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Substance abuse

The Facts and Figures on Substance Abuse in the United States

Substance abuse is a serious issue all over the world. In the United States, an estimated 23.5 million people are either affected or involved in substance misuse. ......
calcium supplements

When to Take Vitamin and Mineral Supplements?

Vitamin and mineral plays an essential role to the human body. Although, you can easily get these minimum required substances from your daily food intakes ......
obstructive sleep apnea

How to Stop Snoring: Causes, Cures, and Remedies

Snoring is often an indicator for serious health issues, and it may even lead a snorer to severe respiratory tract, lung, heart, kidney, and brain diseases. However, these are not all. ....

Recent Posts

Helpful Medicines That You Should Carry While Traveling

A typical drug store

Sudden sicknesses are very common to human life. You may be completely healthy and fit with a full-functioning immune system, but you may feel sick all of a sudden, because a disease or condition often doesn't attack with easily identifiable symptoms. So, if you are traveling to a place far from your home, you should keep a few medications for some common conditions, so that you can avoid unwanted discomforts. These include:

Motion Sickness

Motion sickness is one of the common conditions that you may experience while travelling in a car, train, airplane or boat. It is a disturbance of the balance-sensing system (inner ear, eyes and sensory nerves) that is caused by repeated motion. It usually develops with a feeling of unwell, sweating, headache and/or dizziness, and is quickly followed by nausea and/or vomiting. Children between 5 and 12 years of age, women, older adults and people with a migraine problem are mostly affected by motion sickness.

To avoid the discomforts of a sudden motion sickness, you should keep an antiemetic drug, such as prochlorperazine maleate (Stemetil) or ondansetron (Zofran), and a general pain killer, such as paracetamol, in your bag.

Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is another common but very distressing problem that you may get while travelling. It is often caused by eating contaminated food, and its symptoms include nausea, vomiting, intestinal discomfort and/or diarrhea. The symptoms either can start within a few hours after eating the contaminated food or may delay from a few days to several weeks.

To cope with food poisoning while travelling, you should keep zinc tablets and some sachets of oral rehydration solution (ORS), so that you can maintain the fluid and electrolyte balance. However, if your condition gets more severe, you may need to take antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro), and anti-emetics to reduce the length of time you are sick.

Allergic Reaction

Allergic reactions are common. If you have moderate to high allergic sensitivity, you may suddenly caught up with sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, red eyes and sinus pressures while travelling. And this can make your journey worse. Therefore, as a precautionary measure, it is better to carry an antihistamine, such as ketotifen (Zaditor) or cetirizine (Zyrtec), in the bag to cope with a mild reaction.

General Acidity

Acidity is a very common problem that can occur at anytime, anywhere. You never know when your stomach will produce excess acid and you'll feel gastric inflammation. So, as a preventive measure, you should keep either antacids (e.g. aluminum hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide gel/suspension) or a proton pump inhibitor, such as omeprazole (Prilosec), while travelling.

Disclaimer

Being a pharmacist, it is my responsibility to inform you that you must consult with a GP or pharmacist before keeping any of the medicines I have mentioned in the above post. You never know in which medication you may be hypersensitive to. In addition, I have no idea or knowledge about your medical history, so please consult with your doctor first.

Image Source: Yuya Tamai, CC-BY-2.0, via Flickr
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What Are Co-occurring Disorders?

Substance dependence

Co-occurring disorders (COD), also known as dual diagnosis, is a condition in which people develop both substance dependence and psychological disorders at the same time, and vice versa. However, it's not that a patient with COD only have two disorders at the same time. They may have one or more disorders associated with the substance use and one or more conditions related to the mental health.
Some Quick Facts
  • Co-occurring disorders affect approximately 8.9 million Americans annually; however, only 7.4% of them receive proper treatment.
  • Almost 75% of substance abusers have at least one serious psychological disorder.
  • About 29% of mental health patients have a current or previous substance use problem.

How Co-occurring Disorders Occur?

Substance abuse causes chemical imbalances in the brain. Nearly all addictive substances, either directly or indirectly, over stimulate the brain's reward system by increasing the level of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger that is naturally produced by the brain) located in the regions of brain that are responsible for emotion, motivation, movement, and feelings of joy.

Moreover, many drugs have similarities in chemical structures with neurotransmitters. These drugs send abnormal messages to the nervous system by fooling the brain's receptors and activating unwanted nerve cells. This abnormal activation of nerve cells eventually prevents the brain's normal recycling process by releasing the neurotransmitters abnormally.

Overall, substance abuse has a profound impact on an addict, as it alters the person's brain in fundamental ways, disrupting the normal hierarchy of desires and needs and substituting them with new priorities associated with buying and using abusive substances. As a result, the addict develops mental and emotional problems. However, substance dependence isn't always the culprit behind COD; in many cases, the opposite may happen. That means a mental health condition can also lead to COD.

Diagnosis

Co-occurring disorders are usually diagnosed when an individual is confirmed with at least one disorder of each type (substance abuse and mental health disorders), independent of the other. That means that COD are not merely a bunch of symptoms arising as a result of one disorder. The symptoms of both the type must be detected in the suspected individual. However, it is often hard to say that which type the patient may experience first. Sometimes the mental disorder can play a significant role to lead a person in abusing alcohol or drugs, and sometimes the substance abuse problem can lead to mental disorders.

Signs and Symptoms

There are no specific signs and symptoms to diagnose COD. The signs and symptoms include those relating to both substance abuse and psychological disorders.

Common mental health disorders observed in people with COD include:
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Compulsive gambling
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Manic depressive disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Emotional intensity disorder
  • Sexual and eating disorders
  • Dissocial personality disorder
In addition to the symptoms of mental health disorder and substance dependence, individuals with COD are reported to involve in a variety of associated problems, including family problems, financial crisis, social disintegration, incarceration, homelessness, sexual and physical harassment, violence, suicide, serious medical illnesses and hospitalizations.

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What are Mobility Aids?

Disability doesn't mean inability or illness. It is something that some people are born with and others just develop it due to serious medical injuries, conditions and even age. Not surprisingly, at any stages in your lifetime, you may unfortunately develop a disability: The reason could be an impairment or activity limitation. However, becoming disabled doesn't mean that your life will be stuck in a rut. Like a normal human being, a disable person can also learn, play, work as well as enjoy a full, healthy live.

Fortunately, with the advances in medical science, disability devices and mobility aids have also improved, and are making everyday life more easier for disabled people. These devices are not only helping people with disabilities in becoming self-regulated but also making it less likely that they would struggle to fit in society. Moreover, the price of these devices is very reasonable, and you can buy these at anywhere you want.

What are Mobility Aids?

Mobility aids are devices that are designed to assist a physically disabled person being more mobile without any help from others. By using these specially designed medical devices, people with mobility impairment can perform their daily work, and even can continue a professional job.

Hundreds of companies across the globe are now producing these specially designed medical supplies. These companies study the needs of people with mobility impairment and manufacture these products accordingly to provide maximum level of comfort with ease. Also, most of the equipment are completely customized devices, specially designed to suit every person with disability – from children to elderly one.

Popular Mobility Equipment

Today, a wide range of mobility aids is available in the market to help people in need. Some of the popular mobility aids include walkers or walking sticks, walking frames, elbow crutches, traditional wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs, mobility scooters and medical scooters.

Walkers or Walking Frames

picture of a rollator
Walkers or walking frames are designed to provide an additional support to disabled children or senior people who are unable to maintain their body balance or stability while walking. These mobility tools have been found very handy, helpful for individuals who are recovering from a back or leg injury.

Crutches

Crutch training at school

Crutches are the most oldest mobility tool that is still in use today. This mobility aid tool helps to transfer our body’s weight from the legs to the upper part. Disabled people often use crutches to help support their legs and maintain body balance.

Wheelchairs

Electric-powered wheelchair Belize1
A Wheelchair is a specially designed mobility aid that helps ease walking difficulties. Disabled children or elderly people who are unable to walk or move due to serious medical condition, injury or disability often use wheelchairs to ease their walking difficulties. There are two types of wheelchairs: manual or traditional and electric wheelchairs.

The manual wheelchairs are manufactured with simple design. Any occupant can move these devices turning the rear wheels. Users of these wheelchairs often find handles behind their seat to push, and move on.

The electric wheelchair provides more independence and comfort to disabled people. Users of these wheelchairs don’t require using their hands to turn the rear wheels. An electric wheelchair is battery powered, so all an user need to do is pushing the "go" button.

Mobility Scooters

EvRider Royal 4 Mobility Scooter
A mobility scooter is somewhat similar to an electric wheelchair, but its design and configuration is just like a motor scooter. The purpose of this mobility vehicle is also quite similar to an electric wheelchair. However, this mobility vehicle is particularly useful for those who can stand up, sit and walk a few steps without any support, but are greatly suffering with systemic or whole-body disabling medical conditions, for example arthritis, obesity, coronary or lung issues, etc.

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The Science of Addiction: How Drugs Affect the Brain

addiction and brain

For centuries, the theory behind drug addiction was labored in the fogs of awkward myths and misconceptions. Drug abusers were then depicted as individuals with lack of morality and willpower, not as patients with a chronic brain disease.

Thanks to advances in scientific research. Drug addiction is now established as a disease that affects both brain and behavior. Revolutionary advances in neuroscience have revolutionized the views and understandings of drug addiction by scientists, enabling them to the development of newer approaches to the prevention and treatment.

Even with these advances in neuroscience, still there are many who live with the traditional set of beliefs about drug addiction, and don't understand how drugs change the brain over time. This article is written to cover that knowledge gap by providing scientific information about how the brain responds to addictive drugs and how drugs change the normal functioning of the brain.

The human brain is wired in a way that it can repeat life-sustaining activities by linking those activities with pleasure or reward. When any one does an action that satisfies a need or fulfills a desire, the brain's reward circuit is activated to produce pleasure feelings. The brain then records the action, making it a highly desired experience that needs to be performed again and again.

No one takes a drug intending to develop an addiction. Most often, people are caught in its snare because all drugs of abuse stimulate the same reward circuit. However, addictive drugs affect the brain much more intensely than natural rewards, such as eating, bonding, and sex. Di Chiara and Imperato (1988) suggested that drugs of abuse could release up to 10 times the amount of dopamine -- a neurotransmitter that regulates motivating behavior and feelings of pleasure -- that natural rewards produce.

Within a few minutes after entering the body, drugs cause significant changes in the brain's reward system by overstimulating the circuit with dopamine. The euphoric effects that the brain gets because of elevated dopamine levels strongly reinforce the behavior of drug use, and create the motivation for users to do it again.

To bring the overwhelming surges of dopamine in a manageable level, the brain adjusts by reducing normal dopamine activity. The brain's reward circuit, as a result, becomes less responsive to the abused drug. Consequently, the user's ability to feel any pleasure is also lessened, so he/she will need more of the substance next time to create a dopamine flood.

Continued use of addictive drugs has long-term effects on the brain's pleasure and reward system. Imaging studies on drug addicts have provided strong evidence of physical changes in brain regions that are connected to motivation, learning, decision-making, memory, and self-control. Hyman and Malenka (2001) suggested that these changes could be at the structural, cellular, molecular, and genomic levels.

Once the users start using the drug repeatedly, their reward circuit become increasingly desensitized. As a result, they need more high doses of the drug to bring dopamine levels up to normal. Eventually, they experience a loss of control over their drug use and develop a compulsive a drug-seeking behavior.

Over time, these changes outweigh the brain's normal hierarchy of needs and desires and substitute those with new priorities connected to drug seeking and using. Finally, everything that once held value in a user's life, such as job, family, and friends, are hijacked to the intense impulses for taking drugs. A drug user then turns into a drug addict.

Reference

Di Chiara G, & Imperato A (1988). Drugs abused by humans preferentially increase synaptic dopamine concentrations in the mesolimbic system of freely moving rats. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 85 (14), 5274-8 PMID: 2899326

Hyman SE, & Malenka RC (2001). Addiction and the brain: the neurobiology of compulsion and its persistence. Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 2 (10), 695-703 PMID: 11584307

Image source: Don Hankins, CC-BY-2.0, via Flickr
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An Overview of the Stem Cell Therapy

neural stem cells

Do you know how stem cell therapy (SCT) is different from conventional therapies?

If you don't, then let me ask you another question: "Can you tell how conventional treatments help treat a disease or condition?"

Well, if you really don't have any understanding over how conservative treatments work, I believe the answer could be shocking for you. The truth is almost all chronic conditions have no cure. Except antibiotics, hormonal drugs, and chemotherapeutic agents, most standard pharmacological treatments just focus on alleviating symptoms associated with the condition and improving overall health-related quality of life, so that the immune system can do the rest. However, this is where SCT is different from other therapies.

What is Stem Cell Therapy, and How Does It Work?

SCT, also called regenerative medicine, uses stem cells, unspecialized biological cells that can develop into different cell types, or their derivatives to restore injured or dysfunctional tissue and organs in the body that are impaired due to age, disease, and genetic defects. Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is the most familiar form of SCT, but some other therapies are also in use.

Stem cells are usually isolated from a tissue sample obtained from an individual. These cells are then grown and manipulated in a laboratory to develop them into specific types of cells, such as blood cells, nerve cells, or heart muscle cells. When these cells become specialized cells, they are then implanted into the individual. For example, if that individual has a heart disease, the healthy specialized heart cells could be injected directly into the heart muscle. The transplanted cells could then contribute to regenerate cardiac tissue and repair injured area.

potentials of stem cells

Why Stem Cell Research is a Promising Field of Science?

Regenerative medicine is an emerging branch of medicine, and its research offers great promise for understanding basic mechanisms of how human cells develop and differentiate. As you know most of the serious medical conditions are because of underlying problems that occur within the body. Stem cell research promises a better understanding of the cell development process. Researchers believe this can allow us to find the root causes of those problems and possibly correct the errors.

Stem cells can self-renew and produce new stem cells. They have the potential to go to the injured areas and regenerate new cells and tissues by performing a repair and a restoration process. Scientist believe this regenerative process of stem cells can be used to treat a myriad of diseases conditions, and disabilities.

Already, many studies have demonstrated that SCT has the potential for providing cures for a wide range of problems, including diabetes, spinal cord injury, myocardial infarction, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and even targeting tumors. However, further research is underway to develop effective stem cell therapies that can be used in treating a wide variety of conditions, so it will likely take several more years to get the expected outcomes.

What Are the Cons?

Like any other therapies, SCT also has its own pros and cons. Some of the cons include:
  • Evidences to support the effectiveness of SCT are still limited, and yet, side effects are also unknown. 
  • Currently, FDA has approved only a few stem cells therapies, and most of therapies available in the market are unapproved, so there is a strong chance that you'll just waste a great amount.
  • Research is underway and scientists are still looking for suitable methods to establish an effective therapy.
Sponsored Post
This post is sponsored by Unique Cell Treatment Clinic (UCTC), a clinic that helps to cure lot's of diseases with the help of stem cells. UCTC offers anti-aging, autism, diabetes and other therapies for the patients all over the world. Consider cell treatment at uctclinic.com
Moreover, there has been much debate surrounding stem cell research and its therapy over the last several years. Many of you may have a general understanding of the controversy, but you need to know that stem cell therapies aren't new. For more than 30 years, doctors have been performing BMT. And, not all stem cell research are involved in ethical and political controversies.

The ethical controversy was ensued when embryonic stem cells research involved the creation, usage, and destruction of blastocytes (human embryos) in 1998. However, in 2006, researchers identified ways to stimulate an adult's own cells to act like embryonic stem cells. With the availability of this alternative method, the debate over stem cell research has become increasingly irrelevant.

Image sources:
Joseph Elsbernd, CC-BY-2.0, via Flickr
Mikael Häggström, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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Is Aspirin Really Beneficial to the Heart?

Aspirin for stroke

A heart attack is not something that starts and ends within minutes; rather it is an ongoing event. The damage to your heart and body can be minimized by taking proper steps the minute the heart attack begins. The first thing you need to do is call 911 for help. Then, you may to take an aspirin.

How Does Aspirin Benefit the Heart?

When you cut yourself, the platelets clump together to make a blood clot and to seal the wound. This clumping action is useful since it stops the bleeding. However, if platelets build up on a small blood vessel, such as coronary artery, which is already narrowed due to heart disease, they can form blood clots.

Clots cause blocking of normal blood flow in vessels that supplies oxygen to the heart, which, eventually, results a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin dampens the clot-forming process by making blood platelets less sticky. This, in turn, lowers the odds of an artery blockage and prevents the risk of a fatal heart attack.

How Aspirin Works?

During a heart attack, plaque, substances that accumulate on the inner walls, rupture in the coronary artery. Once this rupture occurs, the body thinks there is an injury and calls upon platelets. The platelets go to work triggering a blood clot, similar to cutting a finger.

As the minutes tick by, the clot gets bigger. It continues to get larger until the artery is completely blocked. Blood no longer flows to the area of the heart that the artery is serving. Oxygen is no longer being carried to the heart by the blood. Without oxygen, this area of the heart starts to die. This is when a heart attack begins.

Inflammation is the body's natural response to infections and injuries. But, it is also a component for building-up of plaque. Aspirin prevents the plaque forming process by blocking the function of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase, which helps make a chemical called prostaglandin (a hormone-like substance that facilitates the inflammatory response).

However, prostaglandins don't just trigger the inflammatory reaction, they (not all, but some) can also cause the blood platelets to clump together and form clots. When aspirin blocks cyclooxygenase, this, in turn, inhibits the production of prostaglandins. Thus, aspirin prevents the formation of blood clots, as well.

Should I Take an Aspirin During a Heart Attack?

According to American Heart Association, aspirin isn't usually instructed during a stroke, because all heart attacks are not caused by blood clots. Ruptured blood vessels can also cause some strokes. The organization recommends that you shouldn't do anything before calling 911, as aspirin could actually make the bleeding from ruptured vessels more severe.
Yes, you may take an aspirin to reduce heart damage during a heart attack.

If you take an aspirin within the first 30 minutes, you will actually slow down the clumping of platelets and the formation of blood clots. This will help keep the flow of blood through the vessels, supplying the necessary oxygen to the heart. By taking aspirin, you may reduce the chances of severe damage resulting from a heart attack.

During a heart attack, chew one standard 325-milligram aspirin slowly, rather than swallowing the tablet. However, do not chew or break tablets or capsules that are extended-release -- swallow them whole.

Can I Take an Aspirin a Day?

In 2012, a large-scale population-based cohort study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported that daily intake of 300 milligrams or less of aspirin increased the incidence rate of major stomach or brain bleeding by 55 percent, greater than earlier research suggested.
No, daily aspirin therapy isn't for everyone. Review of data from clinical trials does not support a daily low dose of aspirin as a preventive medicine for strokes.

Just like you would for any other type of medication, be sure you ask your doctor prior to starting an aspirin therapy.

If aspirin is taken once a day without a doctor's consent, it can increase the risk of stomach ulcers and may cause abdominal bleeding. The once daily low dose is also not recommended for women over 60 or men over 50 who have diabetes.

If you have already had a stroke or have never had a heart attack but are at a high risk of getting one, you might benefit from a daily aspirin regimen unless you have a history of bleeding or aspirin allergy. However, it's better talk with your doctor first to make sure it is safe for you.

What Are the Risks of Taking Aspirin?

While aspirin benefits the heart inhibiting the clumping of platelets, it prevents the development of substances that keep the stomach's delicate lining. Although researchers have noted that aspirin is safe to use as directed, they can cause some side effects, as with any medication.

Some side effects of taking aspirin may include severe headache, nausea or vomiting, ringing in the ears, allergic reaction, stomach upset, stomach ulcers, and gastrointestinal bleeding.

Image source: Staffan Enbom, CC-BY_2.0, via Flickr
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Fitness Basics: 8 Basics to Reach Your Goals

Fitness Games

Exercise is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. It's not only great for you, but it makes you feel good and can improve your mood. The added benefits that you will see soon after starting is a great way to help keep you motivated for a new lifestyle. Everyone should find time for fitness in their schedule, whether they're a fitness-pro or a beginner!

For those who want to get started with a fitness routine, here are some of the basics. Read on for some fast facts, tricks and tips to start exercising and stick with it!
  1. Let the health benefits be a motivating factor. First and foremost, exercise is good for you! It keeps weight under control, reduces the risk of life-threatening diseases – heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes to name a few – reduces stress, improves sleep patterns and increases life span. Know that every time you exercise, you’re doing something truly good for your body.
  2. You don't need a lot of exercise to see a change. If you don't have lots of time to devote to fitness, don't worry –even small amounts can yield big benefits. Experts recommend 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity each week. This can be as simple as aerobic walking. Spread the time out over several days or do a few long workouts each week. It's up to you and what works best for your schedule!
  3. Stick with it and you'll be able to do more difficult exercises. As your fitness level increases, combine moderate workouts with heightened physical activities. Vigorous exercise, like running, requires you to exert more energy, and with it comes more health benefits. Start slow and add an extra half mile or so and continue to challenge yourself and build on your work outs. Once you are ready, experts recommended 1.25 hours of vigorous activity a week. Learn: How to Strengthen the Body to Prevent Injuries?
  4. Don't compare yourself with others. Keep in mind that each individual is different and not every fitness routine is right for everyone. The right amount and type of exercise will vary based on age and current fitness levels. To figure out what's right for you, use an online target heart rate tool to determine your target heart rate. This will help you determine what level of rigor you should be aiming for in your workouts.
  5. Create fitness goals that are realistic. You shouldn't expect to see changes in your body overnight. It is important to remember that weight loss is not just tied to a number, so even if you do not see the scale move do not feel discouraged. To see results, you must be patient, dedicated, and realistic about what's attainable. Start on a small scale by creating goals for yourself each week. The success you feel as you reach these small goals will help keep you motivated. Learn: How to Set Realistic Weight Loss Goals
  6. Workout with a friend. Ask a friend to join you in your exercise routine. This will make exercise fun – even something that you look forward to! Try running with a friend or participating in a group fitness class together. Not only will you have a reason to make time for exercise, but a friend can give you constant support and encouragement. This will be a good way to always have someone checking on you to make you accountable for your commitment to work out.
  7. Sneak in ways to be active. Your exercise doesn't need to be limited to the gym. Find chances to incorporate additional activity into your daily life. Take a walk instead of a snack break, climb the stairs instead of using the elevator or walk somewhere instead of driving. These small amounts of physical activity add up and can help you make strides towards increasing your overall fitness.
  8. Reward yourself. When you accomplish one of your fitness goals, reward yourself! Treat yourself to something when you run a certain distance, exercise for a certain number of hours or complete a challenging new routine. Buy a new item of clothing or a dinner that is special as well as healthy. These small rewards will remind you of your successes and keep you on track towards achieving your goals!
This is a guest post contributed by NorthShore University Health System, a comprehensive, fully integrated, healthcare delivery system that serves the Chicago region. With leading medical offices and hospitals in Chicago and the surrounding area, NorthShore provides patients with the care they need from certified nutritionists and other health specialists.

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