Archive for March, 2012

Emphatic Teachers Help Prevent Substance Abuse among Students

Research has proven that stress, anxiety, depression and lack of social support can drive kids to turn to illicit drugs.

This is why a new study, published in the online issue of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, is emphasizing the role of teachers, especially in the middle school, in helping students cope and keeping them away from substance abuse.

teacher helping studentIt was found out that those middle school students from sixth to eighth grades who got emotional support from their mentors reported a later period of drug experimentation as well as a delay in alcohol use despite of the anxiety they got from family separations.

Psychologist Dr. Carolyn McCarty of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute said that she did not expect the latest findings. “We have known that middle school teachers are important in the lives of young people, but this is the first data-driven study which shows that teacher support is associated with lower levels of early alcohol use.”

Middle school students say that talking to a teacher who empathized with them helped them a lot in dealing with their problems. The students were able to handle peer pressure better and thus were less likely to succumb to drug and alcohol episodes especially those affected with separation anxieties.

Kids who were under higher levels of depression readily jumped into using alcohol and illicit drugs. Depression, therefore, can be considered as a significant factor in increasing risks of alcohol and drug abuse of students.

Dr. McCarty suggests that substance abuse prevention initiatives should be started at the earliest time possible and at different levels. The doctor adds that parents, teachers, and adults should be sensitive to children’s emotions and mental state to avoid substance abuse problems from developing.

“We know that youth who initiate substance abuse before age 14 are at a high risk of long-term substance abuse problems and myriad health complications.”

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Millions Spent on Alcohol-Related Accidents in Colleges

United States colleges are spending almost half a million dollars a year for alcohol-related accidents and blackouts that students get involved in.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have uncovered that more than 40,000 students become victims of injuries linked to alcohol use, thus a huge part of colleges’ budget is unnecessarily spent to address such incidents.

alcohol abuseThe study was done with 954 college students as subjects. The students were all heavy drinkers that 28 days before the study began, male participants consumed an average of 81.8 drinks while females drank an average of 58.7 drinks.

Results of the two-year research made yielded 30% of males and 27% of females figuring in emergency room admissions due to broken bones or brain and head injuries due to alcohol-linked accidents. It was also generalized that students who experience alcohol-induced blackouts were 70% more likely to be rushed into emergency rooms compared to those who did not have any blackout episodes despite drinking the same amount of alcoholic beverage.

Research authors Marlon Mundt and Larissa Zakletskaia from the department of family medicine in the above mentioned university agreed that college students who abuse alcohol often puts a toll on the medical care system of schools and the need for proper action to address the problem.

“Given limited campus resources, the study results support targeting efforts at preventing alcohol-related injury [among] students with a history of blackouts. In our cost estimate, close to a half-million dollars could be saved in emergency-department utilization costs on a large university campus each year if interventions targeting blackout sufferers were successful.”

The cost of emergency cases of students’ alcohol-related blackouts was at $469,000 to $546,000 per university.

College binge drinkers now reach 44%, and this figure could still increase with time.

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Behavior Problems Develop in “Meth Babies”

A new study suggests that babies born from mothers who use methamphetamine even while pregnant develop behavior problems as they grow older.

babyResearchers from the Brown University and Women and Infants Hospital in Rhode Island have found out that by the time they reach kindergarten years, meth-exposed babies manifest symptoms of behavioral and emotional problems, although they do not differ so much from kids who were never exposed to the drug.

Lead researcher Linda L. Gasse says the results should not be taken for granted. There were 330 children subjects, 166 of them had meth-user mothers while another 164 were not introduced to the substance. The two groups were of similar race and birth weight and their mothers also had the same educational backgrounds.

During the third and fifth years of these children, their mothers were interviewed and it was noted that “meth babies” had greater “externalizing symptoms” like aggression and inattention when they were five.

Meth-free kids were able to decrease the symptoms of behavioral problems, which is a natural course in their growth and development. Meth-exposed babies, on the other hand, failed to achieve the same development as the first group of kids did.

Also, meth babies had “internalizing” problems like anxiety, sadness and withdrawn behavior. This is what LaGasse is more worried about as these symptoms can very well go undetected. “These are not disruptive kids,” she noted, “They may not get noticed.”

Yet the researchers agreed that the use of methamphetamine by mothers is not the sole factor for the behavioral and emotional problems of the kids. There are other things to consider too, such as the mother’s mental health.

If parents suspect their kids of having the same issues, they can readily avail of Medicaid that the states offer to provide the necessary treatment and help that the children need.

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Most Medical Marijuana Users Aged Above 30

The state of Arizona became one of the growing numbers of states adopting medical marijuana laws. In November 2010, the government of Arizona allowed the legal use of marijuana for cancer patients and those with other serious diseases and get a medical-marijuana card with their doctor’s approval.

medical marijuanaHence, more and more people are legally acquiring marijuana to smoke or eat to help ease their pain and other symptoms of their illnesses. The latest count of medical marijuana patients is at 22,000 in Arizona alone.

The Arizona Department of Health Services records show that from the total population of medical marijuana patients, 75% of them are male. Those aged 31 to 50 make up the largest percentage of users at 40%, while people aged 51 to 81 years old comes next at a close 35%. Only 25% of patients can be accounted to patients aged 18 to 30 years old.

Most medical marijuana patients complain of chronic pain and muscle spasms. Those affected with hepatitis C, seizures, and cancer also take advantage of medical marijuana to ease their ailments.

Department of Health Services director Will Humble said that the latest data proves the benefits of their medical marijuana program. “The fact that we’ve got an older demographic tends to make me think that we did a decent job. When you add up the folks older than 41, it’s well over half of the participants. That doesn’t mean there’s not recreational users in that group, but as you get older, you do tend to get more debilitating medical conditions, so I’m encouraged by that.”

Yet critics of the program are still not convinced and fail to see the need for medical marijuana laws. Carolyn Short who heads the Keep Arizona Drug Free organization claims that the data collected by the state only shows that more people are exaggerating their conditions just to get hold of marijuana legally. She stressed that marijuana should only be the last resort for victims of terminal diseases if all other means for treatment fail.

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Government’s Anti-Smoking Campaign Rolls Out

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched their $54 million advertising campaign against smoking. This is by far the largest and most extensive anti-smoking campaign by the government as they aim to shock and discourage smokers from their habit.

graphic anti-smoking adsCDC Director Dr. Thomas Friedman says they are hoping to save about 5,000 Americans through ad spots that will run for at least the next 12 weeks.

Supporters of the CDC’s move say it’s high time for this type of campaign after nearly 50 years of government warnings against the dangers of smoking that did not yield the needed results. The use of graphic images has been proven to persuade smokers to quit.

In the previous year, the Food and Drug Administration already approved nine graphic images that are to be printed on cigarette labels. Some of them show mouth diseases with cancerous lesions due to cigarette smoking and a man with tracheotomy hole in his throat as a result of his tobacco use.

University of Missouri researcher Glenn Leshner and his colleagues were tasked to look into the effectiveness of using graphic images as anti-smoking advertisements aimed to discourage smokers and make them quit.

Leshner’s team found out that people often turn away from the images printed that depict the dangers of continuous smoking. This is why it is suggested that aside from the images, messages of concern and encouragement that quitting is possible should also be integrated.

CDC is helping those who want to quit by offering national help lines that share information and advice on how to say goodbye to smoking for good.

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Students Warned on Spring Break Binge Drinking

Doctors are once again warning students and their parents on the dangers of binge drinking especially now that spring break is here.

binge drinkingDr. Alicia Ann Kowalchuk who heads the InSight alcohol and drug intervention program of the Harris County Hospital District in Houston says teens and young adults should know that binge drinking increases the risk of brain damage.

Alcohol affects the developing brain specifically the prefrontal cortex area where impulse control and decision-making activities are processed.

Dr. Kowalchuk stressed that our brains continue to develop until age 25 and that binge drinking could disturb this natural process. “The developmental delay of this area of the brain caused by binge drinking can make it hard for young people to make healthy choices about acceptable alcohol use and impulse control [later in life], some being more prone to alcohol abuse and addiction.”

Binge drinking happens when a male subject consumes at least four alcoholic drinks in a day and at least three alcoholic drinks in a day for females.

Aside from brain damage, alcohol may bring about other serious consequences that could readily hit adolescents. For example, kids who drink and drive are putting their lives, and the lives of their passengers, in imminent danger. When teens can’t control the effects of booze in their body, they could easily succumb to risky behaviors such as unprotected sex or criminal activities.

Dr. Kowalchuk advises parents to guide their kids and do the talk about alcohol at the earliest time possible. Parents should equip their kids with the right information and ideas to help them resist the temptation of drinking.  “Any ambiguity as a parent will be interpreted as an approval for drinking. The clear message needs to be that alcohol is not acceptable because it’s not safe or good for your developing brain.”

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