IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date: September 1, 2006
From 1993 to 2003, the number of people seeking
treatment for marijuana addiction more than doubled at substance abuse
In 2004, the number of Americans using marijuana at
least once a month was 14.6 million. The figures were compiled by the
University of Maryland's Center for Substance Abuse Research.
The rate of addiction among marijuana users is
slightly lower than for imbibers of alcohol. But among people who use
marijuana daily, the rate of addiction is significantly higher than
among daily drinkers. Addiction is diagnosed when a person has three of
seven indicators such as failure to control usage, preoccupation with
the drug, and inability to quit without withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms include irritability, anger,
nervousness, sleep difficulties, change in appetite, and physical
discomfort. Staying clean is as hard as it is for heroin addicts.
To find a no-cost, outpatient treatment program,
visit www.drug-rehabs.org. There are many treatment options.
Vitamin D and Sunscreen
It's true that vitamin D is an important nutrient.
New studies suggest that it can even reduce the risk of diabetes and
various types of cancer. After reading this in the newspapers, some
people think sunscreen is not very important. That is totally incorrect.
You can get enough vitamin D from modest exposure to
the sun. The key word here is "modest." Exposing your face and arms to
the sun for a few minutes a few times a week is all you need. Even that
recommendation varies by a person's skin type, time of the day, and
season, according to experts at Boston University. Most people get
enough sun exposure without thinking about it.
The American Academy of Dermatologists reports that a
little bit of sun may be OK. But extensive, unprotected exposure remains
a major cause of skin cancer and most of the skin wrinkling and spotting
that come with age. The Academy recommends:
Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or more when you will be in the sun for more than 20 minutes.
Choose one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays of the sun.
Reapply it every two hours, more often if you are swimming.
Keep the sun off of your skin with clothing and stay in the shade, particularly between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Avoid tanning beds. Use sunless self-tanning products instead. Sunscreens aren't perfect. They let through some potentially damaging rays, are not waterproof, don't last all day, and may be applied incorrectly.
They are also inconvenient and messy, but they are
the best thing we have now.
Nasal Flu Vaccine for Tots
A new study shows that the nasal flu vaccine FluMist
is 55 percent more effective than traditional flu shots for children
younger than age 5. Medimmune, Inc., the manufacturer, is seeking
government approval to sell FluMist for younger children. Right now, it
is approved only for children age 5 and older. Most deaths from the flu
are among elderly people. But children are influenza's prime spreaders,
fueling infection in older people. This makes approval of the treatment
for kids under age 5 a public health issue according to vaccine
specialists at St. Louis University, who led the study.
New Drug Helps Alcoholics
With the help of a new drug which is called
naltrexone, family doctors can effectively treat alcoholism. A study
published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that
drinkers who took the drug and met occasionally with a doctor or nurse
fared as well as alcoholics who did both and had up to 20 psychotherapy
Few people dependent on alcohol ever enter a
High Blood Pressure
Although hypertension is the main factor in stroke, a
new study shows that it remained largely untreated or uncontrolled in
16,648 study subjects.
About half of those receiving treatment had readings
of at least 160/100 mm Hg, which is well above the normal level.
In the following six years, 45 percent of the strokes
that occurred were associated with blood pressure levels above 140/90 mm
Stem Cells for Heart Repair
A new treatment for heart damage uses adult stem
cells to regenerate healthy heart tissue. While the treatment is still
in its infancy, doctors at Johns Hopkins are excited by early successes.
Adult stem cells can be used for treating heart attacks and heart
failure. Doctors say if current trials go well, the treatment could be
available in five years.
Recent outbreaks of mumps among adults are bringing
adult immunization into the spotlight. Beginning in Iowa with 800 cases,
mumps spread quickly to seven other states and could reach several more
states before the outbreak is contained.
Immunization was one of the most significant public
health achievements of the 20th century. Vaccines eradicated smallpox,
eliminated polio virus in the U.S., and significantly reduced the number
of cases of measles, diphtheria, rubella, pertussis, and chicken pox.
Getting immunized is a livelong, life-protecting
project. August is a good time to consider whether you are up-to-date
and protected. Children returning to school could bring home diseases
you think you are immune to, and flu season is just around the corner.
What immunization updates should adults consider? The
National Partnership for Immunization recommends it for these diseases:
Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whopping cough) (DTaP): One dose every 10 years.
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR): Two doses for adults up to 49 years old, one dose for those age 50 to 64.
Varicella (chicken pox): Two doses for adults of all ages.
Influenza: One dose annually.
Pneumonia: One to two doses for all adults.
Hepatitis A: Two doses for health care workers, drug users, and others as recommended by a doctor.
Hepatitis B: Three doses for health care workers and others as recommended by a doctor.
Meningitis: One dose for adults of all ages.
Something to Sneeze At
It's pollen time, and that means allergy problems for
about 40 million Americans. Our immune systems think pollen is dangerous
and fights it with histamines and the antibody IgE.
In the future, researchers may offer potent allergy
drops placed under the tongue or swallowed. They are used in Europe and
could be coming here. For now, try an antihistamine (for a runny nose,
itchy eyes, and sneezing) and a decongestant to ease stuffiness, or a
combination product. Claritin and Alavert don't make you drowsy. A
month's supply costs about $30
Prescriptions like Zyrtec and Allegra have stronger
medicine. But doctors at Jewish Research and Medical Center (Denver) say
that for many people. Claritin and Alavert work as well.
Researchers at the University of Chicago say that
Sudafed 24 may be as effective as the prescription drug Singular as a
Prescription nasal steroids such as Flonase, Nasonex,
and others are consistently more effective than antihistamines for
stuffiness. Cost is about $90 a month. Side effects range from headache
to nosebleed. Avoid nosebleed by using the right hand to spray the left
nostril and vice versa, to keep the drug away from the septum.
Stroke? Call an Ambulance
If you suspect that someone is having a stroke, don't
go to the emergency room by car. Dial 911 for an ambulance. You'll get
emergency room service.
Ask to see a staff doctor immediately (rather than a
nurse or resident) and ask to undergo computed tomography or a magnetic
resonance imaging scan.
Low Thyroid and Heart Problems
By some estimates, 10 to 15 percent of middle aged
and older individuals have "subclinical" hypothyroidism. Over all age
groups, 4 percent of the U.S. population is affected. The term
subclinical means that there are no obvious symptoms, though some people
may have fatigue, depression, dry skin, cold intolerance, weight gain,
memory loss, and other hypothyroidism symptoms.
Two new studies published in the Archives of Internal
Medicine show that people with low thyroid activity, even at the
subclinical level, are at a higher risk for heart disease. While neither
study actually proves that thyroid dysfunction causes heart disease,
this is another reason to have a thyroid test, especially if you are
older and even more so if you are a woman. A simple blood test can tell
the thyroid activity level.
Guard Blood Pressure: Sleep
Columbia University researchers give a new reason why
it's important to get enough sleep. They find that adults who sleep less
than five hours a night are twice as likely to develop high blood
pressure compared with those who get seven to eight hours.
To sleep better, they recommend getting some exercise
(at least three hours before bedtime), drink herbal tea instead of
drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine, and try to go to bed at the
same time each night.
To Feel Stronger, Try Tai Chi
Tai chi is a movement therapy that's excellent for
everyone but particularly for those with arthritis or balance and
movement problems. It lowers blood pressure, improves flexibility and
cardiovascular fitness, and fights fatigue.
Many fitness centers offer classes, but beginners can
also benefit from using one of the many tai chi CDs on the market to get
into started. Those who haven't exercised at all should consult their
doctors before using the program.
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