Review Category : Health

Las Vegas now has vending machines to dispense clean needles for IV drug users

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(LAS VEGAS) — Las Vegas now has a new tool to fight HIV and hepatitis C: vending machines that dispense clean needles.

Local health officials announced this month they have started a needle exchange program in an effort to prevent an outbreak of blood borne diseases, a potential occurrence among intravenous drug users. In Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, approximately nine percent of HIV cases are found in people who use drugs intravenously, according to the Southern Nevada Health District. To combat a rise in HIV infections and other diseases, the Southern Nevada Health District and Trac-B Exchange, in collaboration with the Nevada AIDS Research and Education Society (NARES), launched the initiative earlier this month.

“It starts with providing a clean needle and syringe to one person,” Dr. Joe Iser, chief health officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, said in a statement last Wednesday. “However, we know one in 10 HIV diagnoses occur in people who inject drugs. Providing clean needles and supplies is a proven method for limiting disease transmission in a community.”

Officials have been concerned about the risk of a disease outbreak as heroin use has spiked in the U.S. in recent years, according to to the Southern Nevada Health District.

During the pilot program, people will have to register with the Trac-B Exchange Harm Reduction Center before accessing the vending machines. Individuals will be allotted two boxes with sterile needles and syringes to reduce the risk of infection. The center, where the vending machines are located, also conducts HIV and hepatitis C testing.

“In addition to providing supplies to individual clients, the goal of our program is to improve the health and well-being of people affected by drug use by increasing their access to health care, providing them with education, and reducing the risk of harm to others in our community,” said Iser.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that annual HIV diagnoses among black and Hispanic or Latino intravenous drug users dropped by approximately 50 percent between 2008 to 2014 and that the drop was likely due to increased access to sterile syringes.

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Waitress gets big tip to help pay for hearing aids

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — For waitress Keri Marie Carlson, service that leaves customers smiling is part of the job at GW Carson’s Restaurant in Branford, Connecticut, but the tables were turned last week when a customer left her feeling grateful and in tears.

She was walking the customer to his table when he noticed that Carlson had trouble hearing him.

Carlson explained that one of her two hearing aids was broken and in need of repair.

“I didn’t say I needed the money or anything,” Carlson said to ABC station WTNH.

The customer, who wished to remain anonymous, surprised Carlson by handing her $500.

“I cried for a minute in his arms,” the appreciative waitress said.

The kind gesture has had a pay-it-forward effect.

The owner of GW Carson’s, Jim Kirtopoulos, has decided to donate a portion of the proceeds from the restaurant’s T-shirt sales to the American Society for Deaf Children.

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How a food writer struggling with mental illness found comfort through cooking

ABC News(NEW YORK) — When David Leite was a young boy, his mother used to write notes all over a banana every morning and leave them at his seat at the breakfast table. She called him “banana head” for fun, he said, and every day, there would be a new message from her.

“One end of the banana would say, ‘God bless,’ the other side would say, ‘We love you,’” and then the middle part, which was the big real estate, was anything going on that day, ‘Have a good day,’ ‘Break a leg’ if it was school drama club, ‘Do well on geometry test,’ whatever was going on that day,” Leite said. “It was kind of a way to kind of lift my spirits and I call it the 1960s version of Snapchat. It’s there, you eat it, it’s gone.”

Leite, a Portuguese-American food writer, drew from his mother’s morning ritual for the title of his new book, “Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love and Manic Depression.” Although his memoir is steeped in humor, Leite writes at length about his lifelong struggle with mental illness. He shared his story during a live taping of ABC News’ Dan Harris’ “10% Happier” podcast in New York City.

“I had a lot of anxiety,” Leite said. “I had a panic attack starting at 11 years old, I mean, true, full-blown panic attacks, and then I would also have these periods where I was — just dark, bleak, punitive thoughts going through my head. I couldn’t lift myself up.”

By the time he was a teenager, Leite said his depression because so severe that he went to his mother and asked for help.

“I told my mother, ‘If you do not let me see a psychiatrist, I will kill myself,’” Leite said. “And I knew that I wouldn’t kill myself but I knew it was the only way that I could, as a 13-and-a-half-year-old, explain to an adult how desperate this was and I was in a doctor’s office in a matter of weeks.”

The first diagnosis he received was for generalized anxiety disorder. He said one doctor recommended Valium, but he and his parents didn’t want him to take it. Leite tried changing his diet and exercise routine, but eventually he turned to writing as an outlet.

After years of trying to sort out his feelings, Leite said he came to believe he was suffering from manic depression and went to see a doctor, who then gave him a diagnosis of bipolar II disorder and got him on proper medication after some trial and error.

“When that happened, I felt as if all this armor that I had been carrying around since I was 11 just fell off me in pieces,” Leite said. “I was no longer fighting this invisible enemy, and that’s why I feel that was kind of like a second birthday for me.”

Sort of by accident, Leite also found some healing through cooking. He said fell into it after leaving Carnegie Mellon University and taking a job as a family cook for a professor.

“I knew nothing about cooking,” Leite said. “[The professor] says, ‘So you’ve cooked before?’ and, I like, ‘Yes, of course, I have,’ which was technically true. And he said, ‘You cooked for others?’ and I’m like, ‘Yes,’ which was technically true, I had cooked for other people.”

But Leite was hired and cooked for the professor’s family for three hours a day, five days a week. Through prepping the family’s meals, Leite realized how soothing it was for him.

“It was that rhythmic, ‘tock, tock, tock,’ of the knife, just chopping through herbs or doing something that just slowed me down,” he said. “Time became very elastic … time stretched so much that there were these breaks in time where just a little bit of happiness come through. And that was the first step.

“I talk in the book about how just watching a pat of butter heat and start to melt and just slump to the side of the cast iron skillet was just comforting to me,” Leite continued. “It slowed me and made me feel grounded.”

In his book, Leite also talks about navigating relationships and coming to terms with being gay as a young adult. He credits his partner, whom he refers to as “The One,” for helping him through some of the “major times” when he said his life “fell apart” and for encouraging his food writing career. Leite is the publisher of the website Leite’s Culinaria, which has won two James Beard awards.

Leite decided to write this memoir, he said, to share with others the inner war he has long waged with himself.

“I just thought I have nothing to lose by telling the story,” he said. “I cannot battle myself back to … being straight. … I can’t battle myself to not having mental illness. I cannot battle myself to being blonde hair, blue-eyed and be adopted by Samantha Stephens and Darren Stephens of ‘Bewitched.’ I cannot do that. But that’s what the whole book’s about. It’s me trying.”

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Beauty queen uses platform to bring attention to rare genetic disorder

Courtesy Victoria Graham(MANCHESTER, Md.) — For the first time in more than two years, beauty queen Victoria Graham didn’t have to spend her birthday in the hospital.

Since 2014, Graham, who has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, said she has undergone 10 surgeries. EDS is a rare genetic disorder that can weaken blood vessels, cause extreme elasticity of the skin and make joints so flexible that they are unstable and prone to dislocation.

Graham, who turned 23 on Tuesday, said the condition has been “always an adventure” since she was first diagnosed 10 years ago.

“I was an ex-athlete. I was living my dream. I was going to school and playing, at that point, two different sports: soccer and lacrosse,” Graham told the BBC in an interview, “and suddenly I was having brain and spinal surgeries and I had to leave.”

Graham attended Eastern University in Pennsylvania. At one point, she said she had to wear a neck brace to hold her brain steady. Her spine has also been fused. The surgeries left her with a 25-inch scar down her back. But Graham wanted to cross being in a beauty pageant off her bucket list, so she decided to compete for the title of Miss Frostburg 2017.

Although she knew her scars would be seen by everyone when she wore backless gowns, she said other competitors considered her “resilient.”

“When I’m on stage, I’m not the handicapped girl. I’m not the disabled girl. I’m not the sick girl,” Graham said. “It’s almost like I’m free.”

She said entering the contest wasn’t about winning, but she took home the title anyway.

EDS has made some parts of her life unpredictable: Graham said she did not know whether she would need more surgeries in the future. For now, she said she takes dozens of medications each day to help her stay strong and healthy.

And she’s using her newfound fame to help raise awareness: visiting children in local hospitals and sharing her story. She also started a support group for people with EDS called the Zebra Network.

In June, she will compete for the title of Miss Maryland.

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Veteran who lost leg in Afghanistan carries friend across Boston Marathon finish line — Inspiring footage of an army veteran with a prosthetic leg carrying his friend over the Boston Marathon finish line was captured during Monday’s race.

“My goal was to do it in six-and-a-half, seven hours,” Earl Granville told ABC News on Tuesday. “We were 50 feet away and I told Andi, ‘I’m going to carry you.'”

Granville, 33, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, lost his left leg through the knee in 2008 after his vehicle hit a roadside bomb while he was on patrol in Afghanistan. His comrades, Spc. Derek Holland of Wind Gap, Pennsylvania, and Maj. Scott Hagerty of Stillwater, Oklahoma, were killed in the blast.

Since then, Granville has competed in the Detroit, Chicago, New York and Marine Corps Marathons. This is the fourth year Granville has participated in the Boston Marathon, but it was his first time running it without a handbike, he said.

In the midst of this year’s excitement, Granville said he made it to the end before lifting up his friend and marathon guide, Andi Piscopo, 38, of Attleboro, Massachusetts.

“I’m a public figure for mental health awareness in society and I always say, ‘You never have to carry that weight alone yourself,'” Granville said.

Granville is also a Combat Infantryman Badge and Purple Heart recipient. He speaks publicly about the importance of veterans seeking help for mental distress since the death of his twin brother, Staff Sgt. Joseph Granville, who took his own life in December 2010.

Footage from yesterday’s race showed Granville holding Piscopo over his shoulders while she gripped a large, American flag.

The video, posted by ABC affiliate WCVB-TV in Boston, has been viewed over 7 million times on Facebook.

“It was a spur of the moment kind of thing,” Andi Piscopo told ABC News. “There’s electricity in the crowd throughout the entire 26 miles but when you make those last two turns, you just get goosebumps. It is surreal. It’s such a feel-good moment. It was an awesome moment, an awesome experience. I had said this morning that this was my favorite Boston Marathon.”

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First woman to officially run Boston Marathon finishes race again at 70

John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(BOSTON) — Fifty years after becoming the first woman to officially finish the Boston Marathon, Kathrine Switzer has done it again.

“I’m exhilarated,” she told ABC News after finishing the 26.2-mile race on Monday. “All the way along the route, people had heard my story, saw my bib, and they were holding signs up that read ‘261 Fearless’ and ‘Go, Kathrine!’ They were screaming and going crazy. It was amazing, especially the little girls who were there with their moms. They were just jumping up and down.”

Behind pioneering female runner’s return to Boston Marathon 50 years later

Switzer, 70, crossed the finish line with an unofficial time of 4:44:31, just 24 minutes slower than her time as a 20-year-old. She said it has always been her dream to return to the streets of Boston after making history there in 1967.

“It’s just an enormous sense of gratitude for the city of Boston, the streets of Boston, which changed my life and helped pave the way for what is nothing less than a social revolution in women’s running,” she said. “When I crossed the finish line — to celebrate 50 years of looking back and seeing the huge progress and changes that have been made — I can only say that I’m extremely grateful for the experience.”

Switzer signed up for the 1967 Boston Marathon, which until that point was predominantly run by men, as K.V. Switzer. While women were not officially barred from the course, people did not believe women were capable of running such a distance. A woman previously ran the race without a bib number. Race officials did not know that Switzer was running until she entered the second mile of the race. That’s when race official Jock Semple ran up behind her and tried to rip off her bib in order to disqualify her. She was able to break free of his grasp, and her boyfriend shoved him to the ground. She kept running, becoming a symbol of girl power in sports.

Switzer said she was thinking of Semple, who later became her friend, as she passed that spot in the race Monday. Semple died in 1988.

“I just blew him a big kiss. I said, ‘There you go, Jock,'” she said. “This was the guy who, for better or worse, changed my life. As it turned out, it was for better. At the time, it was a terrible experience, but in the fullness of time, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Switzer donned her original bib number, 261, for the 2017 race. This time around, she was accompanied by 125 runners raising money for her charity, 261 Fearless, which helps empower women and girls through running. After she crossed the finish line, the Boston Athletic Association retired her bib number.

Having fought sexism when she ran Boston the first time, she said she already knows the next boundary she has to break through: ageism.

“People are saying about old people in sports what they used to say about women — ‘You shouldn’t push yourself, you’re too weak, you’re too fragile, you might break, don’t push it,'” Switzer said. “I don’t think there’s any limit for aging, and I think this is the next new frontier.”

Kenyan policewoman Edna Kiplagat wins Boston Marathon in unofficial time of 2 hours, 21 minutes, 53 seconds

After finishing the race, she said, she wanted a “cup of coffee and a piece of chocolate.” She plans to celebrate with a Boston-brewed draft beer over dinner with her husband and friends tonight. She said she has no intention of making this her last marathon: She hopes to compete in the New York Marathon in the future.

Her goal is for her story to inspire women of all ages to be active, strong and confident in themselves, she said. For her, that strength was on display down to the smallest detail.

“I had a choice of what to wear today — capris or shorts. At 70, my legs are not gorgeous like they were when I was 28. And I said, ‘I’m wearing the shorts,'” Switzer said. “I’ve got 70-year-old legs, and they deserve to look gnarly. But I don’t care, because I just want to run and run well.”

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A look back at the rise of marijuana in the US

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — According to a new Yahoo-Marist poll released today, more than half of Americans admit to having used marijuana at least once in their lives. The drug occupies a unique place in America; the federal government has deemed it illegal but 29 states have legalized it for medicinal or recreational purposes.

Here’s a look back at the rise of marijuana in the U.S.

2,000 BC

Ancient Egyptians start using the drug after it arrives from India, according to a 2012 published paper. Marijuana eventually arrived in Europe, where Greek and Romans started using the marijuana plant for “its ropelike qualities as hemp” and “medical applications.”


In the early 1900s U.S. states start to take action to limit marijuana consumption, especially since many people start to use it medicinally. Twenty-six states including Massachusetts, Indiana and California eventually put some limits on the consumption of marijuana, according to Ohio State University and Miami University.


The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 prohibited certain drugs like opium and heroin, but marijuana was not included. Scientists studied the drug to find out if it had medicinal properties.


“Reefer Madness,” a fictional dramatic film chronicling the crimes committed by a group of young people as a result of getting hooked on marijuana, is released. Originally intended as a moralist movie, the film gained fame again in the 1970s – this time as a satire.


Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry Anslinger started a campaign against marijuana, eventually leading to the Marihuana Tax Act, which curbed “the importation, cultivation, possession and/or distribution of marijuana were regulated.” It also restricted the use of marijuana as a recreational drug. During this time, scientific study of cannabis declined sharply.


Under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, marijuana became an illegal Schedule 1 narcotic, putting it in same category as heroin. Drugs under this classification are determined to have a “high potential for abuse” and “no current accepted medical treatment.”


Journalist Tom Forçade starts High Times, a magazine for marijuana aficionados.


Former President Bill Clinton, then the governor of Arkansas and the likely Democratic presidential nominee, famously described his experience with marijuana as a student in England, where possession of pot is illegal: “I didn’t inhale.”


California becomes the first state to legalize medical marijuana under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.


Colorado and Washington become the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use.


Currently 29 states have medical marijuana and cannabis programs.

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How to talk to your kids about pot

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The public attitude toward marijuana has changed within the U.S., with more than half of states legalizing the drug for medicinal or recreational purposes.

But the changing attitudes and loosening of legal barriers raise a question for parents: What should they tell their children about marijuana use and its possible risks?

Parents appear to be less concerned with marijuana use compared to other issues. According to the Yahoo-Marist poll released today, most people are more concerned about their children having sex or smoking cigarettes than smoking marijuana. Experts say the parent-child conversation about marijuana may have to be more nuanced, especially if the parents themselves use marijuana recreationally.

“The issue is that the perceived risk of marijuana is at an all-time low,” says Dr. Merrill Herman, associate professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and an addiction psychiatrist at Montefiore Medical Center.

But he warns that “cannabis can cause people to lose motivation, have a cognitive impact and can affect their psychiatric status.”

Herman brings up the fact that teens who are reluctant to talk to their parents about feelings of depression or anxiety may self-medicate with marijuana, which can delay important treatment and lead to greater problems in the future. He emphasizes that the marijuana available now is much more potent than it was the 1960s and 70s, something that is especially important for parents to remember when reflecting on their own experiences.

Though he says marijuana does not cause people to use other drugs, Herman notes that “most people who use other drugs have also used marijuana.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a few helpful talking points on how marijuana can affect growing teens. The academy also recommends that parents be honest but brief about their drug-use history when discussing marijuana with their children.

The points include:

-Marijuana is federally illegal, and is illegal everywhere for people under the age of 18. Being caught by police with marijuana can have legal consequences. Many schools also have no-drug policies for participation in extracurricular activities.

-Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal, and marijuana is the most common illegal drug to be used by people involved in deadly car accidents.

-Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that impacts brain development. Research has shown that the brain is not fully formed until at least the age of 21. Using a drug that affects the brain while it is developing can permanently change it and cause it to develop abnormally.

-Teens who are susceptible to certain psychotic disorders may increase their risk of developing them with heavy marijuana use.

-Marijuana can be addictive: about 9 percent of all users develop an addiction to the drug, and up to 50 percent of teenagers who use marijuana daily become addicted to it. The myth that marijuana is not addictive is not true.

-Marijuana smoke has toxins in it that are not eliminated by vaporizers or hookahs.

Dr. Carolyn Certo Gnerre is a third-year psychiatry resident at Montefiore Medical Center in New York and resident in the ABC News Medical Unit.

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More than half of American adults have tried marijuana, poll finds

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) A majority of American adults have tried marijuana at least once in their lives, according to a new Marist poll that was conducted in partnership with Yahoo.

The poll found that 52 percent of U.S. adults have tried marijuana at least once and 56 percent of Americans find the drug “socially acceptable.”

While eight out of 10 Americans strongly support legalizing medical marijuana, there is a clear divide over the legalization of recreational marijuana; Forty-nine percent of American adults support legalization while 47 percent oppose it.

Dr. Donald Abrams, an oncologist at University of California San Francisco who has studied marijuana, said the high percentage of people in favor of medicinal marijuana is not surprising.

Many “have had family members or friends who have benefited from the use medicinally,” Abrams said. “I hear it all the time.”

The poll comes as more states are legalizing both recreational and medicinal marijuana. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 and today 29 states have laws providing for medicinal marijuana or cannabis and eight states have passed laws legalizing recreational use of the drug in some form.

Despite more people having access to the drug, just 14 percent of Americans over the age of 18 say they use marijuana regularly or at least once or twice a month. The poll also finds that a stigma is still associated with the drug.

Overall, 70 percent of poll respondents believe their parents would be unhappy to learn they were using marijuana recreationally.

In comparison, the poll found that 58 percent of parents think their children would disapprove if they found out their mother or father enjoyed marijuana recreationally.
Just 39 percent of parents say their children have tried or currently uses marijuana.

That number is almost true in reverse, with just 36 percent of Americans saying at least one parent has tried or regularly uses marijuana.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the non-profit Drug Policy Alliance, which focuses on drug policy reform, said some parents may hide recreational drug use over concerns they will set a bad example.

“You go to someone’s house … you have the parents share a joint and down the hall the teenager will share a joint and neither will know,” he said.

Nadelmann said that changes in how marijuana is ingested may also contribute to how people view the drug.

“As marijuana has been accepted medically, it’s less about the marijuana high,” Nadelmann said, pointing out that people may now increasingly see elderly family members use the drug to help cope with a variety of ailments.

Americans do have concerns about the health risks of marijuana, but those concerns pale in comparison to concerns over cigarettes and alcohol. Fifty-one percent of Americans think consumption of marijuana is a health risk. However, far more Americans say drinking alcohol regularly (72 percent) is a threat to health over regular marijuana use (20 percent.)

More Americans also think that regular tobacco use (76 percent) is far more risky than regular marijuana use (18 percent.)

The poll was done by surveying 1,122 adults between March 1 through March 7 of this year. The Marist Poll was sponsored and funded in partnership with Yahoo. Results are statistically significant within ±2.9 percentage points.

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Idaho man pushes best friend in wheelchair as they trek 500 miles across Spain

Courtesy I’ll Push You(NEW YORK) — Imagine trekking 500 miles across mountains, rivers and even a Spanish desert. Now imagine doing that with your best friend who’s in a wheelchair.

Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray have known each other since they were born. Their parents attended the same church and the two went to middle and high school together.

Gray, 41, was even there when Skeesuck, also 41, was diagnosed with multifocal acquired motor axonopathy, a neuromuscular disease that causes symptoms similar to ALS.

“I have to have my clothes put on. I have to be bathed in the bathroom. I can do some stuff on my own. I can get around on my own. I use a power wheelchair,” Skeesuck told ABC News. “But my wife is my primary caregiver and then Patrick steps in and he’s kind of my No. 2. I call him the vice president of my inner circle.”

So when Skeesuck, who lives in Eagle, Idaho, wanted to trek the 500 miles of Spain’s Camino de Santiago trail after watching a travel show, Gray didn’t hesitate.

“I just knew I needed to do it,” Skeesuck said of getting the idea in 2013.

After a year of training — and convincing their spouses and families — they hit the trail on June 3, 2014. They traversed mountains, rivers and desert terrains “with the helping hands and hearts of well over a 100 pilgrims,” Gray said.

Although the two admit they were a bit nervous initially, they really just used the opportunity to have fun.

“We were going to try to make it, come hell or high water,” Skeesuck said, adding that they were just “focused; trying to have fun throughout the process.”

The two eventually documented their experience in a book, “I’ll Push You: A Journey of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends and One Wheelchair,” out June 6. They also have a documentary about their trip due out this fall.

Gray said he stole a phrase from his best friend on why they’re sharing their experience: “‘It’s too much hope not to share it.'”

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