Review Category : Health

Study Claims Adderall Abuse Increasing in Young Adults

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) — Adderall abuse is on the rise in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Adderall is a stimulant drug often used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, claims that while the number of prescriptions for Adderall for ADHD haven’t increased, there is a sharp rise in the number of young adults aged 18 to 25 years old who are abusing the drug.

The study compared trends in use, abuse and emergency room visits associated with the drug from 2006 through 2011. Researchers say that while the number of prescriptions didn’t change during that period, nonmedical use increased by 67.1 percent and emergency room visits went up by 155.9 percent.

One-half of those ER visits were a result of people who mixed Adderall with alcohol or other illicit drugs, the study found.

Those who were using the drug inappropriately were getting it primarily from friends or relatives, most of whom had obtained it from a doctor, the study said.

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Your Body: Paying for Therapy Out of Pocket

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

How much are you willing to pay for therapies not covered by insurance? According to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a lot.

Acupuncture, chiropractic and massage therapy have all grown in popularity between 2002 and 2012. While some insurance companies may provide partial coverage for these so-called “complimentary therapies,” most of them are not covered by insurance.

The CDC found that chiropractic services were the most likely to be covered by insurance, while massage therapy was the least likely.

So how can you get the best deals on your treatments?

Start by asking about the pros and cons of the proposed treatment.

Ask about the costs in advance, and if the price seems too high, ask about the possibility of a reduced-fee package or payment plan. There’s no harm in trying.

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Disturbing Suicide Cluster Prompts CDC to Start Investigation in Palo Alto

ABC News(PALO ALTO, Calif.) — Shawna Chen recalled the unsettling response she got when she was in middle school and she told friends that she was going to attend the elite Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto, California.

“‘That’s the school with suicides,” Chen, 18, recalled her friends saying. “I don’t think I understood what that meant or the gravity of what that meant.”

The disconcerting comment stemmed from a horrific period between 2009 and 2010 during which five students or recent graduates from the school died by suicide, according to a report from the Palo Alto Unified School District. The deaths signaled a “suicide cluster,” defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as three or more suicides in close proximity in regards to time and space.

During her first two years at the high school, Chen said she didn’t think too much about the suicide cluster there as she focused on her academics at the school, which has been ranked as one of the best high schools in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

But then, as Chen and her classmates juggled college visits, SAT tests and AP classes, they also had to grapple with a second cluster between 2014 and 2015, the occurrence of which was noted during a school board meeting. These are sometimes called an “echo cluster,” according to the CDC.

Police and officials from the CalTrain commuter line confirmed that four local teens died from October 2014 to March 2015. CalTrain tracks run near the school and some of the students who committed suicide did so on those tracks, officials said. Chen said three of the deaths were students at Gunn or recent graduates. At least one other student from nearby Palo Alto High School also reportedly committed suicide during that time, according to local reports.

“It was a huge shock and there was a silent tension on campus on the following days,” she told ABC News of her experience during that time. “It was hard for people to wrap their heads around it.”

Palo Alto is not the only community to be affected by suicide clusters in recent years. In the last five years, the CDC has also investigated incidents in Fairfax County, Virginia, and two counties in Delaware where suicide clusters affected teens and young adults.

In Palo Alto, members of the CDC’s epidemiological assistance team are scheduled to begin an investigation this week on the “suicide contagion” risk in a similar way they may investigate a viral or bacterial outbreak that spreads through a community. As federal officials arrive in Palo Alto, they will face a community that is trying to find innovative ways to combat suicide when it becomes a “contagion.”

Learn more about the CDC investigation in Palo Alto during ABC News’ Nightline airing Wednesday at 12:35 a.m. ET

Suicide may seem to be the ultimate individual act, but a single suicide has the potential to cause a ripple effect with further deaths following in its wake, experts said, noting that these “suicide clusters” occur almost exclusively among teens and young adults.

Madelyn Gould, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, explained that teens are at a unique point in their life where their core relationships are changing and they are more impulsive than adults.

“Their relationships with other teens really start to play much more of a role than their relationships with their parents, and so they influence each other more,” she explained. “Between both the social influences and biological influences, it makes them much more vulnerable to being influenced by somebody else’s suicide.”

Gould has studied at least 50 suicide clusters throughout the U.S. and said one of the only constant threads that connect those at risk is age.

“There’s no such thing as a ‘suicide town,'” Gould told ABC News. “It crosses every socio-economic community from impoverished to wealthy, black to white, Native American. It really crosses all divides in the United States.”

The CDC even wrote a response plan in the 1980’s to “combat” and “prevent” clusters. In that report, the agency estimated that clusters account for 1 to 5 percent of suicides in adolescents and young adults.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Americans between the age of 15 to 24 and the third-leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 to 15, according to the CDC.

In Palo Alto, the string of suicides prompted the community to act. Both local government leaders and school officials had already worked to address suicide risk after the 2009 to 2010 cluster. The Palo Alto Unified School District and the Santa Clara Health Department both organized and coordinated community responses and initiatives aimed at protecting students based on materials provided by the CDC.

Denise Herrmann has been the principal of Gunn High School for 18 months, and she said she has already had to attend three funerals for students. And she has grappled with how to help students heal after the deaths, she said.

Nightline co-anchor Byron Pitts traveled to Palo Alto recently and spoke to Herrmann about how students have worked together to cope with the tragedy.

Efforts to deal with the suicide cluster include a program to teach students techniques to handle stress through yoga and breathing exercises, a program that brings in recent alumni to talk about life after high school and one that matches incoming freshman with adults so that they can meet throughout the year and get one-on-one attention, Herrmann said.

And it’s not just the administrators who are stepping up to help, but the students as well, she told Pitts.

“We want to make sure that everyone knows it’s okay to seek help if you’re feeling blue, down, anxious,” she said. “So, students have made sure they’ve written stories, they’ve done videos. Actually, some of our students teamed up to do a documentary.”

One of the students who wanted to share her story was Chen. As the editor of the student newspaper, she said she knew she wanted to do something to help, especially after seeing how many media stories focused on why the cluster happened and not how to recover.

When a suicide happened after Chen started attending Gunn High School, “a lot of the media came in and were investigating and said ‘Why are these kids killing themselves?'” Chen recalled. “It was being prodded apart, like a wound.”

Chen said she came up with a new idea for sharing positive student stories after hearing Madelyn Gould speak at a community meeting about how the stories of recovery can reach those who are suicidal.

“We have research that shows stories about resilience and coping and dealing with suicidal thoughts in ways that are engaging … they are not only inspiring, they can prevent somebody else’s suicide attempt,” Gould told ABC News.

Chen said after hearing Gould speak, she knew she wanted to provide an outlet for students. “What about if we provide that in the student paper?'” Chen recalled thinking.

Chen started a new section for the paper this year called “Changing the Narrative,” aimed at having students at the elite school share essays of their fears and anxieties.

“The website went up and they said ‘Thank you for sharing it,'” she said of her fellow students.

Two other high school seniors, Christian Leong and Andrew Baer, at Palo Alto High School also shared their story in a documentary called Unmasked, talking about the pressures of academic life.

The school board last year approved funding so that two licensed therapists could be at both Gunn High School and Palo Alto High School full time. There have been multiple community meetings to address concerns about the high stress environment at Gunn High School and potential risks to students’ well-being if they take multiple advanced placement courses. The school board now recommends that students take no more than two AP classes.

In addition, Gunn High School started “block” scheduling this year — meaning the class period is longer but they have fewer classes in a day. And school officials are also working to combat “academic bullying” on social media so that there is a less competitive atmosphere on campus.

“Any time you are trying to intimidate, it doesn’t matter if it’s with strength or other things, if it’s intimidating others with academic strength it still could have a negative or harmful impact,” Herrmann said.

Dr. Meg Durbin, a family physician in Palo Alto, had three sons who attended Gunn High School during the first suicide cluster. The deaths galvanized her and others in the medical community to make mental health a consistent topic, she told ABC News, noting that students have learned to expect questions about their mental health during every checkup.

Durbin helped co-found HEARD — the Health Care Alliance for Response to Adolescent Depression — and also helped create a program to facilitate getting teens to mental health care providers.

Even in an affluent community like Palo Alto, “people are keen to have their health care covered by insurance. They’re not keen on spending a couple hundred dollars for psychiatrists,” Durbin said.

Access to child psychiatrists are rare across the country, creating a serious issue when teens experience a mental health crisis. To help cut down on the time it can take to find a provider, HEARD put together a vetted list of providers who will take on patients. They also have volunteers, who work with multiple families, to find care for at-risk youth.

She’s even had insurance companies call her to confirm that a patient is getting mental health care, Durbin said.

While there have been multiple steps taken to protect students, some groups had other recommendations about how to best help the students.

Teacher Marc Vincenti said he thinks there needs to be an epidemiological study into the suicides and more focus on the root causes for academic stressors. He started the “Save the 2,008” initiative, with more than 400 supporters, aimed at helping students in the district. The number 2,008 refers to the number of students at Gunn High School after the string of suicides happened.

The goal is to make sure “the environment that we send our kids to every day is more humane, is more forgiving, is more compassionate, and is more likely to serve as a safety net to those kids who are especially in despair,” Vincenti said.

Vincenti said he’s concerned that all these new initiatives give students even more work to do, and he wants people to focus on connecting with children and cut down class sizes.

Durbin and Chen both say they hope the community could become an example for others about how to combat a suicide cluster. Durbin pointed out that a tool-kit developed by mental health leaders in Palo Alto, including by members of HEARD, was adopted by across the state.

She said in her own family, one of the new programs has helped her son grapple with the past tragedy. Her oldest son graduated just two days after the first student died by suicide in 2009.

“He wanted to get out of there,” she recalled of his graduation. But now with the alumni program, he has reconnected with his old school.

Though suicide clusters can arise anywhere, Gould said a community can take concrete steps to diminish the risk of a cluster and that she has been “extremely impressed” by what Palo Alto has done.

“They have engaged the entire community to embrace their responsibility,” she told ABC News. “That is the first thing that is very, very effective.”

Resources for suicide prevention and mental illness concerns can be found here.

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X-Ray Reveals Lithium Battery Stuck in Toddler’s Esophagus

iStock/Thinkstock(TORONTO) — X-ray images recently revealed a lithium cell battery stuck in the esophagus of a Toronto-area toddler had been the root of the tot’s seemingly mysterious weeklong pain and discomfort.

For nearly all of last week, 2-year-old Katie Smith, was gagging, coughing up phlegm and unable to eat, according to her mother, Christina Smith.

“We thought she was choking on a cracker at first, but my husband checked her airways and she was breathing fine,” Smith told ABC News Tuesday. “But she was gagging, drooling and holding her saliva, and she was crying and screaming, so we took her to a nearby hospital.”

A doctor suggested Smith’s 2-year-old had a flu or cold and sent her home, Smith said. She added that Katie’s symptoms persisted, so she took her daughter to additional doctors, for other opinions.

According to Smith, the first four doctors said Katie likely had a flu or cold, but a fifth doctor at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children ordered X-rays and discovered what was actually wrong: A small, circular, foreign object was lodged in Katie’s esophagus, the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach.

“At first there were mentions of a plastic bottle cap, and then a coin, but then we got on the phone with an ear, nose, and throat specialist who said it could be a button battery,” Smith said.

Doctors confirmed the 2-year-old did indeed swallow a lithium button cell battery on Friday morning when they removed it from her throat, Smith said.

“We learned the battery had corroded and burned through the first layer of her esophagus, which doctors said has three layer,” Smith said. “There was some pus and swelling, but doctors cleared that up as well.”

The mother added that her 2-year-old was “very lucky” and is now “doing great.” Katie is now able to eat chocolate Popsicles and could start eating soft foods, like mashed potatoes, as early as tonight, she said.

Cases like Katie’s are apparently “not uncommon at all,” according to Dr. Blake Papsin, the chief of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery at The Hospital for Sick Children. Papsin did not treat Katie but he is aware of her case as the department’s chief.

“Lithium batteries make up about 18 percent of the reported foreign bodies that kids swallow,” Papsin told ABC News Tuesday. “They’re everywhere. They’re in hearing aids, phones, toys and in so much of the new technology.”

He explained that the damage these batteries can cause when ingested range from none to death.

“For some, they might not even know they swallowed it because it went right through the stomach and out the other end,” Papsin said. “But when it does get stuck, it can cause corrosion. The electric current the batteries give off can produce toxic chemical reactions that damage and burn the tissue.”

Papsin said that if a battery remained in an esophagus long enough, it could have the potential to perforate right through into the aorta and cause death.

Smith told ABC Tuesday that she hopes her daughter’s story helps encourage other parents to always “stick to your parental instinct” because “only you know your kids better than anyone else.”

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Zika Virus Outbreak Updates: FDA Issues New Guidelines on Blood Donation

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Zika virus outbreak continues to spread throughout the Western Hemisphere and concerns are growing for pregnant women because the mosquito-borne virus has been linked with a serious birth defect called microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain in infants.

Here are the latest updates about the outbreak, which the World Health Organization has deemed a “global health emergency.”

New FDA Recommendations on Blood Donation

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued recommendations Tuesday to safeguard the donated blood supply during the Zika virus outbreak. The agency is recommending that those at risk of having been infected with the Zika virus should not donate blood for four weeks. These include those who have had Zika virus symptoms or sexual contact with people who have traveled to countries known to have ongoing transmissions.

“The FDA has critical responsibilities in outbreak situations and has been working rapidly to take important steps to respond to the emerging Zika virus outbreak,” Dr. Luciana Borio, the FDA’s acting chief scientist, said in a statement Tuesday. “We are issuing this guidance for immediate implementation in order to better protect the U.S. blood supply.”

Additionally, the FDA recommends that no blood be used from areas where there is active transmission of the virus. No transmissions of the virus between mosquito and human have been reported in the U.S.

WHO Looks at GMO Mosquitoes

In a new report, officials from the World Health Organization said they are looking into new forms of mosquito control, including “a genetically modified prototype mosquito.”

The WHO Vector Control Advisory Group is evaluating new tools in an effort to kill the insects that spread the Zika virus. In addition to GMO mosquitoes, the group is also looking at sterilizing a male mosquitoes using a low dose of radiation. Additionally, a bacteria called “Wolbachia” could be used to stop mosquito eggs from hatching. The bacteria is not infectious to humans or other mammals.

“Given the magnitude of the Zika crisis, WHO encourages affected countries and their partners to boost the use of both old and new approaches to mosquito control as the most immediate line of defence,” WHO officials said in the report Tuesday.

What Does the Virus Do?

Common symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately one in five people infected with the virus show symptoms. Severe complications from the virus that require hospitalization are rare, according to the CDC.

The virus has been associated with the birth defect microcephaly.

The CDC is also investigating if a rare paralysis syndrome called Guillain-Barre is related to the virus. The syndrome is an immunological reaction that can occur after other viral or bacterial infections.

How Is It Transmitted?

The virus is transmitted mainly through the bite of the Aedes aegypti species of mosquito. This is the same type of mosquito that spreads dengue fever. The Aedes albopictus species has also been identified as a potential carrier.

Before the current outbreak, the virus had been found mainly in tropical settings in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. An outbreak of the disease in Brazil led to an alert by the Pan American Health Organization last May.

Health officials have also reported rare cases of transmission through blood transfusions and through sexual contact, including one case in Dallas, Texas.

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Brain Doctor Becomes Study Subject After Rare Male Breast Cancer Diagnosis

iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) — A doctor more accustomed to studying cancer under a microscope has become a study subject himself due to a rare diagnosis of male breast cancer.

Dr. Oliver Bogler, a professor of neurosurgery and senior vice president of academic affairs at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, spent much of his professional life studying cancer tumors.

But when he found a lump in his chest in 2012, Bogler, like many other patients, at first tried to convince himself it wasn’t cancer.

“I observed it for a few months, I worried about it I looked up things online,” he told ABC News, noting that he at first hoped it would go away. “It certainly refused to go away. I finally decided to get it checked out.”

A primary care doctor referred Bogler to an oncologist, who confirmed he had breast cancer, which is extremely rare in men. Just 1 percent of breast cancer patients are male, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It was pretty shocking. It was a moment you don’t forget when you have cancer,” Bogler said.

Even though he had years of in-depth knowledge about cancer, he said getting his diagnosis is “a very fundamental shift in your life.”

Bogler had actually been through the process before. His wife was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer years earlier. Now going through his own treatment, Bogler was surprised his treatment plan was similar to his wife’s plan from years earlier.

“I very quickly realized that the male disease is an orphan disease in the sense that there wasn’t primary research on men,” he explained. “The treatment my wife received and what my wife received were practically identical.”

Bogler explained that because there are so few male breast cancer patients, doctors extrapolate care plans based on data gleaned from female patients. While the chemotherapy treatment and radiation was effective for Bogler, he was surprised at how few research trials on breast cancer gave men even the possibility in participating.

About 2,350 men are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer every year, compared to 231,840 women, according to the American Cancer Society. For men, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is 1 in 1,000, compared to 1 in 8 for women.

Bogler’s own research showed that about two-thirds of studies on breast cancer exclude men. He is now on a mission to get doctors to consider male breast cancer patients in their research and treatment plans.

“One of the things I’m advocating for is as they design clinical trials, if they choose to exclude men, they should have a good sound reason to exclude men,” Bogler said.

He said he knows many researchers will use previous templates when writing a new study, so they don’t think about including men. Bogler has already spoken to the American Society of Breast Surgeons and has actively started participating in trials. He’s had tissue sent to be part of various studies and is currently in an immunotherapy trial at MD Anderson, where he was treated and where he works.

He said it will be key to raise awareness about the disease among men, so that they consider getting checked out. While it’s a small percentage of overall cases, men often do not do as well as female breast cancer patients because they are diagnosed at a later stage.

“We also need to educate the medical professionals,” to raise awareness, he said. “It’s going to be a long-term thing and be hugely important.”

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WHO Recommends New Tactics to Fight the Zika Virus

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Countries with Zika virus outbreaks should consider new approaches to dealing with the mosquitoes that carry the virus, a new report from the World Health Organization says.

VERBATIM: The report highlights the lack of understanding at this stage but suggests that new tools for mosquito control, including the possibility of genetically-modified mosquitoes, could be important in fighting the virus.

WHO says the principal Zika-carrying mosquito has adapted to the urban environment and international travel may have helped its spread geographically.

The females are the ones which bite and it seems they prefer human blood to other mammals.

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New Cancer Treatment Sparks Excitement

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Researchers are getting excited over a new cancer treatment that has reportedly left 90 percent of terminally ill patients in remission.

The BBC reports that during testing, cells in the immune system called killer t-cells were removed from dozens of patients. The researchers then genetically modified the cells in a lab to have them specifically target acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“Essentially what this process does is it genetically reprograms the t-cell to seek out and recognize and destroy the patient’s tumor cells,” Professor Stanley Riddell from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle told the BBC. “[The patients] were really at the end of the line in terms of treatment options and yet a single dose of this therapy put more than ninety percent of these patients in complete remission where we can’t detect any of these leukemia cells.”

Still, the BBC reports that seven of those patients tested developed cytokine release
syndrome that landed them in intensive care. Two patients even died, according to the BBC.

Experts say the trial, although exciting, was only a “baby step.” They will continue to work out any issues with the current treatment, and possibly get the treatment to work for other types of cancers.

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Oprah Winfrey Uses Meditation to Help With Weight Loss

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) — Oprah Winfrey wowed social media in a stunning red dress on Valentine’s Day, posting this photo to Instagram and proving her weight-loss efforts are showing big results.

“I’ve lost 26 pounds and I have eaten bread every single day,” she recently said in a Weight Watchers commercial.

Winfrey now looks like she may have lost even more weight than her announcement more than two weeks ago, but she’s revealing Weight Watchers might not be the only thing helping her shed the pounds.

She joined Deepak Chopra, spiritual guru and author of “Super Genes,” on a 21-day meditation challenge called “Shedding the Weight: Mind, Body and Spirit,” a method that some claim can help with weight loss.

“Meditation is a way of progressively quieting the mind,” Chopra told ABC News. “We are also introducing the idea of shedding emotional baggage, which frequently is the cause of weight gain.”

Winfrey, 62, says this discovery program has helped her gain insight into her struggle with weight loss, adding in a press release, “I have learned that weight can affect more than just our physical being, it takes on all kinds of different meaning in our lives.”

Researchers continue to study the link between meditation and weight loss, and while there is some evidence that meditation can help people lose weight, it’s still too early to make solid conclusions.

Yet Chopra claims there is a connection, and that it works.

“Meditation decreases the levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone,” he explained. “When you have stress, then you accumulate belly fat.”

Many nutritionists also say losing weight must include serious changes in diet.

“Meditation alone will not take off the weight,” said Maya Feller, a New York-based registered dietitian nutritionist. “It’s really important to pay attention to the types of food that one is eating, the portion and then you can really, really focus on weight loss.”

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Your Body: Heart Attacks May Be Harder to Detect in Women

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

One in three women will die from heart disease, but the good news is that about 80 percent of it is preventable.

However, a new warning from the American Heart Association says it may be harder to detect heart attacks in women versus men.

Women are more likely to die after a heart attack than men are. Chest pain is definitely still the most common symptom in women and in men, but women can also have shortness of breath, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, nausea.

If you have any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Don’t deny or ignore them.

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