Category: Disease

Study Drugs Limitless? More Like Limited: Know the Risks

By: Shauna Ayres MPH: Health Behavior candidate 2017

There has been much attention on the opioid and heroin epidemic in the last several years. Appalachian states in particular have suffered a great deal from a sharp rise in addiction and overdoses caused by opioid drugs. However, like many other addictive behaviors, there is silent rise in rates of “study drugs” on college campuses across the nation. Study drugs are prescription drugs, such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse, that are used to treat Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Those with ADHD suffer from a brain abnormality that causes difficulties in concentration and increases impulsivity; but, college students without ADHD are using them to increase focus, sleep less, or do more academic, professional, and/or social activities.

The strong marketing and pressure by drug companies to prescribe and sell new ADHD drugs has resulted in more youth being diagnosed with this disorder and more prescriptions being written. There are currently 2.5 million Americans prescribed ADHD drugs and manufacturing of prescription stimulants has increased by 9 million percent in the past decade! I think the real questions are: Do more Americans suffer from ADHD? Or, has American’s need for drugs increased? The sad reality is that the more drugs available, the more opportunities there are to abuse those drugs.

It is estimated up to one third of college students have used study drugs. Common characteristics of users include being white, belonging to a fraternity or sorority, and having a grade point average of a B or lower. Interestingly, these drugs may keep students awake longer, but do not increase cognitive ability or capacity, or said another way, they do not make students smarter and are not like the magic pills in the movie Limitless. Most college students report getting or buying these types of drugs from a friend or peer with ADHD and a legit prescription.

Just because a drug is approved by the FDA, does not mean it does not have side effects, especially if it was prescribed to someone other than the person actually consuming it–every drug comes with risks. Some of the more common consequences of ADHD stimulant drugs are increased blood pressure, irregular heart rate, restlessness, anxiety, nervousness, paranoia, headache, dizziness, insomnia, dry mouth, changes in appetite, diarrhea, constipation, and changes in sex drive. Hallucinations, cardiac arrest, and death have been reported among people with prior heart conditions. In addition, ADHD stimulants are classified as a schedule II drug due to being highly addictive and the suggested sentence for distribution of schedule II drugs is 20 years in prison and a fine of 1 million dollars.

So, if you are using or considering using these types of drugs, please seek support from Campus Health Services or another health professional.

If you have these drugs for ADHD, do not share them with others. Here is a link to ways to “Protect Your Prescription”.

Resources

Cherney, Kristeen (2014). ADHD Medications List. Healthline. http://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/medication-list#Stimulants2

University of Texas at Austin, University Health Services. HealthyHorns: Study Drugs. https://healthyhorns.utexas.edu/studydrugs.html

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Campus Health Services: Home. https://campushealth.unc.edu/

Drug Enforcement Administration. Federal Trafficking Penalties for Schedules I, II, III, IV, and V (except Marijuana): https://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ftp_chart1.pdf

Center on Young Adult Health and Development (n.d.) Nonmedical Use of Prescription Stimulants: What college administrators, parents, and student need to know. University of Maryland School of Public Health. http://medicineabuseproject.org/assets/documents/NPSFactSheet.pdf

Aberg, Simon Essig (2016). “Study Drug” Abuse by College Students: What you need to know. National Center for Health Research. http://center4research.org/child-teen-health/hyperactivity-and-adhd/study-drug-abuse-college-students/

GUEST BLOGGER: Why The United Nations General Assembly Declared Antibiotic Resistance a Global Health Threat

GUEST BLOGGER: John Rehm

On Sept. 21, the 193 member countries of the United Nation’s General Assembly (UNGA) unanimously agreed on a declaration that addresses the increasing threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria across the globe.

In his opening remarks, UNGA President Peter Thomson stressed the importance of a global response because antibiotic resistance threatens not only people but also the environment, wildlife, access to sustainable and safe food, and agricultural production.

The U.N.’s report estimates that 700,000 people die each year from drug-resistant infections around the globe and hopes that by taking action now, it can prevent an uncontrollable health epidemic.

How does this relate to the United States?

According to the CDC, 2 million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year in the United States — and 23,000 of those infections are the direct cause of death. An example is Clostridium Difficile or C.diff, which accounted for almost half a million infections and an estimated 15,000 deaths in 2015.

How can we prevent further infections?

One of the easiest ways is to have a conversation with your family doctor or family nurse practitioner on appropriate antibiotic use. In the United States, more than 150 million antibiotics were prescribed in 2015. According to the CDC, 30 percent of prescribed antibiotics are unnecessary.

Also, be mindful of how you interact with livestock. As much as 80 percent of all antibiotics is used on livestock and resistant bacteria can spread to people via:

Uncooked or improperly prepared animal food products

  • Direct contact with livestock infected with drug resistant bacteria
  • Waste runoff from livestock fecal matter or fertilizers that seep into a local water supply

By being aware of what antibiotic-resistant bacteria are and sources of exposure, we have the opportunity the join fight to prevent further infections. For more information on how antibiotic resistance occurs, check out Kevin Wu’s TED-Ed video here.

The Importance of Sticking to the Childhood Vaccination Schedule [infographic]

Guest Blogger: Carrington College

Childhood illnesses such as influenza can easily be prevented via a simple vaccine, and yet, as USA Today reports, nearly half of the American population skips their annual flu shot. Immunization rates are better for other diseases, but many children remain vulnerable to influenza, hepatitis, tetanus, and a whole host of other concerning illnesses. Thankfully, the risk of these diseases can be greatly diminished by sticking to the recommended vaccination schedule.

When Should Children Be Vaccinated?

Appropriate vaccination times vary based on the illness. Some vaccines only need to be administered once, while others require regular updates. For example, children ought to receive the influenza vaccine every year, beginning when they reach 6 months. The number of doses and the way the vaccine is administered may vary somewhat based on the child’s age and vaccine history.

Like the flu shot, many vaccinations start when the recipient is just a baby. The first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine should occur within 24 hours of the child’s birth. The rotavirus, inactivated poliovirus and DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis) vaccinations typically occur around 2 months of age. Additional doses of these vaccines may be scheduled at 4 and 6 months.

Other vaccinations such as varicella begin a bit later (around 12 months), but continue with additional doses as late as 4 to 6 years old. For those caught up on their vaccines, a significant break in non-influenza immunization may occur between the ages of 6 and 11. Furthermore, the vaccination schedule recommends that all children between the ages of 11 and 12 receive the meningococcal vaccine.
Why Stick to the Vaccination Schedules?

Vaccination vigilance can keep even vulnerable children healthy. The best way to ensure that children are up to date on all of their vaccines is to begin a vaccination schedule early and stick to it throughout childhood. Parents should consider using the below childhood vaccination checklist created by Carrington College to keep track of their child’s vaccinations in order to protect them from dangerous diseases.

child-vaccine-schedule-checklist

When should you get tested for an STI?

By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

If you are sexually active, getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is one of the most important things you can do for your health. According to the CDC, there are about 20 million new STD infections in the United States every year. While many of us know that it is recommended to get STI tested, the rest of the details aren’t always so clear. When should you get tested and how do you get tested?

When?

  • If you have symptoms of an STI you should get tested. Common symptoms include sores on the genitals, discharge, itching, and burning during urination
  • Many STIs do not cause symptoms and many people have and spread STIs and never know it. Testing is the only way to know for sure. If you have had unprotected sex, you should get tested for STIs.
  • Preventative screening (Check out these screening recommendations from the CDC)

How?

  • Make an appointment with your health provider and ask for an STI test
  • Your health care provider will talk with you to decide what STI tests make the most sense for you
  • Potential STI tests can include
    • Physical exam
    • Blood sample
    • Urine sample
    • Discharge, tissue, cell, or saliva sample

Remember that many STIs are curable and all are treatable. The sooner you find out if you have an STI, the sooner treatment can begin.

 

I Love College, But Eyes Don’t

By: Shauna Ayres MPH: Health Behavior candidate 2017

Do you find yourself rubbing your eyes for relief in order to get through those last few pages of a journal article? The typical college student spends many hours each day reading and or staring at a screen. This is referred to as “near work” or activities that require your eyes to focus on text, pictures, or objects about arm’s length or closer. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, humans normally blink about 15 times per minute, but when engaging in near work, the number of blinks reduces to 5-8 times per minute which often results in eye strain. Eye strain is characterized by red, dry, and tired eyes, blurry or watery vision, headaches, and/or fatigue. There are a number of eye ergonomic tricks you can do to reduce the severity of eye strain when you can’t reduce the number of articles you have to read or assignments you have to complete.

  1. Sit about an arm’s length from your laptop or computer screen and position it so you are looking slightly downward.
  2. Glass screens cause glare. Try to reduce glare by using a matte screen filter.
  3. Take a break and practice the “20-20-20” rule: every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Use eye drops when you feel your eyes are dry.
  5. Adjust the room lighting so that your screen and surrounding light are of equal brightness.
  6. Increase the contrast on your screen.
  7. If you wear contacts a lot, consider wearing your glasses more, never sleep in your contacts, and always clean them properly.

If you experience eye strain persistently, you should see an eye doctor for an eye exam and professional advice. If you wear glasses, contacts, or have any history of eye problems you should see an eye doctor once a year. If you don’t have any history of eye problems or troublesome symptoms, you should see an eye doctor every two years. Eyes are a very important organ and their health is often taken for granted until something goes wrong. So stop reading this and practice the 20-20-20 rule now.

For more information about eye health go to http://www.aoa.org/.

Busting Bias and Bullying

By: Courtney Luecking MPH, MS, RD Doctoral candidate: Nutrition

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

Nearly one in five children in the United States is considered obese. We often think of this as a public health problem because of long-term health consequences such as increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancers. However, the consequences of prejudice and discrimination children with obesity face can be equally detrimental.

Children as young as 3 years of age may experience weight bias from peers, teachers, parents, or other family members. These interactions can negatively impact a child’s social relationships, academic achievement, eating and activity behaviors, and overall quality of life.

What can you do?

  • Check out the resources below to educate yourself
  • Question your own biases
  • Use People-First language
  • Commit to stand up against weight bias and bullying

Resources:

Videos and discussion guides from the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity

HBO’s Weight of the Nation bonus short film “Stigma: The Human Cost of Obesity”

References:

Centers of Disease Control. September is National Childhood Obesity Month. http://www.cdc.gov/features/childhoodobesity/

Obesity Action Coalition. Childhood Obesity Stigma. http://www.obesityaction.org/understanding-obesity-in-children/childhood-obesity-stigma

Obesity Action Coalition. Weight Bias and Stigma. http://www.obesityaction.org/weight-bias-and-stigma

UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. Weight Bias and Stigma. http://www.uconnruddcenter.org/weight-bias-stigma

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria: What You Need to Know (Infographic)

GUEST BLOGGER: John Rehm

Antibiotic resistance is a continuous and growing concern, especially in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 2 million people in the United States are diagnosed with antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections annually, and at least 23,000 die due to these infections.

But how does resistance against these lifesaving drugs occur and how can we prevent its spread?

The leading cause of resistance is through overconsumption or incorrect prescribing of antibiotics. According to the CDC, approximately 30 percent of all antibiotic use is unnecessary. In response, health care and patient advocacy organizations are pushing for patients to have an open dialogue with their health care provider, such as a Family Nurse Practitioner, about appropriate antibiotic use.

To aid in this effort, Nursing@Georgetown, Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies’ online nursing program, created the following infographic that addresses sources of exposure, trends in resistance, and encourages patients to speak with their care providers about antibiotic use. For more information, visit Nursing@Georgetown’s post here.

GU_antibiotic_resistance_infographic

Celebrating Freedom from Disease

Happy 4th of July!

Today is the day that we celebrate freedom in the U.S. However, most of us don’t think about, or we simply take for granted, the successes that have been achieved and the continued fight being waged to be free from disease.

Through public health initiatives like improved sanitation, the initiatives and infrastructure to ensure clean drinking water, and the use of medical advances such as vaccinations and antibiotics, the US is now free, or well on its way to becoming free, from numerous pathogens and infectious diseases.

The most recent data from the CDC concerning reported cases of infectious diseases showed that there were zero reported cases of smallpox, polio, diphtheria, and yellow fever in the U.S., along with staggeringly low numbers of several other diseases, like cholera, that were previously responsible for thousands of deaths.

 

So this Independence Day, enjoy all of your freedoms and have a happy and healthy celebration!

Disease Chart

Data taken from Summary of Notifiable Infectious Diseases and Conditions — United States, 2013

 

What does it mean to be healthy?

Today is National World Health Day!

At first, it seems obvious what this day is all about- promoting health. But health is not a simple concept when you examine it more closely. So, what is health?

Most of us automatically think of a healthy person as someone who is free of disease. However, this is a narrow definition that does not take into consideration other mental, social, or environmental factors that can impact the quality of a person’s life. According to the World Health Organization, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Because health is a subjective state of well-being and not an objectively classifiable disease-free state, health can actually differ radically from person to person. Perhaps even stranger to consider is the fact that what is considered “healthy” or “diseased” is not consistent across cultures, in fact, both of these terms represent socially constructed concepts.

For example, in Anne Fadiman’s novel The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, she follows the true story of Lia Lee, the young daughter of Hmong immigrants who suffers from what Western society calls epilepsy. However, to her family and others in their culture, Lia’s condition is not a disease but is a mark of spiritual distinction. The struggles that subsequently ensue between Lia’s Western doctors and her family is a lesson in the importance of communication and cultural understanding when different definitions of health and illness clash.

So, since there is no set definition for what it means to be healthy, celebrate National World Health Day this year by defining what being healthy means to you, then try talking to your friends or family about their definitions of health and see how they compare!

Feel free to share your thoughts about health in the comments below.

Take care of your kidneys!

Today is dedicated to raising awareness about an underrated but integral part of all of our lives- that’s right, today is World Kidney Day.

The kidneys are the organs responsible for filtering the body’s blood and removing toxins for excretion in the urine, as well as controlling blood pressure and regulating the blood’s water, sodium, and potassium levels which must be kept within a relatively tight range in order for the body to function. While other organs, like the heart, get a lot of attention, healthy kidney function is also essential to overall health and wellness.

With college students across the country going on spring break, kidneys everywhere are experiencing increased risk for impairment and disease. That’s because alcohol consumption impairs the kidneys’ ability to regulate fluid, electrolyte, and acid-base balance in the body, even during acute periods of heavy consumption.

Especially of concern during periods of heavy drinking is the potential to sustain acute kidney injury. This occurs when blood alcohol levels rise to dangerous levels, causing a sharp decrease in kidney function, and requiring temporary dialysis until normal function returns. These injuries usually heal with time, but have the potential to inflict lasting damage on the kidneys. Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to liver disease, which then negatively impacts the kidneys’ ability to function normally.

In addition to keeping your alcohol consumption in check, other ways to prevent kidney disease include:

  • reducing high blood pressure
  • reducing sodium intake
  • increasing physical activity
  • maintaining a healthy body weight
  • avoiding or quitting smoking
  • managing blood glucose for those with diabetes

So enjoy your spring break, but try your best to take care of those kidneys!