Posts tagged ‘drug’

Caffeine is an Addictive Mind-Altering Drug

Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant in the world and over 80% of Americans consume some form of the chemical daily—whether it’s from tea, coffee, or soda. Caffeinated drinks have been around for most of written history and they’re probably not going away anytime soon. Most societies embrace at least one form of caffeine and after a while, it’s easy to forget that it’s actually a drug.

caffeine powder

Caffeine is a psychoactive drug

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant—a psychoactive drug that causes increased alertness, faster locomotion, and other mental and physical changes. “Psychoactive” tends to be associated with drugs that cause visual hallucinations but it really just means that the chemical affects a person’s mental state. Both caffeine and cannabis are mild psychoactive stimulants; alcohol is a depressant or “downer.” (more…)

December 24, 2016 at 5:50 pm Leave a comment

Placebos Work Even When Patients Know They’re Taking Placebos

A placebo is a sugar pill or similarly ineffective treatment used in medical studies. The placebo acts as a control for comparison when studying the effectiveness of a proposed treatment. Often, patients will notice some improvement in their condition even when taking a placebo. This phenomenon is called the “placebo effect” and recent research is increasing scientists’ understanding of these events.

pills

Deception isn’t necessary

Originally, it was believed that placebos only worked because patients thought they were being treated. In one study, patients with irritable bowel syndrome were treated with placebos. One group was told they were given a placebo with no additional information. The other group was also given placebos but the pills were described as follows:

“Placebo pills made of an inert substance, like sugar pills, that have been shown in clinical studies to produce significant improvement in IBS symptoms through mind-body self-healing processes.”

Both groups showed some improvement but the group given more information had significantly higher global improvement scores. The authors concluded, “Placebos administered without deception may be an effective treatment for IBS.”

The reverse phenomenon is called the “nocebo effect”

If a patient doesn’t think a treatment will be effective, they may experience a worsening of symptoms. This has been called the “nocebo effect” in medical literature. The effect can also be caused by doctors and other clinical staff. If the doctor feels negatively about a treatment or mentions likely side effects, it may affect the patient’s perception. This can cause an ethical dilemma. Doctors are required to properly inform patients of possible side effects or risks. Emphasizing the negative aspects of a treatment may make it less effective, however. More communication training in medical school may help physicians keep patients informed while also framing treatments in a positive way.

How a placebo is administered may change the effects

Some placebos work better than others and the method of administration can increase or decrease effectiveness. In one study, large placebo pills were found to be more effective than small ones and two doses worked better than a single dose. Sham surgeries and injections tend to elicit a stronger placebo effect than a sugar pill. In one study, a sham surgery was just as effective as an actual arthroscopic partial meniscectomy (a surgery used to treat knee osteoarthritis).

Placebos can be considered a viable treatment

Placebos are so effective in certain cases that some researchers have begun to recommend them as treatments. In an analysis of 130 placebo studies, one research team concluded that while placebos don’t work for many diseases, they were effective for pain. Placebos successfully treated pain in 27 different studies of various sample sizes.

Interestingly, placebos can also help treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. There have been multiple studies but one in particular stands out. Patients showed significant improvement when they were treated using deep brain stimulation, a technique that involves stimulating the brain with electrical impulses. The treatment was only effective when patients were also given a placebo and told that it was an “antiparkinsonian drug”. Patients who didn’t receive a placebo showed little to no improvement. A similar experiment was later conducted with identical results.

The placebo effect is still poorly understood and the use of a placebo can raise ethical concerns. Placebos may help treat pain, for example, but informed consent prevents a doctor from prescribing sugar pills. At the very least, placebo research provides insights into how expectation and perception can affect the outcome of medical treatments.

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Photo: Victor

Sources: book, nih.gov, jneurosci.org, aerzteblatt.de, nejm.org, nejm.org, sciencedirect.com, sciencemag.org, psychiatryonline.org, bmj.com

October 8, 2016 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Elvis Presley Carried Federal Narcotics Agent Badge

By Chad Upton | Editor

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was formed in 1973. Prior to that, drug laws were enforced by the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD).

In 1970, the BNDD’s years were numbered. If you’re thinking it’s because the acronym was too awkward, you’re (unofficially) wrong. The CIA was called in to eradicate suspected corruption among BNDD agents. In an apparent coincidence, and although he wasn’t an agent, Elvis Presley was given a BNDD badge by president Nixon that same year. (more…)

June 26, 2013 at 2:00 am 2 comments

Poppy Seeds Can Cause Drug Test Failures

By Chad Upton | Editor

Poppy seeds are tasty, especially on bagels or in muffins and lets not forget about cakes either. But, poppy seeds can cause serious situations that might make you think twice the next time you see poppy seed encrusted baking. There are many documented cases of people losing their jobs or even their children because of drug tests with false-positive results.

Poppy seeds are oilseeds that come from the opium poppy. Although the seeds are not used in creating opiate drugs such as morphine or codeine, they do contain a small amount of opiates. If a person consumes enough seeds in the 48 hours leading up to a drug test, they can test positive for opiates in their system.

US federal prisons test inmates for drugs and therefore, they do not serve food containing poppy seeds within the prison. Prisoners on furlough, who are allowed to leave the prison, are forbidden from eating poppy seeds, so they can’t use it as a defense if they do test positive for opiates.

Because there have been so many false positives, testing standards were updated in 1998 to allow a higher amount of opiates before it is considered a positive result. This was done reduce the number of false positives from poppy seeds. Some labs still use the old standards and some medical journals claim that the new standards can still report false-positives in certain cases.

So, if you are at the mercy of drug testing, you might want to avoid poppy seeds entirely.

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Sources: Snopes, Wikipedia (Poppy Seeds, Opiate), Poppies.org

Photo: Johnson (cc)

Relevant

There are a lot of unpleasant opiate withdrawal symptoms that an opiate abuser will have to deal with to finally eliminate the drug from his system.

May 2, 2011 at 3:00 am 3 comments

Food Nutrition Labels are Not Accurate

In 1990, the US Congress mandated that certain nutritional information be placed on packaged foods. There are some exceptions, especially for small manufacturers. Otherwise, every food product you buy has a label that lists the ingredients and nutritional value of those ingredients. Most other developed countries use a similar or even superior system.

This makes a lot of sense. Consumers can read packages and have a good understanding of what they’re eating so they can make healthy decisions. Unfortunately, this data is often inaccurate and intentionally misleading.

The misleading packages are easy to pick out if you’re looking, but often go unnoticed. These are usually products that you buy for a snack and consider to be a single serving, perhaps a small bag of chips or a small bottle of soda/pop. You read over the calories, fat and sugar content and while it doesn’t look great you know what you’re getting into. At least, you think you do until the person next to you that points out that is “per serving” and there are two servings per bag. Or worse, when there are 2.5 servings. What is 73 calories times 2.5? (more…)

March 3, 2010 at 1:14 am 3 comments


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