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Teens Concerned About Risks of Marijuana Falls to 20-Year Low

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Drug Abuse Statistics

A study from the National Institutes of Health shows that teenagers’ perception of the dangers of marijuana use is at its lowest levels in decades. Some researchers believe that this changes is a reflection of changing views about marijuana among adults, as indicated by the recent passage of pro-marijuana legislation in Colorado and Washington.

“We are increasingly concerned that regular or daily use of marijuana is robbing many young people of their potential to achieve and excel in school or other aspects of life,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “THC, a key ingredient in marijuana, alters the ability of the hippocampus, a brain area related to learning and memory, to communicate effectively with other brain regions. In addition, we know from recent research that marijuana use that begins during adolescence can lower IQ and impair other measures of mental function into adulthood.”

The NIDA “Monitoring the Future” survey is based on questions answered about drug use by more than 46,000 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students from nearly 400 schools.

The annual survey found that 41.7 eighth graders believe occasional pot use is harmful and 66.9 percent believe regular use is dangerous. These are the lowest rates for the age group since the NIDA added eighth graders to the study in 1991.

High school seniors had diminished views of the risks of marijuana. A little over 20 percent of 12 graders felt occasional use was harmful and about 44 percent believed that regular use was detrimental. The percentage of seniors who believed regular use was harmful is at its lowest rate since 1979.

Though perceptions about marijuana are changing in teens, it hasn’t translated into more teens using drugs. Marijuana use among high school seniors is leveling off after four years of increasing use. In 2012, 36 percent of the senior surveyed said they smoked marijuana in the previous year. However, the share of seniors who use pot daily rose to 6.5 percent from 5.1 percent last year.

“There isn’t much evidence for increasing use this year,” Lloyd Johnston, a research professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor who led the study, said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “Use of a great many drugs are holding steady.”

Marijuana usage in states where the drug has been legalized for recreational use is expected to increase. Especially since the President Obama indicated the federal government had “bigger fish to fry” than targeting users in states that have passed marijuana laws in conflict with the federal ban.

“You’ve seen the voters speak on this issue. And as it is, the federal government has a lot to do when it comes to criminal prosecutions,” President Obama said in an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters. “It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal.”

2012 Monitoring the Future Survey

Since 1975 the MTF survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes among adolescent students nationwide. Survey participants report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month. Overall, 45,449 students from 395 public and private schools participated in this year’s Monitoring the Future survey. The survey is funded by the NIDA, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and conducted by the University of Michigan.

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Doctors Warn Against Subscription Contact Lenses From Hubble

Hubble says they revolutionized eye-care. But did they, really?

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Photo: Hubble Website

For only $36 per month and a $3 shipping and handling fee, you can have a month-long supply of subscription contact lenses which roughly translates to a dollar a day. This is the market offer made by Hubble, a start-up that promises to revolutionize eye care, that has taken social media by storm. However, amidst its apparent social media success, doctors and eye specialists warn of the ill effects of using contact lenses not prescribed by doctors.

Hubble had grown immensely since its founding back in 2016. The company has scored more than $70 million in funding from huge corporations like Colgate-Palmolive with its interesting and marketable pitch.

“We started Hubble, so you don’t have to choose between your health and your wallet. Our contacts are barely a dollar a day, so you can finally afford to wear fresh lenses as much as you like,” they said on their website.

Eye-care professionals warn against Hubble

But ophthalmologists and other eye specialists have criticized the company for selling contact lenses that bypass eye-care professionals. They accuse the company of not properly vetting prescriptions and that it takes advantage of federal regulations to sell their products that sometimes lead to the detriment of their consumers. Some even say that Hubble is using materials that are considered obsolete in the eye-care practice and can sometimes not fit properly.

But the company says their business is completely legal and that they have spent years researching their product to produce high-quality contact lenses.

“We spent almost a year researching lens manufacturers and visiting their factories. After careful consideration, we chose St. Shine as our partner, an FDA-approved contact lens manufacturer with more than twenty years of experience,” they wrote.

“Our lenses are made from high-grade methafilcon A hydrogel material. With 55% water content, UV protection, and a thin edge, they’re designed for easy insertion, all-day comfort, and crystal clear vision.”

Amid the company’s promises and assurance, many users have come forward to detail their experience in wearing Hubble contact lenses and how they developed eye problems because of it.

One documented case of corneal ulcer after using Hubble contact lenses highlights the risks of using non-prescribed eyewear. Optometrists and eye care professionals are also reporting many cases of complications exhibited by Hubble contact lenses users. Dr. Lauren Lodholz, an optometrist from Lexington, Ky., said that she had seen complications from wearing Hubble contacts in more than 50% of her patients.

“They’re just assuming the lenses they get from Hubble are the same thing I prescribe them,” Dr. Lodholz said. “They see it’s a great price and see the bottom line.”

As a standard medical practice, contact lenses, which are used for medical purposes, are fitted and adjusted based on the patient’s eyes. They are usually sold by optometrists who do the testing, and they specify brands from major manufacturers like Acuvue Oasys or Bionifinity Toric prescriptions. Sellers can substitute other brands as long as they can assure patients that the substitute still follows the actual prescription.

This is the reason why, according to Hubble, the cost of contact lenses became so expensive for US consumers who have to “balance their health and their wallets.”

“Why is it so hard to find affordable contact lenses? In the US and Canada, four manufacturers control about 95% of the contact lens market. Without much competition, they’ve set prices to be much higher than they should,” their website reads.

And because of the high price of branded contact lenses in the market, Hubble says consumers either “overpay or overwear” which risks them with eye damage.

In a statement, Hubble has denied allegations of bypassing healthcare professionals and said that they require their consumers to have prescriptions before subscribing to their services. “The suggestion that Hubble is engaging in impermissible contact lens substitution is simply not based on the facts or the law, and does not reflect our business practices or the standards by which we operate,” they said.

“All Hubble customers are required to have a current prescription for the daily disposable contact lenses that Hubble offers,” the company added. “Hubble uses industry-standard policies and procedures to verify that customers who sign up for Hubble subscriptions have such valid prescriptions.”

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This Cancer Drug Disguises As Fat To Kill Cancer

An under-development cancer drug that disguises itself as fat to kill cancer. The researchers describe the approach as a Trojan Horse.

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Source: Nathan Gianneschi | Northwestern University)

Researchers are developing a cancer drug that disguises itself as fat to sneak itself inside cancer cells and eventually kill the disease. The approach is also what researchers hope to reduce patients from experiencing the adverse effects of chemotherapy.

From the words of Dr. Nathan Gianneschi, a professor from the department of chemistry and the lead researcher from the Northwestern University, the drug is “like a ‘Trojan horse,’ ‘it looks like a nice little fatty acid, so the tumor’s receptors see it and invite it in.” Once inside cancer cells, “the drug starts getting metabolized and kills the tumor cells.”

In a report published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the researchers engineered a way for chemotherapy treatments to be disguised as lipids with fats at both ends of its fatty-acids chains. “It’s like the fatty acid has a hand on both ends,” Professor Gianneschi said. “One can grab onto the drug, and one can grab onto proteins.”

In turn, malignant cells or proteins called human serum albumin (HSA)—which is found in blood and carries fat molecules around the body— will allow the drug-carrying fats to enter specific cells and in eventual tumors, as to where the drug will then be activated and destroys the cancerous cells.

Mainly, fat is an integral product of the human body that tumors use to fuel their growth. Cancer, which is a result of rapidly replicating cancerous cells, recognize HSA, and allow fats and proteins inside.

“The idea is to disguise drugs as fats so they get into cells and the body is happy to transport them around,” Professor Gianneschi.

Researchers recently tested the approach using the chemotherapy drug called paclitaxel on a batch of mice. The experiment, according to the team from Northwestern, said that the Roman-inspired method “completely eliminated” three types of cancer, namely: bone, pancreatic, and colon.

Currently, chemotherapy is considered as one of the most aggressive medical solutions in killing cancer cells. However, the treatment is not picky with what kinds of cells it kills off in the process. In other words, even healthy and unaffected cells die due to chemotherapy.

As a result, patients experience extreme side effects such as evident hair loss, constant vomiting, and infections. Additionally, patients can also go through a loss of appetite, energy, and can drastically affect the overall outlook on life.

Meanwhile, the overall effectiveness of chemotherapy can still be dependent on the type of tumor, how advanced it is, and a patient’s overall health. There’s also the threat of cancer developing resistance from the drugs administered to combat it, even though it is already considered as a very aggressive approach.

Professor Workman chief executive of The Institute for Cancer Research said: ‘Cancer’s ability to adapt, evolve and become drug-resistant is the cause of the vast majority of deaths from the disease and the biggest challenge we face in overcoming it.’

In light of the situation, Gianneschi and his team hope that the approach that they are developing will be able to decrease the experience from the side-effects of chemotherapy.

Primarily, the results of their study also showed that their approach allowed for a paclitaxel dose that is 20 times higher than what is typically given, but despite the higher dose, the treatment was 17 times safer than other paclitaxel drugs.

“Commonly used small-molecule drugs get into tumors – and other cells,” Professor Gianneschi said. 

“They are toxic to tumors but also to humans. Hence, in general, these drugs have horrible side effects. Our goal is to increase the amount that gets into a tumor versus into other cells and tissues. That allows us to dose at much higher quantities without side effects, which kills the tumors faster.”

Furthermore, it may also help curb the rising death toll that cancer is causing globally. In the US, more than 1.7million people were diagnosed with the disease last year, while over 609,000 died, according to the National Cancer Institute. 

Specifically, with pancreatic cancer, it is the 12th most common cancer worldwide, with 458,918 new cases in 2018 alone. It is the fourth leading cause of cancer death and accounts for 7% of all cancer deaths, according to Cancer.Net.

Furthermore, the problematic thing about pancreatic cancer is that it is hard to detect early on, so researchers are hell-bent into finding solutions for the disease when it is already in its late stages, or it is already too late to administer early-on medical treatments.

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Teen Activists Secure New State Law That Will Allow Students To Take ‘Mental Health Days’

Mental health bill in Oregon aims to curb its high suicide rate and take the issue of mental health seriously

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Jessica Adamson / Providence Health & Services via AP file

Teen activists from the state of Oregon received secure backing from lawmakers and will implement a new law that will allow students to take ‘mental health days’ similar to sick days from school. The measure aims to curb rising suicide rates in teens.

Mental health has been making waves in topics of conversation as the issue is significantly on the rise. Mainly, suicide—one of the deadly side effects of declining mental health—is seen more in the younger generation as compared to other ages, based on global statistics.

Significantly, suicide has long been linked to depression. Depression is a common mental disorder that causes people to experience a depressed mood, whereas it can include a loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, low energy, and poor concentration. In worse cases, people suffering from severe depression tend to isolate themselves from others such as friends, family, and even people who can help alleviate the illness–ultimately making the situation even worse.

More often than not, severe depression tends to lead people into having disturbing thoughts on ending his or her life.

In the state of Oregon, suicide is the leading cause of death among those ages 10 to 34 years old, according to data from the state Health Authority. Nearly 17% of eighth-graders reported seriously contemplating taking their lives within the past 12 months.

Although the state does have a suicide rate that’s 40% higher than the national average, the national suicide rate has also been on the rise and recently hit a 50-year high, climbing more than 30% since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To curb the rising death toll caused by poor attention directed to mental health, the state of Oregon is implementing a new measure that recognizes the issue and will treat it the way it does with other physical ailments.

Oregon’s mental health bill was signed by Gov. Kate Brown last month. The bill was an effort of student activists Sam Adamson, Lori Riddle, Hailey Hardcastle, and Derek Evans.

Now, under state law, students can have up to five absences excused in three months. Anything more requires a written excuse to the principal.

Debbie Plotnik, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Mental Health America, said implementing the idea in schools was an important step in challenging the way society approaches mental health issues, the Associated Press reports.

“The first step to confront this crisis is to reduce the stigma around it,” Plotnik said. “We need to say it’s just as OK to take care [of] mental health reasons as it is to care for a broken bone or a physical illness.”

In the past, mental health has been brushed off as a temporary feeling and an experience that most teenagers go through as a part of “growing up” or puberty. This mentality has significantly affected how older generations react and address the issue.

In more recent years, mental health advocates have been working to change that mentality and encourage more conversations that it is a severe matter, and necessary steps have to be taken to curb the rising numbers.

Fortunately, people have started listening and are now chiming in on the topic, but it’s not just the adults who are creating waves with mental health.

Haily Hardcastle, an 18-year-old from the Portland suburb of Sherwood who helped champion the mental health bill, said she and other student leaders were partly motivated by the national youth-led movement that followed last year’s Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

“We were inspired by Parkland in the sense that it showed us that young people can totally change the political conversation,” she said. “Just like those movements, this bill is something completely coming from the youth.”

Related: Ketamine Drug To Lower UK Suicide Rate

Though the bill received little to no opposition from lawmakers, parents say that the law will only give students more excuses to not attend school. The state also suffers from one of the worst absenteeism rates in the nation. More than 1 in 6 children missed at least 10% of school days in the 2015-2016 school year, according to state data.

Furthermore, some parents said that students could lie and use the flu or some other related reason as an excuse to not attend school on days that they are going through their mental health episodes.

However, parents seem to miss the point of the bill, Hardcastle noted. “Why should we encourage lying to our parents and teachers?” she said. “Being open to adults about our mental health promotes positive dialogue that could help kids get the help they need.”

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