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Women who smoke ‘at greater risk of HPV infection’

From TheJournal.ie:

Research funded by the Irish Cancer Society shows that women who smoke are at greater risk of contracting a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

Although the immune system can clear HPV, in a small percentage of women who pick up the virus the infection persists and leaves them at increased risk of developing high-grade cervical pre-cancer, and cervical cancer.

The study – which focused on more than a thousand women with low-grade cervical abnormalities on their smear test – shows that women with detectable nicotine metabolite, which is called cotinine, in their urine sample “were at a higher risk of acquiring a HPV infection than those who were not exposed to tobacco smoke”.

Furthermore, women with high levels of cotinine appear to be at an increased risk of developing high grade cervical pre-cancer compared to non-smokers. Results from this research show that 37 percent of smokers and 43 percent of heavy smokers (>10 cigarettes per day) compared to 24 per cent of non-smokers developed a high grade cervical pre-cancer.

Posted: 2/20/2013 9:41:00 AM

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Synthetic marijuana linked to kidney damage

From MedPage Today:

Synthetic marijuana products such as K2 and "spice" have been linked to reports of acute kidney injury (AKI), government researchers found.

Between March and December 2012, a total of 16 cases of AKI tied to these synthetic cannabinoids have been reported across the country, Michael Schwartz, MD, of the CDC, and colleagues reported in the Feb. 15 issue of the Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report.

Clinicians who encounter otherwise healthy adolescents and young adults with unexplained kidney injury should ask about use of the drugs, they wrote, and cases should be reported to regional poison control centers and state health departments.

Posted: 2/20/2013 8:40:00 AM

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Scopolamine: An old drug with new psychiatric applications

From EurekAlert!:

Scopolamine is an anticholinergic drug with many uses. For example, it prevents nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness.

However, scopolamine is re-emerging as an antidepressant, with recent studies showing that scopolamine can rapidly improve mood in depressed patients. In addition, in a new study published in Biological Psychiatry this month by Dr. Moriel Zelikowsky and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, it may also be a possible treatment for anxiety disorders.

Exposure therapy, where the key goal is the elimination of fear through repeated 'safe' exposure to the threat, is commonly employed for the treatment of anxiety disorders. However, its effectiveness is diminished because humans and animals alike tend to be very sensitive to context, causing extinction learning to be dependent on the environment in which it occurs. This makes memories formed during extinction unstable. As a result, extinguished fears commonly return when people put themselves in new situations.

In an effort to solve this dilemma, Fanselow and his team took a novel theoretical approach. Employing an animal model of exposure therapy, they found they were able to disrupt the rats' contextual processing during extinction using low doses of scopolamine, which blocked the return of fear when the rats were exposed to both the original and a new context.

Posted: 2/13/2013 8:59:00 AM

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Teen narrowly escapes death after smoking synthetic marijuana

From CNN:

Hospital staff removed Emily Bauer's breathing tube and stopped all medication and nourishment at 1:15 p.m. December 16. Only morphine flowed into her body, as the family waited by her side in her final moments.

But the next morning, she was still alive.

"Good morning, I love you," her mother told Emily as she approached the bed.

A hoarse voice whispered back, "I love you too."

Emily was back.

Her family said the drug that landed the Cypress, Texas, teenager, then 16, in the ICU two weeks earlier wasn't bought from a dealer or offered to her at a party. It was a form of synthetic weed packaged as "potpourri" that she and friends bought at a gas station.

Best known by the street names "Spice" or "K2," fake weed is an herbal mixture sprayed with chemicals that's meant to create a high similar to smoking marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Advertised as a "legal" alternative to weed, it's often sold as incense or potpourri and in most states, it's anything but legal.

Synthetic marijuana was linked to 11,406 drug-related emergency department visits in 2010, according to a first-of-its-kind report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This is when it first started showing up on health providers' radar, as the Drug Abuse Warning Nework detected a measurable number of emergency visits.

Who wound up in the emergency room the most? Children ages 12 to 17.

The first state laws banning synthetic drugs popped up in 2010. Now at least 41 states -- including Texas, where Emily lives -- and Puerto Rico have banned them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Older legislation targeted specific versions of the drug, but the makers of Spice were a step ahead.

"These drug manufacturers slightly change the chemical compound, and it becomes a different substance that's not covered by the law," said NCSL policy specialist Alison Lawrence. "That's why in 2011 and 2012, we saw the states enacting these broader language bans."

Common side effects to smoking synthetic marijuana include bloodshot eyes, disturbed perceptions and a change in mood, said Dr. Melinda Campopiano, a medical officer with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

"People can become very agitated or can be come unresponsive -- conscious but not reacting normal to situations," she said. They may also appear paranoid or describe hallucinations. Some of the more potentially serious effects include an elevated heart rate and elevated blood pressure.

Campopiano said she had never heard of a patient having a stroke in these circumstances, but she described how high blood pressure could lead to one.

Knowing how different people will react to fake weed is impossible. There are a few reasons that explain why.

"You're hearing some pretty bad things with the synthetic cannabinoids -- part of that has to do with the potency. It can be 100 times more potent than marijuana," said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Barbara Carreno.

Carreno explained there's no consistency or quality control from one time to the next. The people making these products can be anyone from a college kid wanting to make extra cash to an operation blending large quantities in a cement mixer, she said. Two batches made by the same person could have different doses.

One in every nine high school seniors admits to having used fake weed in 2011, according to a national survey by the University of Michigan. Synthetic marijuana is the second-most popular illicit drug they use, behind marijuana.

In July 2012, President Barack Obama signed legislation banning five common chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana and bath salts. And that same month, the DEA seized almost 5 million packets of fake weed in its first national sweep of the drug.

States handle the penalties for drug offenses in lots of different ways and possession has varying definitions, according to NCSL's Lawrence.

'Candy weed' marks new era in drug threat to teens, adults

From the Deseret News:

Matt Fairbanks, special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration in Utah, calls it a game of "chemical cat and mouse."

As fast as law government agencies are banning synthetic substances such as spice and bath salts, criminals are changing a molecule or two to come up with a new substance just as dangerous that doesn't meet the criteria of the law that banned the last synthetic drug.

One of the latest substances that has law enforcers worried: synthetic marijuana brownies. "Candy Weed," as it's known, is synthetic THC mixed with flavored corn syrup and made into little candy squares. Fairbanks said it's a trend that law enforcement officers haven't seen in Utah yet. But once a new drug appears in places like California, he said it's only a matter of time before it finds its way to the Beehive State.

A 2011 National Institute on Drug Abuse survey found that more than 11 percent of twelfth-graders reported using synthetic marijuana, according to the Utah Attorney General's Office.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported receiving 2,906 calls because of Spice in 2010 and 6,955 in 2011, showing an increased popularity of the drug. Spice accounted for 11,206 emergency room visits in 2010, and 75 percent of patients were ages 12 to 29, according to recent survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Also from Action News (Philadelphia):

Parents are being urged to be on the lookout for a deceiving piece of candy. It's called weed candy, and police are concerned that it could be laced with more than marijuana.

It is an emerging trend in the world of illegal drugs, and they call it "pot candy" or "weed candy."

Authorities say what makes these candies particularly dangerous is that there is no telling if they might be laced with other drugs or toxic chemicals.

Any parents should look for unwrapped or re-wrapped candies that look like Jolly Ranchers.

Posted: 2/4/2013 9:53:00 AM

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