Tag: drugs

Suspected Ricin Poison Packages Found at Pentagon

The packages were found at a delivery facility on the Pentagon grounds, not inside the main building.

A Pentagon spokesman said authorities had found at least two packages suspected of containing ricin, a poison made from castor beans.

Spokesman Chris Sherwood said the FBI was investigating and few details were available.

He said the packages had been found on Monday at a delivery facility that is on the Pentagon grounds but not inside the main building that includes the offices of the defense secretary.

Sherwood said the packages were addressed to a person at the Pentagon. He would not reveal the name.

Ricin is part of the waste “mash” produced when castor oil is made.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if it is made into a partially purified material or refined, ricin can be used as a weapon capable of causing death under certain circumstances.

The seeds of the castor plant, from which castor oil (and ricin) are extracted.

Meanwhile, at least two people were taken to hospital after a suspicious white powdery substance was found in a Houston building where Republican senator Ted Cruz’s electoral campaign office is located, but tests showed the substance to be non-hazardous, fire officials in Texas said on Tuesday.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Teen Substance Use Shows Promising Decline

The 2016 Monitoring the Future (MTF) annual survey results released today from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reflect changing teen behaviors and choices in a social media-infused world.

The results show a continued long-term decline in the use of many illicit substances, including marijuana, as well as alcohol, tobacco, and misuse of some prescription medications, among the nation’s teens.

The MTF survey measures drug use and attitudes among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders, and is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the NIH.

Findings from the survey indicate that past year use of any illicit drug was the lowest in the survey’s history for eighth graders, while past year use of illicit drugs other than marijuana is down from recent peaks in all three grades.

Marijuana use in the past month among eighth graders dropped significantly in 2016 to 5.4 percent, from 6.5 percent in 2015. Daily use among eighth graders dropped in 2016 to 0.7 percent from 1.1 percent in 2015.

However, among high school seniors, 22.5 percent report past month marijuana use and 6 percent report daily use; both measures remained relatively stable from last year.

Similarly, rates of marijuana use in the past year among 10th graders also remained stable compared to 2015, but are at their lowest levels in over two decades.

The survey also shows that there continues to be a higher rate of marijuana use among 12th graders in states with medical marijuana laws, compared to states without them.

The survey indicates that marijuana and e-cigarettes are more popular than regular tobacco cigarettes. The past month rates among 12th graders are 12.4 percent for e-cigarettes and 10.5 percent for cigarettes.

There has been a similar decline in the use of alcohol, with the rate of teens reporting they have “been drunk” in the past year at the survey’s lowest rates ever.

Although non-medical use of prescription opioids remains a serious issue in the adult population, teen use of prescription opioid pain relievers is trending downwards among 12th graders with a 45 percent drop in past year use compared to five years ago.

The MTF survey, the only large-scale federal youth survey on substance use that releases findings the same year the data is collected, has been conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor since 1975.

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Can Cannabis Treat Epileptic Seizures?

Charlotte Figi, an eight-year-old girl from Colorado with Dravet syndrome, a rare and debilitating form of epilepsy, came into the public eye in 2013 when news broke that medical marijuana was able to do what other drugs could not: dramatically reduce her seizures.

Now, new scientific research provides evidence that cannabis may be an effective treatment for a third of epilepsy patients who, like Charlotte, have a treatment-resistant form of the disease.

Last month Orrin Devinsky, a neurologist at New York University Langone Medical Center, and his colleagues across multiple research centers published the results from the largest study to date of a cannabis-based drug for treatment-resistant epilepsy in The Lancet Neurology.

The researchers treated 162 patients with an extract of 99 percent cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive chemical in marijuana, and monitored them for 12 weeks.

This treatment was given as an add-on to the patients’ existing medications and the trial was open-label (everyone knew what they were getting).

The researchers reported the intervention reduced motor seizures at a rate similar to existing drugs (a median of 36.5 percent) and 2 percent of patients became completely seizure free.

Additionally, 79 percent of patients reported adverse effects such as sleepiness, diarrhea and fatigue, although only 3 percent dropped out of the study due to adverse events.

I was a little surprised that the overall number of side effects was quite high but it seems like most of them were not enough that the patients had to come off the medication,” says Kevin Chapman, a neurology and pediatric professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine who was not involved in the study.

I think that [this study] provides some good data to show that it’s relatively safe the adverse effects were mostly mild and there were serious adverse effects, it’s always hard to know in such a refractory population whether that would have occurred anyway.

Stories of cannabis’s abilities to alleviate seizures have been around for about 150 years but interest in medical marijuana has increased sharply in the last decade with the help of legalization campaigns.

In particular, both patients and scientists have started to focus on the potential benefits of CBD, one of the main compounds in cannabis.

Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for its euphoric effects, CBD does not cause a “high” or pose the same type of risks that researchers have identified for THC, such as addiction and cognitive impairment.

Rather, studies have shown that it can act as an anticonvulsant and may even have antipsychotic effects.

The trial led by Devinsky is currently the most robust assessment of CBD’s effect on epilepsy (prior studies included less than 20 patients) but many questions remain.

Because the trial was open-label and without a control group, a main concern is the placebo effect, which previous studies have shown might be especially strong with marijuana-based products.

For example, an earlier 2015 study carried out by Chapman and his group at the University of Colorado revealed that 47 percent of patients whose families had moved to Colorado for cannabis-based epilepsy treatment reported improvement, compared with 22 percent in people who already lived there.

The other major issue is the possibility of drug interactions because CBD is a potent liver enzyme inhibitor it can increase the concentration of other drugs in the body.

This means that when administered with other compounds, consequent effects on patients may be due to the increased exposure to those other drugs rather than the CBD itself.

Despite these limitations, both commentary authors agree the study is an important step in establishing CBD as a safe and effective epilepsy treatment.

This is a first step, and it’s great,” Detyniecki says. Despite the large number of adverse events, he says that overall “there were no surprising side effects—we can conclude that CBD appears to be safe in the short term.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Is It Safe To Take Expired Medicine?

There are a few factors that determine whether or not it’s okay to take medication past its expiration date.

The type of drug, how much time has passed beyond the date and how the medicine has been stored all matter, says David Nierenberg, chief of the section of clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

If you are using something that was a few months or a year after the expiration date, and it had been stored well, for most drugs I don’t think you have a problem,” Nierenberg said. “But the companies won’t guarantee it.

This is especially true for over-the-counter medications like aspirin, he explained. Pharmaceutical companies test a drug’s efficacy and safety for a set period of time.

Usually two to three years and only if it has been stored properly.

Proper storage means the medication has not been exposed to extremely hot or cold temperatures, direct sunlight or heat and moisture.

There’s some scientific research that indicates medication may work for a long time following its date.

A 2000 study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration found that 90 percent of unused medications stockpiled by the U.S. Military remained completely potent several years past expiration.

The findings suggest that drug makers tend to be conservative with expiration dates and raised questions about testing for extended shelf-life, according to the study’s authors.

When it doesn’t work?

That’s all good news for people who need something in a pinch or want to save some money. However, Nierenberg says there are some medications that should always be a hard no once their expiration date has come up.

Liquid medicine, in particular, should be avoided. This is because the contents of the bottle are sterile until the seal is broken. But once a liquid medication is opened, it becomes very susceptible to bacterial contamination.

That’s especially true of things like liquid eye drops,” Nierenberg said. “That’s why they say never touch the tip of this bottle to your eyelid.

You should also take expiration dates and storage directions on prescription medications seriously.

For example, nitroglycerin tablets ― usually prescribed to people who experience angina or coronary heart disease ― are extremely susceptible to going bad if they’re kept in extreme heat.

It’s advisable to not keep tablets like these in a hot car, even in your glove compartment. There’s a good chance the drug could deteriorate in the heat and thus make it ineffective.

You should also think about antibiotics the same way, Nierenberg said.

If you have a serious infection and find leftover antibiotics in your medicine cabinet, there is no way to confirm the medication is still as powerful and so it’s probably not worth the risk.

You don’t want to take an antibiotic that’s lost [any percent] of it’s potency because maybe your infection isn’t going to get better,” Nierenberg said.

The more serious the condition, the more sure you want to be that the company that made it has tested it and guarantees it. And the less likely you want to gamble with that.

When in doubt, throw it out.

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Pass it on: Popular Science