Health Updates 20 March 2012

  • Kids using synthetic pot a growing public health concern: “The recent advent of so-called ‘synthetic pot’ is a rising public health concern, researchers warn, sending kids to the emergency room and prompting parental calls to poison control centers.  The concoction was originally conceived in a laboratory setting as a research aid for animal studies involving THC, a key stimulative ingredient in marijuana, the new report noted.  But purely recreational street use of this widely varying mix of plants and herbal ingredients is  growing.  It’s widely available and is currently undetectable by commercial drug tests….Commonly referred to by a host of street names – such as ‘K2’, ‘Spice’ and ‘Aroma’ – synthetic pot isn’t made according to a fixed recipe and can differ from lab to lab and batch to batch….The blend – which can be ingested either orally or via smoke inhalation – is sprayed with chemicals that render the composition toxic.  Until recently, these synthetic mixtures were legal to purchase and readily available in corner stores and gas stations throughout the United States and on the internet.  In February, the US Drug Enforcement Agency classified synthetic marijuana as a controlled substance….And because of its strong impact on cannabinoid brain receptors…the impact can be stronger than that with naturally grown marijuana, sometimes prompting bouts of paranoia, anxiety, agitation, high blood pressure, profuse sweating, palpitations, irritability, muscle rigidity and, at time, convulsions.” (HealthDay)
  • Half of stroke victims don’t call 911, research shows: “Slightly more than half of Americans with stroke symptoms call 911, a rate that hasn’t changed since the mid-1990s, a new study finds.  The study highlights the need for more public education about stroke symptoms and the importance of early treatment…’People do not always recognize the seriousness of stroke symptoms, or instead of calling 911 they may call their primary-care physician for an appointment and lose valuable time as the damage becomes irreversible,’ study leader Hoorman Kamel, a neurologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell, said in a medical center news release….Recovery from stroke often is possible with early treatment, Kamel said. ‘We have drugs and surgeries that can minimize brain damage from a stroke, but they can be used only within a few short hours,’ Kamel said in the release. ‘When stroke victims or bystanders quickly recognize the symptoms of a stroke and call 911, patients are more likely to arrive in time to receive these treatments’.” (MedlinePlus)
  • With spanking, nature and nurture create more aggression, study suggests: “Using spanking as a method of discipline for kids who have a genetic predisposition to aggressive behavior likely makes them even more aggressive, especially boys, new research suggests.  ‘There’s an intricate interplay between nature and nurture,’ said study co-author J.C. Barnes, an assistant professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.  ‘Most people know that genes matter, but genes and environment can coalesce, and we see things above and beyond what’s expected.’  While the study found this effect was statistically pronounced in males, Barnes said that the combination of aggressive genes and being spanked as a child likely influences girls’ behaviors, too….The use of spanking as a disciplinary tool has been linked to a number of adverse outcomes in children and teens, such as aggression and criminal behavior, according to background information in the study.” (
  • Squashed eyeballs are a danger for astronauts: “Space is not good for your eyes – unless you are nearsighted, in which case it might help a bit.  Trips to weightlessness can squash the eyeballs of astronauts, swell the optic nerves and blur vision  – changes that often persist long after the astronauts return to weightbound Earth.  That is one more health effect that NASA will have to worry about before astronauts venture farther out into the solar system.  ‘When you’re talking about missions that might be two years round trip, it has to be in the back of your mind that this could be a potential limiting factor,’ said Dr. Larry A. Kramer, a professor of diagnostic imaging and intervention at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston….Dr. Kramer said he suspected increased pressure was at the heart of the problem for the astronauts….Without the downward pull of gravity, fluids in the body shift higher in the body, including inside the skull. (It is, however, too early to rule out other causes, he said, like the increased radiation that astronauts experience while in orbit.)  The flattening of the eyes is easily compensated for by eyeglasses, and nearsighted people become less nearsighted.  But MRI scans also revealed little ripples in the back of the eyes of some of the astronauts, distorting their vision in a way that ‘would be more disconcerting to us,’ Dr. Kramer said.” (NY Times)

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