Monday, June 26, 2017

Government survey: Adolescents' drug use lessening

Addiction and recovery
By Bob Gaydos
Good news and drugs. It’s not a typical pairing in most people’s minds. Right now, for example, the United States is trying to come to grips with what many are calling an epidemic of deaths due to heroin overdoses tied to opioid addiction. The attorney general of the United States recently cited this serious reality in asking Congress for permission to prosecute states which have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. This kind of political exploitation tends to confuse issues and make the bad news sound even worse. So I went looking for some good news.
It didn’t take long to find and it came, if you will, from the horse’s mouth, which is to say, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, which are part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The government.
Since 1975, the NIDA has been conducting the Monitoring the Future Survey, which tracks drug use and attitudes among eighth, tenth and 12th graders in the United States. Its most recent report was released in December of 2016. It contained quite a bit of good news.
According to the NIDA: “Use of many substances is at its lowest level since the survey’s inception (1975), including alcohol, cigarettes, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, inhalants, and sedatives (reported only by 12th graders). Other illicit drugs showed 5-year declines, including marijuana (among 8th and 10th graders), synthetic cannabinoids (K2/herbal incense, sometimes called "synthetic marijuana"), prescription opioids (reported in the survey as "narcotics other than heroin"), hallucinogens, amphetamines, and over-the-counter cough and cold medications.”
And on that national epidemic, here’s NIDA again: “Despite the continued rise in opioid misuse and overdose deaths among adults, past-year misuse of prescription opioids has continued to decline among high school seniors. Over the past 5 years, misuse has dropped 45 percent, from 8.7 to 4.8 percent. Heroin use remains very low, with past-year use reported by 0.3 percent in all grades.”
Bottom line, in a lot of ways an increasing number of adolescents are getting the message to do what Nancy Reagan suggested years ago regarding drugs -- just say no.
Of course, it took a little more to achieve these results than just telling teenagers to not do something because it could be harmful to their health. The all-time low levels of use of tobacco and alcohol surely are a reflection in part of federal laws that a) required states to raise their ages for purchase and public possession of alcohol to 21 or lose 10 percent of their federal highway funds (it worked) and b) banned cigarette and tobacco advertising on TV and radio, required warning labels on the packages and regulated product placement and ads in stores. It took a concerted, community effort, in other words.  
That effort continues with regard to tobacco, as Hawaii in 2015 led the way to raising the age for purchase of tobacco to 21. More than 100 cities and counties, including New York City, Suffolk and, recently, Orange County have also adopted the policy. Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah have set the legal age at 19.
These legislative efforts were accompanied by well-publicized campaigns that heightened awareness of the numerous health risks associated with smoking and drinking -- especially at a young age -- and the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Stiffer DWI laws accompanied the raised drinking age in many states, again, a reflection of communities coming to terms with an unhealthy situation, discussing options and taking steps to remedy it. These positive actions and attitudes by adults are not lost on children and are passed on through generations, just as the negative ones are.
In response to the current opioid epidemic, law enforcement agencies have cracked down on over-prescription of pain-relief medicines and stricter regulations have been put in place to monitor their use. In addition, many communities have formed action groups to provide information about the abuse of prescription pain medicines and heroin, as well as other drugs. Such efforts increase awareness of the issue -- including the fact that help is available -- and tend to reduce the shame that prevents many who are suffering from addiction from seeking help.
As with the changes in drug and alcohol use among adolescents reported in the latest Monitoring the Future Survey, these attitudes and actions could certainly carry through generations. That would be more welcome positive news.  

From the 2016 survey
--  Marijuana: Among both 8th and 10th graders, daily marijuana use decreased over the past 5 years from 1.3 to 0.7 percent and from 3.6 to 2.5 percent, respectively. Among 12th graders, 6.0 percent continue to report daily use -- that’s about 1 in 16 high school seniors. Among all grades, the perception of risk associated with smoking marijuana regularly continues to decline, with only 31.1 percent of 12th graders reporting that regular marijuana use is harmful compared to 58.3 percent in 2000. However, disapproval among 12th graders remains somewhat high, with 68.5 percent saying they disapprove of smoking marijuana regularly.
-- Alcohol: The percentage of high school students who reported ever using alcohol dropped by as much as 60 percent compared to peak years. This year’s survey found that 22.8 percent of 8th graders reported ever trying alcohol, a 60 percent drop from a peak of 55.8 percent in 1994. Among 10th graders, lifetime use fell by 40 percent from 72.0 percent in 1997 to 43.4 percent this year. Among 12th graders, there was a significant 25 percent drop in lifetime alcohol use from 81.7 percent in 1997 to the current 61.2 percent.
. MTF logo
Monitoring the Future is an ongoing study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students, college students, and young adults. Each year, a total of approximately 50,000 8th, 10th and 12th grade students from more than 300 schools are surveyed (12th graders since 1975, and 8th and 10th graders since 1991). The survey is funded by the NIDA, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and conducted by the University of Michigan.
For more information about the Monitoring the Future survey:

Friday, June 23, 2017

Trump, turmeric and Taoism

By Bob Gaydos
Fit ... or fatigued?

So ... turmeric.

C’mon, admit it. You’ve jumped on the bandwagon for the latest health “super food.” Well, super spice.

If you haven’t yet discovered it, turmeric is a major ingredient in curry. It also makes mustard yellow. It also is believed to have benefits in fighting several chronic debilitating diseases including Alzheimer’s, arthritis and even cancer. It’s also supposed to be a mood enhancer. Side effects appear to be minimal. It can be ingested in tea, via tablet supplements, cream and, of course, in Indian food.

I added it to my daily regimen of B’s, D, aspirin and cod fish oil a couple of weeks ago. That regimen, along with a health-conscious diet and exercise, I can honestly say has helped keep me in relatively good health, especially for a guy who has recently been banged up in an auto accident. (Not my fault and I’m doing fine.) I do believe the diet and supplements are a main reason for my (usually) not looking, feeling or acting my age, which is several years older than the man who likes to remind us that he’s the president and we are not.

Volumes have already been written about the emotional health of Donald Trump, our narcissist-in-chief (NIC), and many more are sure to come. Frankly, I don’t care anymore. Everything about him is not normal and I refuse to normalize it. But I do wonder about his physical health.

How does someone with great wealth and access, literally, to any food, treatment, fitness coach or exercise regimen that would keep him fit and healthy for many years to come and allow him to continue to enjoy the fruits of his ill-gotten gains well into his nineties — a man also obviously obsessed with his appearance — how does he allow himself to become a belly-hanging, fried-chicken-eating, two-scoops-of-ice-cream guy who had to excuse himself from an event on his diplomatic trip to Saudi Arabia because of “exhaustion”?

Makes me wonder if maybe all those short speeches and quick, in-and-out visits to museums and sites of special interest aren’t only because of a short attention span. Maybe he gets tired quickly. Not that we’d ever know. In fact, we know remarkably little about the health of the man who, at 70, was the oldest ever first-time elected president.

The most recent “update,” as it were, from Dr. Harold Bornstein, who says he has been Trump’s personal doctor for 36 years, came in an interview with the New York Times in February. He told The Times that Trump undergoes regular physical checkups, gets all the important tests and takes a statin to keep his cholesterol and lipid levels at a healthy rate.

Bornstein, who could fairly be called a character, said Trump is healthy, while alternating between telling The Times that Trump’s health is “none of your business” (which is not true, since he is the president) and volunteering that he takes a prostate drug that promotes hair growth. Well, at least we know what’s important healthwise to the NIC.

Bornstein caused a stir during the presidential campaign when asked if he was concerned about Trump’s health, given his age and the fact he was running for the presidency. The doctor replied, “If something happens to him, then it happens to him.’’

Nice to know the doctor is in touch with his Taoist side. But really, who’s looking after Trump’s health on a daily basis? If he’s like most men in their 70’s (I’m going to generalize here) he’s inclined to skip doing some healthy stuff and do some not-so-healthy stuff instead. I don’t think it’s sexist to suggest that a lot of older men sometimes depend on someone else, usually a woman, to remind them about taking vitamins, or medicine or exercising or going easy on the dessert or getting enough sleep, etc. I’m speaking from my own experience here, not lecturing.

What we do know about Trump is that, while he’s at the White House, his wife, Melania, spends the week in New York City with their young son. Also, she doesn’t like to hold hands with him when they’re together. We know he watches a lot of TV and gets up early in the morning to tweet angrily about whatever bothers him — and apparently it’s a lot. Does he go to bed early? Don’t know. We know he likes chocolate cake and Big Macs and french fries and well-done steak with ketchup on the side. Exercise? Well, there is that golf every weekend.

Let me say here that, like a lot of other Americans, I haven’t spent a lot of time worrying about the good health of the NIC. Rather, I’m curious about who is and wondering why the man himself doesn’t seem to care much. Maybe he thinks he’s perfect just the way he is. Or maybe no one dares to mention that he could use to lose a few pounds and maybe even take some turmeric to improve his mood. Skip all that TV and read a book before bed.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” One out of three is good only in baseball, Mr. NIC.  We know, because you told us, that you were surprised to discover how hard the job of being president is. It can be emotionally and physically demanding. Everyone wants something from you and no matter what you do, someone is unhappy. It could be exhausting even for someone who’s not going to be 71 in two weeks, as you are.

Look, it’s up to you, but I think I speak for a lot of Americans in saying if the demands of the job are taking a toll on you physically, no one would think less of you if you said you were stepping down for the good of the country to spend more time with your young son and young wife. Actually, it’s a very patriotic thing to do. Ask John Boehner.

Me, I’m going to stick with the turmeric and hope it improves my mood.