Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Facts About Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

  • Alcohol abuse is a disease that is characterized by the sufferer having a pattern of drinking excessively despite the negative effects of alcohol on the individual's work, medical, legal, educational, and/or social life.
  • Alcohol abuse affects about 10% of women and 20% of men in the United States, most beginning by their mid teens.
  • Signs of alcohol intoxication include the smell of alcohol on the breath or skin, glazed or bloodshot eyes, the person being unusually passive or argumentative, and/or a deterioration in the person's appearance or hygiene.
  • Almost 2,000 people under 21 years of age die each year in car crashes in which underage drinking is involved. Alcohol is involved in nearly half of all violent deaths involving teens.
  • Alcoholism is a destructive pattern of alcohol use that includes a number of symptoms, including tolerance to or withdrawal from the substance, using more alcohol and/or for a longer time than planned, and trouble reducing its use.
  • Alcohol, especially when consumed in excess, can affect teens, women, men, and the elderly quite differently.
  • Risk factors for developing a drinking problem include low self-esteem, depression, anxiety or another mood problem, as well as having parents with alcoholism.
  • Alcohol dependence has no one single cause and is not directly passed from one generation to another genetically. Rather, it is the result of a complex group of genetic, psychological, and environmental factors.
  • There is no one test that definitively indicates that someone has an alcohol-use disorder. Therefore, health-care practitioners diagnose these disorders by gathering comprehensive medical, family, and mental-health information.
  • There are thought to be five stages of alcoholism.
  • There are numerous individual treatments for alcoholism, including individual and group counseling, support groups, residential treatment, medications, drug testing, and/or relapse-prevention programs.
  • Some signs of a drinking problem include drinking alone, to escape problems, or for the sole purpose of getting drunk; hiding alcohol in odd places; getting irritated when you are unable to obtain alcohol to drink; and having problems because of your drinking.
  • While some people with alcohol dependence can cut back or stop drinking without help, most are only able to do so temporarily unless they get treatment.
  • There is no amount of alcohol intake that has been proven to be generally safe during pregnancy.
  • The long-term effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism can be devastating and even life threatening, negatively affecting virtually every organ system.
  • Codependency is the tendency to interact with another person in an excessively passive or caretaking manner that negatively affects the quality of the codependent individual's life.
  • Adequate supervision and clear communication by parents about the negative effects of alcohol and about parental expectations regarding alcohol and other drug use can significantly decrease alcohol use in teens.
  • With treatment, about 70% of people with alcoholism are able to decrease the number of days they consume alcohol and improve their overall health status within six months.

Warning Signs of Commonly Abused Drugs

  • Marijuana: Glassy, red eyes; loud talking, inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness; loss of interest, motivation; weight gain or loss.
  • Depressants (including Xanax, Valium, GHB): Contracted pupils; drunk-like; difficulty concentrating; clumsiness; poor judgment; slurred speech; sleepiness.
  • Stimulants (including amphetamines, cocaine, crystal meth): Dilated pupils; hyperactivity; euphoria; irritability; anxiety; excessive talking followed by depression or excessive sleeping at odd times; may go long periods of time without eating or sleeping; weight loss; dry mouth and nose.
  • Inhalants (glues, aerosols, vapors): Watery eyes; impaired vision, memory and thought; secretions from the nose or rashes around the nose and mouth; headaches and nausea; appearance of intoxication; drowsiness; poor muscle control; changes in appetite; anxiety; irritability; lots of cans/aerosols in the trash.
  • Hallucinogens (LSD, PCP): Dilated pupils; bizarre and irrational behavior including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations; mood swings; detachment from people; absorption with self or other objects, slurred speech; confusion.
  • Heroin: Contracted pupils; no response of pupils to light; needle marks; sleeping at unusual times; sweating; vomiting; coughing, sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite.

Warning Signs of Drug Abuse

Drug abusers often try to conceal their symptoms and downplay their problem. If you’re worried that a friend or family member might be abusing drugs, look for the following warning signs:

Physical warning signs of drug abuse

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual.
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns.
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits.
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination.

Behavioral signs of drug abuse

  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school.
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems. May borrow or steal to get it.
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities).

Psychological warning signs of drug abuse

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude.
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts.
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness.
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out.”
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason.

5 Myths About Drug Abuse and Addiction

MYTH 1: Overcoming addiction is a simply a matter of willpower. You can stop using drugs if you really want to. Prolonged exposure to drugs alters the brain in ways that result in powerful cravings and a compulsion to use. These brain changes make it extremely difficult to quit by sheer force of will.

MYTH 2: Addiction is a disease; there’s nothing you can do about it. Most experts agree that addiction is a brain disease, but that doesn't mean you’re a helpless victim. The brain changes associated with addiction can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments.

MYTH 3: Addicts have to hit rock bottom before they can get better. Recovery can begin at any point in the addiction process—and the earlier, the better. The longer drug abuse continues, the stronger the addiction becomes and the harder it is to treat. Don’t wait to intervene until the addict has lost it all.

MYTH 4: You can’t force someone into treatment; they have to want help. Treatment doesn't have to be voluntary to be successful. People who are pressured into treatment by their family, employer, or the legal system are just as likely to benefit as those who choose to enter treatment on their own. As they sober up and their thinking clears, many formerly resistant addicts decide they want to change.

MYTH 5: Treatment didn't work before, so there’s no point trying again. Recovery from drug addiction is a long process that often involves setbacks. Relapse doesn't mean that treatment has failed or that you’re a lost cause. Rather, it’s a signal to get back on track, either by going back to treatment or adjusting the treatment approach.

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse and Addiction

Common signs and symptoms of drug abuse
  • You're neglecting your responsibilities at school, work, or home (e.g. flunking classes, skipping work, neglecting your children) because of your drug use.
  • You're using drugs under dangerous conditions or taking risks while high, such as driving while on drugs, using dirty needles, or having unprotected sex.
  • Your drug use is getting you into legal trouble, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, or stealing to support a drug habit.
  • Your drug use is causing problems in your relationships, such as fights with your partner or family members, an unhappy boss, or the loss of old friends.
Common signs and symptoms of drug addiction
  • You've built up a drug tolerance. You need to use more of the drug to experience the same effects you used to attain with smaller amounts.
  • You take drugs to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms. If you go too long without drugs, you experience symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety.
  • You've lost control over your drug use. You often do drugs or use more than you planned, even though you told yourself you wouldn't. You may want to stop using, but you feel powerless.
  • Your life revolves around drug use. You spend a lot of time using and thinking about drugs, figuring out how to get them, and recovering from the drug’s effects. You've abandoned activities you used to enjoy, such as hobbies, sports, and socializing, because of your drug use.
  • You continue to use drugs, despite knowing it's hurting you. It’s causing major problems in your life—blackouts, infections, mood swings, depression, paranoia—but you use anyway.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

In Honor of Katlyn

The Tortoise and Hair Pittsburgh 5k run and 2.5 mile walk is a fundraising event that donates all proceeds to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF). The NAAF uses the donations to fund research in hopes of new treatment options for alopecia areata patients and, ultimately, to find a cure!

My little cousin, Katlyn, has alopecia areata.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Causes of Bed Sores

Bed sores, also called pressure sores or decubitus ulcers, are caused by pressure against the skin that inhibits an adequate supply of blood to skin and underlying tissues. Other factors related to limited mobility can make the skin vulnerable to damage and contribute to the development of pressure sores. There are three primary contributing factors:

Sustained pressure. When your skin and the underlying tissues are trapped between bone and a surface such as a wheelchair or bed, the pressure may be greater than the pressure of the blood flowing in the tiny vessels (capillaries) that deliver oxygen and other nutrients to tissues. Deprived of these essential nutrients, cells of the skin and other tissues are damaged and may eventually die. This kind of pressure tends to happen in areas that aren't well padded with muscle or fat and that lie just over a bone, such as your spine, tailbone (coccyx), shoulder blades, hips, heels and elbows.

Friction. Friction is the resistance to motion. When a person changes position or is handled by care providers, friction may occur when the skin is dragged across a surface. The resistance to motion may be even greater if the skin is moist. Friction between skin and another surface may make fragile skin more vulnerable to injury.

Shear. Shear occurs when two surfaces move in the opposite direction. For example, when a hospital bed is elevated at the head, a person can slide down in bed. As the tailbone moves down, the skin over the bone may stay in place — essentially pulling in the opposite direction. This motion may damage tissue and blood vessels, making the site more vulnerable to damage from sustained pressure.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Coping with Cold Sores (Fever Blisters)

What You Need to Know
Cold sores are proof that life can be unfair -- some people get them, others don't. Besides being itchy and painful, cold sores (fever blisters) make you feel self-conscious. Certain treatments can help shorten the duration of symptoms of cold sores, when used at the first sign of an outbreak. Other treatments can relieve symptoms.

Don't Blame Your Cold
Cold sores aren't caused by the common cold. They're caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), passed on through contact with infected skin or body fluid. There are two types of HSV, type 1 and type 2. Cold sores are usually caused by type 1. HSV-1 damages the skin as it reproduces itself, creating cold sores that last about a week. Between outbreaks, HSV-1 hides out inside nerve cells, so it's never completely cured.

Who Gets Cold Sores and Why
More than half of us have been infected with the HSV-1 virus, usually from well-meaning kisses from relatives or romantic partners. So why do only an unlucky few get cold sores? The answer may be in your genes. A 2008 study identified six genes that many people who get cold sores share. Three of those genes may relate to how HSV-1 reactivates itself, causing outbreaks.

Stress Can Trigger a Cold Sore
HSV-1 spends most of its time inactive, hiding in nerves. Many people have familiar triggers that tend to bring HSV-1 out of seclusion, causing cold sores. Sunlight, fever, stress, and menstruation are common triggers. Some people get cold sores twice a year; for others, it's a frustrating, stressful, monthly ritual.

Canker Sores Aren't the Same
Cold sores usually appear on the lip; canker sores affect the inside of the mouth. Canker sores don't involve the herpes virus and aren't contagious. No one knows what causes them. Cold sores generally herald their arrival with a warning period of red, irritated skin. Blisters form, rupture, and then crust over before healing.

When You're Contagious
A cold sore is caused by skin damage as the herpes virus reproduces itself within infected cells. From the time skin turns itchy or red, HSV-1 is likely present and can be spread. Cold sores are most contagious when blisters are present and just after they rupture, until the skin is completely healed and looks normal again. However, some people can transmit the virus through their saliva at any time -- even if they never get cold sores.

How Is the Cold Sore Virus Spread?
HSV spreads through body fluids. The cold sore virus is usually present on an infected person's lip, even if there's no obvious sore. So the main way it is transmitted is by kissing. Because HSV-1 can also live in saliva, sharing kitchen utensils or drinking glasses can also allow infection. Oral sex can lead to HSV-1 infection of the partner's genitals.

How to Avoid Spreading the Virus
Use caution while a sore is present: No kissing, no sharing of toothbrushes, tableware, or glasses; and no oral sex. That will reduce most spread of HSV-1, although you may not be able to entirely reduce the possibility of spread.

Easing Cold Sore Pain
While the initial outbreak can last up to two weeks, recurrent outbreaks usually last about one week. Some people may find relief with hot or cold compresses. There is no cure for cold sores, but some over-the-counter creams and gels can provide symptomatic relief of burning and pain.

Using Antiviral Creams
Antiviral creams can reduce the time it takes a cold sore to heal if applied at the very first sign of a cold sore. Docosanol cream (Abreva) is available over the counter. Acyclovir (Zovirax) cream and penciclovir (Denavir) cream are available by prescription.

Prescription Cold Sore Medications
Oral antiviral prescription medications can also reduce the amount of healing time when taken at the first sign of a cold sore -- red or itchy skin, for example. Acyclovir (Zovirax) is begun before cold sores fully flare and taken 5 times daily. Valacyclovir (Valtrex) is taken at the first sign of a cold sore and then 12 hours later. Famciclovir (Famvir) is taken as a single dose.

Is This a Cold Sore?
What about a cold sore that's not on your lip? They are not as common, but cold sores can appear anywhere on the face, including on the cheek, chin, or nose. Most people's cold sores reappear in the same area each time.

Can You Spread It on Your Body?
It's possible, though rare, to spread the cold sore virus from one part of your body to another. It can happen by touching a cold sore, then touching an area of broken skin or a mucous membrane, the moist protective lining of skin found in areas like the eyes or vagina. That can lead to a herpes skin infection. This self-spread or autoinoculation can be prevented by washing your hands and not touching the cold sore.

When Herpes Infects the Eye
Among the other areas the cold sore virus can infect are the finger (herpetic whitlow) and the eye (ocular herpes). Ocular herpes most often occurs on the cornea. It is the most common infectious cause of corneal blindness in the US. Prompt treatment is needed to prevent eye damage. Herpetic whitlow is painful. When kids get herpetic whitlow, it's usually because they've spread the virus from a cold sore by finger- or thumb-sucking.

Preventing Outbreaks
It can be tough to prevent cold sores entirely, but reducing your triggers can help. Stay out of the sun, or use sunscreen and UV-blocking lip balm. Learn and practice stress management strategies that work for you. Keep your immune system healthy by getting plenty of sleep and daily exercise.

When to See a Doctor
If you have severe or frequent cold sore outbreaks, you should see your doctor.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to Avoid Picnic Sickness

Picnic time! It’s not usually hungry bears we have to worry about when we dine outside. It’s our food.

Foods can be the route for illness. Common bugs norovirus, Salmonella and E. coli can get around during preparation, grilling or serving. These tips will help make sure your family and friends keep coming back for more when you take it outdoors:

Keep it clean

  • Always wash hands before and after handling food.
  • Replace empty plates instead of adding fresh food to one that had food in it. When taking food off the grill, don't put the cooked items on the same plate that held raw meat.
  • Try to find out if there will be drinking water at the picnic location. If not, bring water for cleaning or pack disposable towelettes or paper towels.

Temperature matters

  • Fresh and frozen raw meat, chicken and fish should be cooked thoroughly.  Always use a meat thermometer to check proper temperatures. Grill raw chicken until the juices run clear and there is no pink. Hamburger should not be pink in the center.
  • Don’t partially grill extra meat to use later. Once you begin, cook until completely done to assure bacteria are destroyed.
  • Cook other foods ahead, so there will be lots of time to thoroughly chill them in shallow containers in the refrigerator.
  • Have coolers with ice or freeze packs to store meat, fish, eggs and salads. 40 degrees F is the goal. Pack foods right from the refrigerator into the coolers.
  • Pack raw meats, chicken, or seafood at the bottom of the cooler so they don’t drip on other foods. Pack cooler until it is full, since a full cooler will stay cold longer than one that’s partly full.
  • At your picnic, keep the cooler in the shade and keep the lid closed as much as possible. Refill the ice if it melts.
  • Keep foods cold outside the cooler by putting the dishes in bowls of ice.
  • If you plan on getting take-out like fried chicken, eat it within an hour of pick up.
  • Keep in mind that foods shouldn’t sit at room temperature for over two hours.

Transportation and Storage

  • Put the cooler inside your car and not in the hot trunk.
  • Use a different cooler for drinks so you won't keep opening the one with food.
  • Leftover cold foods kept in a cooler with has ice may be safe to save, unless the ice inside has melted. 
  • So keep it clean, cold and fully cooked - and have fun out there!