‘Dabbling’ in Hard Drugs in Middle Age Linked to Increased Risk of Death

Newswise — Young adults often experiment with hard drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines and opiates, and all but about 10 percent stop as they assume adult roles and responsibilities. Those still using hard drugs into their 50s are five times more likely to die earlier than those who do not, according to a new study by University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers published online Jan. 27, 2012, in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.4 percent of Americans ages 50-59 and 7 percent of adults ages 35-49 reported use of a drug other than marijuana sometime in the past year. The study’s lead author, Stefan Kertesz, M.D., associate professor in the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine. and colleagues attempted to discover if lifelong hard-drug use shortens lifespan to better enable primary-care doctors to advise patients who use drugs recreationally.

“While government guidelines have not endorsed screening for drugs in primary care, many doctors are challenged when they discover patients continue to dabble with them,” Kertesz says. “In primary-care practice, we often hear from stable patients who report using some cocaine, irregularly, perhaps on weekends. It’s an underappreciated but very common situation. The typical question physicians have to ask is ‘If this patient doesn’t have addiction, what advice can I give other than noting that it’s unwise to break the law?’ After all, we are supposed to be doctors, not law enforcement.”

Kertesz and a research team from other universities looked at data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study for their analysis. CARDIA, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, is a long-term research project involving more than 5,000 black and white men and women from Birmingham, Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland, designed to examine the development and determinants of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors. Participants ages 18-30 were recruited and followed from 1985 to 2006.

The research team looked specifically at the reported use of “hard drugs” by 4,301 of the CARDIA participants. They compared people who stopped drug use early to those who continued and calculated the likelihood of premature death among these groups.

“Fourteen percent of the people in the study reported recent hard-drug use at least once, and of these, half continued using well into middle age,” Kertesz says. “But, most of the drug users in our study were not addicts. They were dabblers who used just a few days a month.”

Kertesz and his colleagues found that older hard-drug users were more likely to report being raised in economically challenged circumstances in a family that was unsupportive, abusive or neglectful. The team also found that those who were heavy drug users into young adulthood and continued at lower levels into middle age were roughly five times more likely to die than persons who didn’t use drugs.

“We can’t assume that drugs caused death, as in an overdose,” he says. “Rather what we found is that middle-age adults who continue to dabble in hard drugs represent a group that is at risk of bad outcomes — which could include death from trauma, heart disease or other causes that are not a direct result of their drug use — at a higher rate than people who stopped using drugs.”

Kertesz added that the team’s findings are a reminder that people who continue to use drugs are potentially quite vulnerable. They often have grown up under economic and psychosocial stress from childhood onward. They continue to smoke and drink and they remain at elevated risk of premature death.

“Based on the data we hope to offer better advice to primary-care doctors struggling with the rising tide of drug-taking by adults who have not left behind many of the bad habits they learned in young adulthood,” he says.

Study co-authors include Yulia Khodneva, M.D., Monika Safford, M.D., and Joseph Schumacher, Ph.D., UAB Division of Preventive Medicine; Jalie Tucker, Ph.D., UAB School of Public Health; Joshua Richman, M.D., Ph.D., UAB Department of Surgery; Bobby Jones, Ph. D., Department of Statistics, Carnegie Mellon University; and Mark J. Pletcher, M.D., departments of Epidemiology & Biostatistics and Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.

Released: 1/27/2012

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham

Related Link:

http://newswise.com/articles/dabbling-in-hard-drugs-in-middle-age-linked-to-increased-risk-of-death

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Study of One Million Americans Shows Obesity and Pain Linked

Newswise — STONY BROOK, N.Y., January 26, 2012 – A clear association between obesity and pain – with higher rates of pain identified in the heaviest individuals – was found in a study of more than one million Americans published January 19 in the online edition of Obesity. In “Obesity and Pain Are Associated in the United States,” Stony Brook University researchers Arthur A. Stone, PhD., and Joan E. Broderick, Ph.D. report this finding based on their analysis of 1,010,762 respondents surveyed via telephone interview by the Gallop Organization between 2008 and 2010.

Previous small-scale studies have shown links between obesity and pain. The Stony Brook study took a very large sample of American men and women who answered health survey questions. The researchers calculated respondents’ body mass index (BMI) based on questions regarding height and weight. Respondents answered questions about pain, including if they “experienced pain yesterday.”

“Our findings confirm and extend earlier studies about the link between obesity and pain. These findings hold true after we accounted for several common pain conditions and across gender and age,” says Dr. Stone, Distinguished Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, and an expert on patient reported measures of health, pain, and well-being.

Sixty three percent of the 1,010,762 people who responded to the survey were classified as overweight (38 percent) or obese (25 percent). Obese respondents were further classified into one of three obesity levels as defined by the World Health Organization. In comparison to individuals with low to normal weight, the overweight group reported 20 percent higher rates of pain. The percent increase of reported pain in comparison to the normal weight group grew rapidly in the obese groups: 68 percent higher for Obese 1 group, 136 percent higher for Obese 2 group, and 254 percent higher for Obese 3 group.

“We wanted to explore this relationship further by checking to see if it was due to painful diseases that cause reduced activity, which in turn causes increased weight,” says Joan E. Broderick, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science and School of Public Health at Stony Brook University, and lead investigator of a National Institutes of Health-funded study on how arthritis patients manage their own pain.

“We found that ‘pain yesterday’ was definitely more common among people with diseases that cause bodily pain. Even so, when we controlled for these specific diseases, the weight-pain relationship held up. This finding suggests that obesity alone may cause pain, aside from the presence of painful diseases,” Dr. Broderick explains.

Interestingly, the pain that obese individuals reported was not driven exclusively by musculoskeletal pain, a type of pain that individuals carrying excess weight might typically experience.

Drs. Broderick and Stone also suggest that there could be several plausible explanations for the close obesity/pain relationship. These include the possibility that having excess fat in the body triggers complex physiological processes that result in inflammation and pain; depression, often experienced by obese individuals, is also linked to pain; and medical conditions that cause pain, such as arthritis, might result in reduced levels of exercise thereby resulting in weight gain. The researchers also indicated that the study showed as people get older, excess weight is associated with even more pain, which suggests a developmental process.

Drs. Broderick and Stone believe that the study findings support the importance of metabolic investigations into the causes of pain, as well as the need for further investigation of the obesity—pain link in U.S. populations.

Released: 1/26/2012

Source:  Stony Brook University Medical Center

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/study-of-one-million-americans-shows-obesity-and-pain-linked

CT Scans for Dizziness in the ER: Worth the Cost?

Newswise — DETROIT – Performing CT scans in the emergency department for patients experiencing dizziness may not be worth the expense – an important finding from Henry Ford Hospital researchers as hospitals across the country look for ways to cut costs without sacrificing patient care.

According to the Henry Ford study, less than 1 percent of the CT scans performed in the emergency department revealed a more serious underlying cause for dizziness – intracranial bleeding or stroke – that required intervention.

The findings suggest that it may be more cost effective for hospitals to instead implement stricter guidelines for ordering in-emergency department CT scans of the brain and head for patients experiencing dizziness.

“When a patient comes into the emergency department experiencing dizziness, a physician’s first line of defense is often to order a CT scan to rule out more serious medical conditions. But in our experience it is extremely rare that brain and head imagining yields significant results,” says study author Syed F. Ahsan, M.D., a neuro-otologist in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford.

“It is our hope that our investigation into our own practices will shed light on avenues to run leaner practices within our institution, as well as serve as a model for other health systems.”

The study will be presented Jan. 26 in Miami Beach at the annual Triological Society’s Combined Sections Meeting.

The Henry Ford study was a retrospective review of 1,681 patients with dizziness or vertigo who came into a Detroit metropolitan emergency department between January 2008 and January 2011.

Of those patients, nearly half (810 patients) received a CT scan of the brain and head, but only 0.74 percent of those scans yielded clinically significant results that required intervention. In all, the total cost for the CT scans during the three-year period was $988,200.

The analysis also revealed that older patients and those with a lower income were more likely to receive a CT scan for dizziness when they came into the emergency department.

While dizziness may signal intracranial bleeding or stroke, it is more likely that the cause is due to dehydration, anemia, a drop in blood pressure with standing (orthostatic hypotension), problems or inflammation in the inner ear such as benign paroxysmal postional vertigo, labyrinthitis or meniere’s disease, or vestibular neuritis.

And, Dr. Ahsan notes, in previous studies it has been well documented that CT scans are not very effective in detecting stroke or intracranial bleeding in the acute (emergency room) setting.

Ultimately, the study shows that there is potential for cost savings by creating and implementing stronger guidelines to determine when it is medically necessary for patients with dizziness to undergo CT imaging in the emergency department.

Funding: Henry Ford Hospital

Along with Dr. Ahsan, Henry Ford study co-authors are Mausumi N. Syamal, M.D., and Kathleen Yaremchuk, M.D.

Released:  1/26/2012

Source: Henry Ford Health System

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/ct-scans-for-dizziness-in-the-er-worth-the-cost

Take a Big Fat Break this Mardi Gras Because Carnival Means “So long” to Meat

– Meatless Monday campaign offers delicious recipes for the lean days ahead-

Mardi Gras, also called Carnival, celebrates the last day of indulgence before the start of the Lenten season. During Lent, millions of households will cut back on meat and other rich foods. Meatless Monday offers recipes with photos to help observers through the “lean” weeks of Lent and beyond. With the simplicity of Meatless Monday, reducing meat in our diets is easier than you think and the health benefits can be huge.

Newswise — For centuries, Mardi Gras – or Fat Tuesday, also called Carnival – has celebrated the last day of indulgence before the start of the Lenten season. During Lent, millions of households will cut back on meat and other rich foods during this period of purification. The word Carnival itself stems from the Latin carne vale, or “farewell to flesh.”

Today, there are more reasons than ever to take the occasional break from meat. Reducing the amount of meat in our diets can benefit our personal health, the environment and even our wallets. Meatless Monday, a public health initiative produced in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future, advises foregoing meat just one day a week as one way to reap these benefits. “It’s easier than you think and the payoff can be huge,” says Robert Lawrence, MD, director of the Center for a Livable Future. “Eating less meat not only helps lower cholesterol and decrease cancer risks; it reduces your carbon footprint and helps conserve water. Plus, plant-based meals cost less, an added bonus during these economically tough times.”

Many Americans are heeding the call for a healthier diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that we will be eating about 12% less meat in 2012 than we did five years ago.

The simplicity of Meatless Monday has turned the initiative into a global movement. The campaign is now flourishing in 22 countries and counts among its followers such celebrities as film director James Cameron; co-host of ABC’s The Chew, chef Mario Batali; hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons; and former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney.

A poll conducted by FGI Research for The Monday Campaigns found that more than 50% of Americans were aware of the Meatless Monday movement, with 27% of those aware actively participating.

Meatless Monday offers hundreds of recipes in its online database to help observers through the “lean” weeks of Lent and beyond, including Smothered Mushrooms (http://www.meatlessmonday.com/smothered-mushrooms) and Spicy Rice with Kale (http://www.meatlessmonday.com/spicy-rice-with-kale).

Released: 1/25/2012          Source: The Monday Campaigns

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/take-a-big-fat-break-this-mardi-gras-because-carnival-means-so-long-to-meat

People Lie More When Texting

Wichita State University professor David Xu said people are less likely to lie via video chat than when in person.

Newswise — Sending a text message leads people to lie more often than in other forms of communication, according to new research by David Xu, assistant professor in the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University.

Xu is lead author of the paper, which compares the level of deceit people will use in a variety of media, from text messages to face-to-face interactions.

The study will appear in the March edition of the Journal of Business Ethics. The other co-authors are professor Karl Aquino and associate professor Ronald Cenfetelli with the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.

How the study worked

The study involved 170 students from the Sauder School performing mock stock transactions in one of four ways: face-to-face, or by video, audio or text chatting.

Researchers promised cash awards of up to $50 to increase participants’ involvement in the role play. “Brokers” were promised increased cash rewards for more stock sales, while “buyers” were told their cash reward would depend on the yet-to-be-determined value of the stock.

The brokers were given inside knowledge that the stock was rigged to lose half of its value. Buyers were only informed of this fact after the mock sales transaction and were asked to report whether the brokers had employed deceit to sell their stock.

The authors then analyzed which forms of communication led to more deception. They found that buyers who received information via text messages were 95 percent more likely to report deception than if they had interacted via video, 31 percent more likely to report deception when compared to face-to-face, and 18 percent more likely if the interaction was via audio chat.

The fact that people were less likely to lie via video than in person was surprising, Xu said, but makes sense given the so-called “spotlight” effect, where a person feels they’re being watched more closely on video than face-to-face.

Xu said this kind of research has implications for consumers to avoid problems such as online fraud, and for businesses looking to promote trust and build a good image, Xu said.

Released: 1/25/2012

Source: Wichita State University

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/people-lie-more-when-texting

To Turn Up the Heat in Chilies, Just Add Water!

Newswise — Biologists have learned in recent years that wild chilies develop their trademark pungency, or heat, as a defense against a fungus that could destroy their seeds. But that doesn’t explain why some chilies are hot and others are not.

New research provides an answer: Hot chilies growing in dry areas need more water to produce as many seeds as non-pungent plants, but the Fusarium fungus is less of a threat in dryer environments so chilies in those areas are less likely to turn up the heat. In wetter regions, where Fusarium thrives, wild chilies build up their reserves of spicy capsaicin in self-defense.

“Despite the reduced benefit of pungency in dry environments, hot plants still occur there, as does the deadly fungus. That suggests that the greater presence of non-pungent plants that produce substantially more seeds is the result of a fitness-based tradeoff,” said David Haak, lead author of a paper describing the research published Wednesday (Dec. 21) inProceedings of the Royal Society B. The Royal Society is the United Kingdom’s academy of science.

Haak, a post-doctoral researcher at Indiana University, conducted the research as part of his doctoral work at the University of Washington. Co-authors of the paper are Leslie McGinnis of the University of Michigan, who did the work while a UW undergraduate; Douglas Levey of the University of Florida and Joshua Tewksbury, a UW biology professor who leads the research group.

The scientists examined pungency differences by comparing the proportion of pungent plants with that of non-pungent plants in 12 populations of wild chilies in southeastern Bolivia along a 185-mile line that gradually progressed from a relatively dry region to a wetter region. They conducted plant censuses in focal populations five times between 2002 and 2009, and tagged plants in each census so they could determine new seedlings the next time.

They found that, starting in the dryer northeast part of the section, 15 to 20 percent of the plants had pungent fruit, and pungency increased along the line toward the wetter southwest, where they never found a single plant that did not produce pungent fruit.

They also selected three populations of chili plants that each produced both pungent and non-pungent fruit and spanned the range of rainfall and pungency differences. They then grew seeds from those plants in the UW Botany Greenhouse to examine what affect water availability had on pungency.

The 330 plants that resulted from those seeds were grown under identical conditions until they reached their first flowering, then were separated into two groups – one that received plenty of water and one that was stressed by receiving only the amount of water available to plants in the driest area of Bolivia from which seeds were taken.

The scientists found that under water-stressed conditions, non-pungent plants produced twice as many seeds as pungent plants. That suggests the pungent plants trade some level of fitness for protection from the Fusarium fungus, Haak said.

The researchers determined the pungent plants have developed a reduced efficiency in water use, so in dryer areas they produce fewer seeds and are more limited in reproduction. In wetter areas, non-pungent plants are at a reproductive disadvantage because they are much more likely to have their seeds attacked by the fungus.

“It surprised us to find that the tradeoff to produce capsaicin in pungent plants would involve this major physiological process of water-use efficiency,” Haak said.

He noted that over the entire range, 90 to 95 percent of the chili fruits had some level of fungal infection, and pungent plants were better able to defend themselves.

The research was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation; the National Geographic Society; Sigma Xi, the scientific research society; and the UW Department of Biology.

Released: 12/20/2011

Source: University of Washington

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/to-turn-up-the-heat-in-chilies-just-add-water

New Findings…Group Settings Can Diminish Expressions of Intelligence

Research led by scientists at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute found that small-group dynamics — such as jury deliberations, collective bargaining sessions, and cocktail parties — can alter the expression of IQ in some susceptible people. “You may joke about how committee meetings make you feel brain dead, but our findings suggest that they may make you act brain dead as well,” said Read Montague, director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and Computational Psychiatry Unit at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, who led the study.

The scientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how the brain processes information about social status in small groups and how perceptions of that status affect expressions of cognitive capacity.

“We started with individuals who were matched for their IQ,” said Montague. “Yet when we placed them in small groups, ranked their performance on cognitive tasks against their peers, and broadcast those rankings to them, we saw dramatic drops in the ability of some study subjects to solve problems. The social feedback had a significant effect.”

“Our study highlights the unexpected and dramatic consequences even subtle social signals in group settings may have on individual cognitive functioning,” said lead author Kenneth Kishida, a research scientist with the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. “And, through neuroimaging, we were able to document the very strong neural responses that those social cues can elicit.”

The researchers recruited subjects from two universities and administered a standard test to establish baseline IQ. The results were not viewed until after a series of ranked group IQ tasks, during which test takers, in groups of five, received information about how their performances compared to those of the other group members.

Although the test subjects had similar baseline IQ scores — a mean of 126, compared to the national average of 100 — they showed a range of test performance results after the ranked group IQ tasks, revealing that some individuals’ expressed IQ was affected by signals about their status within a small group.

The researchers wanted to know what was happening in the brain during the observed changes in IQ expression. The subjects were divided into two groups based on the results of their final rank — the high performers, who scored above the median, and the low performers, who scored at or below the median. Two of every group of five subjects had their brains scanned using fMRI while they participated in the task.

Among the researchers’ findings:

1. Dynamic responses occurred in multiple brain regions, especially the amygdala, the prefrontal cortex, and the nucleus accumbens — regions believed to be involved in emotional processing, problem solving, and reward and pleasure, respectively.

2. All subjects had an initial increase in amygdala activation and diminished activity in the prefrontal cortex, both of which corresponded with a lower problem-solving ability.

3. By the end of the task, the high-performing group showed a decreased amygdala activation and an increased prefrontal cortex activation, both of which were associated with an increased ability to solve more difficult problems.

4. Positive changes in rank were associated with greater activity in the bilateral nucleus accumbens, which has traditionally been linked to learning and has been shown to respond to rewards and pleasure.

5. Negative changes in rank corresponded with greater activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, consistent with a response to conflicting information.

6. Neither age nor ethnicity showed a significant correlation with performance or brain responses. A significant pattern did emerge along gender lines, however. Although male and female participants had the same baseline IQ, significantly fewer women (3 of 13) were in the high-performing group and significantly more (10 of 13) fell into the low-performing group.

“We don’t know how much these effects are present in real-world settings,” Kishida said. “But given the potentially harmful effects of social-status assignments and the correlation with specific neural signals, future research should be devoted to what, exactly, society is selecting for in competitive learning and workplace environments. By placing an emphasis on competition, for example, are we missing a large segment of the talent pool? Further brain imaging research may also offer avenues for developing strategies for people who are susceptible to these kinds of social pressures.”

“This study tells us the idea that IQ is something we can reliably measure in isolation without considering how it interacts with social context is essentially flawed,” said coauthor Steven Quartz, a professor of philosophy in the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory of Caltech. “Furthermore, this suggests that the idea of a division between social and cognitive processing in the brain is really pretty artificial. The two deeply interact with each other.”

“So much of our society is organized around small-group interactions,” said Kishida. “Understanding how our brains respond to dynamic social interactions is an important area of future research. We need to remember that social dynamics affect not just educational and workplace environments, but also national and international policy-making bodies, such as the U.S. Congress and the United Nations.”

The research appears in the Jan. 23, 2012 issue of the journalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B in the article, “Implicit signals in small group settings and their impact on the expression of cognitive capacity and associated brain responses,” by Kenneth Kishida; Dongni Yang, a former postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine; Karen Hunter Quartz, a director of research in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies of the University of California, Los Angeles; Steven Quartz; and Read Montague, corresponding author, who is also a professor of physics at Virginia Tech. The research was supported by grants from the Wellcome Trust and the Kane Family Foundation to Montague and the National Institutes of Health to Montague and Kishida. The article is online athttp://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/367/1589/704.abstract?sid=5fc88e56-8a71-4a9b-be8d-ad3fa88c631e

Released: January 22, 2012

Source: Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)

Related Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/group-settings-can-diminish-expressions-of-intelligence

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