Hiding Cigarettes From Store Shelves Reduces Tobacco Use By Teenagers

A recent study suggests that the power of vision can help steer teenagers away from tobacco products.

menthol-cigarettesNon-profit group RAND Corporation revealed that hiding tobacco products from the sight of teens in convenience store shelves can significantly decrease the likelihood of adolescents in using cigarettes in the future. This was determined through a simulation of a convenience store replica to assess the impact of the missing tobacco products on 241 teenage participants.

The teens involved in the study visited one of three replica convenience stores — the first had its tobacco products displayed prominently on the “power wall: behind the cashier, the second placed its cigarette products near a sidewall, while the third one hid its tobacco items behind a screen. After the simulated store visit, the participants were given a survey questionnaire to ask about their likelihood of trying a cigarette.

The study, published in the journal Tobacco Control, showed that the susceptibility of teens to smoke in the future was reduced by 11 percent when the tobacco products were hidden from view. “These findings suggest limiting the visibility of tobacco displays in retail stores may reduce the number of young people who try cigarettes,” said RAND senior behavioral scientist William Shadel in a news release.

Results of the study could prove significant especially in the current market, where tobacco companies are starting to move away from traditional print advertising and into a more direct point-of-sale approach in selling their products.

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Drug Overdose Rates in Young Americans Increase Up To Four Times In Select U.S. States

Drug abuse remains one of the country’s worst social and health issues, and this new report from a non-profit health organization confirms the already worsening scenario.

drug overdose deaths in teenagersAccording to Trust for America’s Health, deaths linked to drug overdose rose to more than twice in young Americans over more than a decade. From 3.1 deaths per 100,000 individuals aged 12 to 25 in 1999-2001, the figure has since ballooned to 7.3 in 2011-2013. More than half of the reason was due to prescription drug abuse, while a portion was due to the use of heroin.

Trust for America’s Health executive director Jeffrey Levi shared in a news report more about the increase in the number of drug overdose deaths. “These twin epidemics have contributed to the recent tragic rise in overdose deaths,” he said.

Overdose rates vary by state, based on the report’s findings. For instance, Wisconsin, Ohio, Kansas, Montana, and Wyoming registered more than fourfold increase in drug overdose rates. Meanwhile, 12 states have more than tripled their original numbers, and 18 states registered more than twice the previous death toll.

In a more startling discovery, people aged 19 to 25 have the highest risk of fatality due to drug overdose, at 12.7 deaths per 100,000. In contrast, teenagers between 12 to 18 years old registered only 1.6 fatalities per 100,000. “We have a huge opportunity in kids when they are in school, in their early teen years, so that when they reach this older age they will be less likely to be using,” Levi added.

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Teens With Too Many Facebook Friends More Likely To Experience Stress and Depression

You would think that having a big social circle will lead to a better emotional disposition, but a recent study revealed that having many friends on Facebook might lead to the opposite.

facebook effect on teenagersA team of researchers from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Montreal in Canada followed 88 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17, looking into their Facebook use and number of friends. The teens were also tested for levels of cortisol, a hormone that the human body releases as a natural response to stress.

Results showed that teenagers with more than 300 friends on the social networking site exhibited higher levels of cortisol than those with fewer Facebook connections. Study lead author Prof. Sonia Lupien said that this will definitely impact those with many more Facebook friends. “We can therefore imagine that those who have 1,000 or 2,000 friends on Facebook may be subjected to even greater stress,” Lupien said in a news release.

Although the researchers explained that having many Facebook friends wasn’t the sole reason behind the increased cortisol level, the social media site was contributory to about 8 percent of the effect.

In terms of depression, Lupien implied that the increase in cortisol levels may lead to depressive tendencies in the future. “Adolescents who present high stress hormone levels do not become depressed immediately; it can occur later on… Some studies have shown that it may take 11 years before the onset of severe depression in children who consistently had high cortisol levels,” Lupien added.

The study was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, and may be used as a jumping board for further studies on other age groups. “Developmental analysis could also reveal whether virtual stress is indeed ‘getting over the screen and under the skin’ to modulate neurobiological processes related to adaptation,” the study lead author expressed.

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Nine Million U.S. Residents Engage In Drug Abuse

Despite the efforts of the U.S. government to address one of the worst issues to face the world, the latest report from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) paints a bad picture.

crowd americans drug abuseAccording to a team of researchers at the NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Rockville, MD, 3.9 percent of U.S. residents were diagnosed with a drug use disorder (DUD) within a 12-month span. This translates to roughly 9.1 million Americans who are engaged in drug abuse. On top of this disturbing statistic, 9.1 percent of Americans were diagnosed with a lifetime DUD.

The figures were based on the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III (NESARC-III) in 2012-2013, which contained drug use data on more than 36,000 U.S. adults. This particular study fixed its focus on a handful of illicit and often-abused drugs, as reported in a news item: “amphetamine, cannabis, club drug, cocaine, hallucinogen, heroin, nonheroin opioid, sedative/tranquilizer or solvent/inhalant use disorders.” The DUDs identified in the study by Dr. Bridget F. Grant and her team of researchers were based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM-5).

Sectors of society most affected by DUDs include the following: male, white or native American, young adults, those with low income and education, and living in the western part of the U.S. What’s worse is that only 13.5 percent of the 12-month DUD-diagnosed patients are able to receive treatment.

The study authors noted that part of the reason behind this lingering issue on drug abuse is the growing public acceptance of drugs. “DSM-5 DUD is prevalent among US adults. The public is increasingly less likely to disapprove of specific types of drug use (e.g., marijuana) or to see it as risky, and consistent with these attitudes, laws governing drug use are becoming more permissive,” the authors said. “Findings also indicate an urgent need to destigmatize DUD and educate the public, clinicians, and policymakers about its treatment to encourage affected individuals to obtain help.”

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Level of Stress Hormones Surge in Young Adults After One Can of Energy Drink

A single can of energy drink may look innocent, but a recent study revealed that it can significantly increase the level of stress hormones and blood pressure in young adults.

energy drink effect on young adultsStudy lead author Dr. Anna Svatikova, who works as cardiologist at a Minnesota Mayo Clinic, discovered that after drinking 16 ounces of the “Rockstar Punched” energy drink, there was a 74 percent boost in the level of the hormone norepinephrine, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight action in people. The drink also caused a significant spike in blood pressure. “The worry is that if these responses are seen in healthy young people, perhaps the effects of energy drinks may be more pronounced in people who already have high blood pressure,” Svatikova said in a news release.

The study followed 25 individuals between age 26 and 31 who weren’t diagnosed with heart ailments. The participants were asked to drink either Rockstar Punched or a fake energy drink in two separate days. Results showed that the branded drink caused the norepinephrine level to shoot up more than twice than the people who drank the fake variant.

Svatikova attributes this alarmingly huge impact to Rockstar Punched’s contents, which include “caffeine, taurine, guarana, ginseng and milk thistle extract.”

The study poses as a warning to the general public. “For the consumers, they should use caution when consuming energy drinks, because these drinks may increase their risk of sudden heart problems, even among young people,” the study author added.

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Substance Abuse Treatment Does Not Address Teen Smoking Problem, Says Study

Teen substance abuse continues to be a worldwide issue, affecting the lives of millions of families. Although treatment procedures are effective in pulling adolescents away from drugs and alcohol, a recent study suggests that this isn’t the case with teen smoking.

teen woman smokingThis was revealed by a research team from the University of Georgia, as they looked into 22 substance abuse centers in the U.S., and studied their treatment procedures for teenagers. Results showed that many of the treatment centers do not introduce smoking cessation to their patients.

Study lead author Jessica Muilenburg shared via a news release the reason behind the study. “[Tobacco] changes the chemistry of your brain and makes you crave whatever your drug of choice is, which is why kicking the tobacco habit with the rest of your addictions is important… It’s a drug, but it’s not treated in the same capacity and with the same urgency as other drugs. We are saying to treat it with the same urgency, because relapse is less likely if you treat the nicotine as well,” Muilenburg said.

Unfortunately, the researchers saw that most treatment centers don’t put much weight on tobacco smoking. “Their primary goal is getting them off of alcohol and other drugs, but if we can get them off of all drugs, including tobacco, it will be more beneficial for them in the future,” Muilenburg added.

Reports from the Department of Health and Human Services said that about 2.6 million teenagers are engaged in cigarette smoking.

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