazards your child can easily encounter.  Read the following extremely important safety tips you need to keep in mind, even before your child picks out a costume.

Photo courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Many teen girls are receiving HPV vaccine

Teen girlsAbout 2.5 million girls ages 13 through 17 started the vaccination series against human papillomavirus in 2007, according to a recent survey by the CDC.  Specifically 25% of surveyed teen girls had been given at least one of the three HPV vaccine shots and many were in the process of completing the series at the time of the survey.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common virus that is spread through sexual contact. Most of the time, HPV has no symptoms so people don’t even know that they have it. The HPV vaccine is given in 3 separate doses over a 6-month period, and it works by preventing the most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

Underlining the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases in America’s teens today, 25 percent of teen girls were found to have a sexually transmitted disease, in an earlier study by the CDC. The most common of these diseases included human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, herpes simplex virus and trichomoniasis.  

Read more about HPV from Bay Area Medical Information
via CDC, October 2008

FDA: Gardasil may help prevent vaginal and vulvar cancer

The FDA recently released a report indicating that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, Gardasil, may also help prevent vaginal and vulvar cancer in girls and women between the ages of nine and 26.  The ruling was in response to a two-year follow-up study by Merck, Gardasil’s manufacturer.  The study indicated that the drug was “highly-effective” in preventing precancerous vulvar and vaginal lesions in women who tested negative for HPV.

Along with these findings, Merck has also revised the label to indicate that the vaccine is not effective in women over the age of 26. 

The FDA approved Gardasil in 2006 for the prevention of cervical cancer and precancerous lesions caused by HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18.  Gardasil is also approved for the prevention of genital warts caused by types 6 and 11.

Know the warning signs of a harmful, teen dating relationship

One in eleven high school students reports being a victim of dating abuse. And this is not just physical abuse - it can come in many forms - verbal, emotional, physical and even sexual.

In a recent survey, many teens did not know the warning signs of an abusive relationship, and many parents didn’t know what was going on in their teens’ relationships.

Dating abuse isn’t an occasional argument or a bad mood, it is a pattern of controlling behavior that someone uses against a girlfriend or boyfriend. The following are warning signs of this type of dysfunctional and harmful relationship: 

  • Giving up activities or hobbies that they previously enjoyed
  • Withdrawing from family or friends
  • Spending excessive time with only the person they’re dating
  • Signs of jealousy and possessiveness
  • Constant contact by phone calls, texting or sending instant messages
  • Signs of threats, insults or inappropriate control of temper from the person they’re dating

Early sexual activity tends to fuel this dysfunctional behavior the researchers report.  The solution, experts say, are programs to help parents and their kids recognize unhealthy relationships, and to stop them before they start.

Parents, if it’s too late for preventive efforts and you need help now, first learn about the problem, and then consult professionals whom you trust, before venturing into a problem-solving conversation with your child.   This is not a situation to be ignored, taken lightly, or bluntly confronted, and can easily become an explosive and divisive chasm between you and your child, pushing your teen away from you and even closer to their dating partner. It’s essential to talk to your child and keep the lines of communication open, but beware of blundering into a dangerous situation unprepared. 

One place to start is the The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline which is an online resource as well as a phone helpline: 1-866-331-9474 | 1-866-331-8453 TTY.  They have a call center in Austin, Texas, where their staff are trained to offer support, information and advocacy to those involved in dating abuse relationships.  It also will provide help for concerned parents, teachers, clergy, law enforcement, and service providers.

via CDC, “Break the Silence, Stop the Violence”, August 2008

via  Survey sponsored by Liz Claiborne Inc. and and conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, operates the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, August 2008