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Precautions taken after man commits rare 'chemical suicide' in Delco


The cases are known as "detergent suicides," "chemical suicides," or "hydrogen sulfide suicides" - references to a lethal mix of common household cleaners and a toxic gas they produce.

While such deaths are relatively rare, Delaware County authorities were recently called upon to deal with the situation - which can put rescue workers and others at risk when they also are exposed to the poisonous fumes.

According to a 2011 article in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, such deaths are well known in Japan, where more than 500 cases were reported between January and July 2008. In the United States in 2008 there were two cases, according to the journal, with 10 in 2009 and 18 in 2010.

In many cases, common household chemicals are used to create hydrogen sulfide.

"It is a very toxic type of gas," said Laura Labay, a forensic toxicologist with the National Medical Services Laboratory in Willow Grove. "Basically you don't get oxygen throughout the system."

Sense of smell is the first line of defense for those coming onto the scene, said Labay, who may encounter a rotten-egg odor. "If you get enough of it, it will just drop you."

Some Personal Care Products May Raise Diabetes Risk

From Medical News Today:

Women may be at higher risk of developing diabetes because of phthalates that exist in such personal care products as soaps, hair sprays, moisturizers, nail polish, and even perfume. Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital published a report in Environmental Health Perspectives explaining that the higher concentrations of phthalate metabolites in the urine of females compared to males might mean that women have a higher risk of developing diabetes.

The researchers found that, overall, those with higher urine levels of phthalates had a higher risk of developing diabetes, compared to those with the lowest levels.

The authors say that the women in their study were a "representative sample" of America's female population. They factored in variables which could distort their findings, such as dietary habits, behavioral traits, and socio-demographic details.

Posted: 7/18/2012 3:50:00 PM

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Fake Pot Is A Real Problem For Regulators

From NPR:

This week, President Obama signed a law banning synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs. Dozens of states and local governments have already tried to outlaw fake marijuana, which has been blamed for hundreds of emergency room visits and a handful of fatalities.

But the bans have proved largely ineffective, and there are fears that the federal law won't be any different.

There are no clinical studies about the health effects of synthetic marijuana. But anecdotally, health care providers report a long list of nasty side effects, from agitation and paranoia to intense hallucinations and psychosis.

Christine Stork, the clinical director of the Upstate New York Poison Control Center, says synthetic marijuana can be 20 times as potent as real marijuana. But it's hard to predict the strength of any particular brand or packet — in part because it's remarkably easy for anyone to make and package synthetic marijuana without any oversight or regulation.

In a video posted on YouTube, an unidentified man shows how it's done, using damiana, a Mexican shrub, as the base. All you need is some legal plant material and some chemical powders that can be easily ordered from overseas labs.

Most states have already moved to ban some synthetic cannabinoids — the chemical compounds that are the key ingredient in synthetic marijuana. But Burns says it's not that simple.

"You have people that are very good with chemistry, that continue to manipulate the molecular structure of these substances," he says. "So that they are creating analogues, or substances that are similar to those that have been banned."

The result is a big game of cat and mouse. The government outlaws a certain compound or family of compounds. But then producers tweak the chemical formula of their products to skirt the law.

Despite a slew of federal, state and local bans, sales in the synthetic drug industry seem to be growing — to roughly $5 billion a year, according to Rick Broider, president of the North American Herbal Incense Trade Association.

So far, law enforcement officials have been mostly stymied in their efforts to treat synthetic drugs makers like conventional drug dealers. This week, President Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012. It will mean tougher criminal penalties for selling some first-generation synthetic cannabinoids and many newer ones as well.

The new law should help, says Burns of the DEA.

Strange reason for newborns' positive pot test found


Certain soaps used to wash babies shortly after birth may cause the baby to test positive for marijuana on some newborn screening tests, a new study suggests.

In the study, urine samples that contained minute amounts of any of five baby soaps — Johnson & Johnson's Head-to-Toe Baby Wash, J&J Bedtime Bath, CVS Night-Time Baby Bath, Aveeno Soothing Relief Creamy Wash and Aveeno Wash Shampoo — gave a positive result on a drug screening test for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana.

The researchers began their investigation after nurses at a North Carolina hospital reported an increase in the number of newborns testing positive for marijuana.

It's important to note the soaps do not produce a "high," or any other effects of marijuana, in infants. "It's not marijuana a in any way, shape or form," said study researcher Catherine Hammett-Stabler, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

A screening test that indicates a baby has been exposed to marijuana can lead to the involvement of social services, and accusations of child abuse, the researchers said.

Given these consequences, it's important for health-care providers and laboratory staffs to be aware that these soaps may lead to a positive test for marijuana, and to consider confirming positive tests with a more sensitive method, the researchers said.

Posted: 7/13/2012 10:32:00 AM

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Opana abuse in USA overtakes OxyContin

From USA Today:

Prescription drug abuse is the nation's fastest-growing drug problem, the White House Office on National Drug Policy says. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified the misuse of these powerful painkillers as an epidemic, with 1.3 million emergency room visits in 2010, a 115% increase since 2004. Overdose deaths on opioid pain relievers surpassed deaths from heroin and cocaine for the first time in 2008.

This rise of Opana abuse illustrates the adaptability of drug addicts and the never-ending challenge facing law enforcement authorities, addiction specialists and pharmaceutical companies. Just when they think they have curbed abuse and stopped trafficking of one drug, another fills the void. Opana's dangerous new popularity arose when OxyContin's manufacturer changed its formula to deter users from crushing, breaking or dissolving the pill so it could be snorted or injected to achieve a high.

As a new, harder-to-abuse Opana formulation replaces the old formula, police and addiction experts expect heroin to fill that void.

For years, drug abusers favored an extended-release version of OxyContin, a narcotic painkiller, for a powerful high. Over the past decade, its abuse was so prevalent that the drug became a household name.

Drug abusers could crush or dissolve the pill's time-release coating to get the full punch of the opioid oxycodone. But Purdue Pharma, OxyContin's manufacturer, reformulated it in August 2010, making it nearly impossible to crush, dissolve and inject. By the beginning of 2011, more than 95% of prescriptions were being filled with reformulated OxyContin, Purdue spokesman James Heins said.

Though people could still abuse the drug by taking larger quantities, some addicts craved the injectable high.

"At first, people tried to defeat it," McGuire said. "Then, Opana started to pop up like crazy."

Opana ER, an extended-release painkiller containing oxymorphone, came on the market in 2006. Endo Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer, completed development of a crush-resistant pill in 2010 but did not get approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) until late last year, said Endo senior vice president Blaine Davis.

On June 14, the FDA moved the old Opana formulation to its list of discontinued drugs. Davis said he doesn't know how much remains on the market.

Posted: 7/11/2012 12:27:00 PM

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Even experts question claim that Rudy Eugene was not on bath salts

From the Sun Sentinel:

Rudy Eugene was not on "bath salts" or synthetic marijuana when he chewed the face off a homeless man in May – if you believe the toxicology reports, that is.

Scientists and skeptical observers don't.

Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti is just one of the doubting Thomases who think the so-called "Causeway Cannibal" was on something not caught by either of the two labs that ran the toxicology tests.

"We are not testing for everything that may be out there," said Dr. Barry Logan, one of the nation's leading toxicologists.

There are hundreds of bath salt compounds out there, but toxicologists can only test for 40, said Logan, director of Forensic and Toxicological Services at NMS Labs in Pennsylvania.

"This is always a moving target," Logan said. "As soon as a test exists for something, there are new compounds waiting in the wings. We are always a step behind."

Even Logan was surprised when Eugene's drug scan found only traces of marijuana.

"His behavior was consistent with someone who was delusional and hallucinating, which would be consistent with bath salts," Logan said.

The report released last week by the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner contained this disclaimer: "Within the limits of current technology by both laboratories, marijuana is the only drug identified in the body of Mr. Rudy Eugene."

Posted: 7/9/2012 11:38:00 AM

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Diabetes drug may someday repair Alzheimer's damage


The diabetes drug metformin may spur the growth of new brain cells, which could have benefits for Alzheimer's patients, a new Canadian study on mice suggests.

The study showed that metformin caused brain cells to divide, producing new cells.

The diabetes medication was intended to target a specific pathway in liver cells. In the new study, researchers found that the drug activated that same pathway in brain cells, prompting new cell growth, said study researcher Freda Miller, a stem cell biologist and molecular geneticist at the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto.

The new cells that are produced could help to repair the effects of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Miller told MyHealthNewsDaily. The concept that new cell growth could repair the brain is also driving research into neural stem cells, she added.

The research on metformin's effects on the brain is still in early stages, and the findings have yet to be shown in people.

Posted: 7/9/2012 11:36:00 AM

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Antipsychotic drugs tied to diabetes in pregnancy

From Reuters:

Researchers found that out of 360,000 women who gave birth over a four-year span, about four percent of those on antipsychotic drugs developed gestational diabetes. Meanwhile, only 1.7 percent of women who weren't taking antipsychotics were diagnosed with pregnancy-related diabetes.

"It's a very important and difficult area to study, because severe mental disorders - such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder - often require consistent medication even if a woman is pregnant. So it's very important for us to know all the possible adverse effects from the medications," said Dr. Robert Bodén, the study's lead author from Uppsala University in Sweden.

Bodén and his colleagues write in the Archives of General Psychiatry that they expected to see a link between the development of gestational diabetes and olanzapine - sold under the brand name Zyprexa - and clozapine - sold as Fazaclo or Clozaril.

Those two drugs are newer antipsychotics and have been linked to weight gain, high cholesterol and increased insulin resistance, according to the authors. "We thought (gestational diabetes risk) would be more exaggerated for those treated with the two (newer drugs) but we were surprised we saw it for all antipsychotics," said Bodén.

The study, however, cannot prove the drugs caused gestational diabetes. It could be that women on antipsychotics have other traits that leave them more vulnerable to diabetes. Poor diet and lack of exercise, for example, have been tied to the condition.

Posted: 7/5/2012 8:18:00 AM

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