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Woman Faces Murder Charges After Newborn Son Dies From Methamphetamine Intoxication

Could breastfeeding kill a newborn?  That is the question a California district attorney will ask a jury at the trial of a breastfeeding mother. Most women do not intend to harm their children but substance abuse and addiction comes with a heavy price. Such was the case of Maggie Jean Wortman, who has been charged with second degree murder after medical tests revealed that her newborn son died from methamphetamine intoxication obtained through her breast milk. Wortman’s 19-month-old daughter also tested positive for methamphetamine and was placed in protective custody. How could this happen?

The transfer of drugs from the mother’s blood to human milk depends on the chemical composition of the drug. Antibiotics such as penicillin will remain in the mother’s blood for long periods of time whereas certain types of blood pressure and heart medications will remain in the milk. During the first three days after birth, higher concentrations of medicine remain in breast milk. Wortman’s attorney is attempting to argue that methamphetamine in breast milk could not kill a baby but here’s why he’s wrong: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Why Are Humans So Drawn To Sunlight Despite Its Negative Consequences?

Sunny-beachIt doesn’t make sense: If sunlight causes cancer, why are human beings so drawn to it, flocking to sunny beaches for vacation time and hoping for sunshine after a rainy spell?

One answer, says David Fisher, chief of dermatology at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, may be that humans are literally addicted to sunshine so our skin can make vitamin D. New evidence suggests that we get the same kick out of being in the sun that we get from any addictive substance or behavior. It stimulates the so-called “pleasure center” in the brain and releases a rush of feel-good chemicals like endorphins.

So there may be more than a desire to look good in a tan behind the urge to soak up the sun’s rays. This craving may be a survival mechanism that evolved over thousands of years because humans need vitamin D to survive. Skin makes this crucial vitamin when it is exposed to sunlight. There isn’t much vitamin D in food (except in some of today’s fortified foods) so the human brain rewards us with a rush of pleasure when we seek out the sun and get vitamin D.

Seeking sunshine can be downright dangerous. As Fisher points out, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

National Strategy To Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse: Is Playing Big Brother Ok In An Emergency?

The White House released its plan last week entitled “Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis” [LINK to pdf of this 10-page plan]. Below are some of the elements in this plan that is part of the National Drug Control Strategy (like that has worked so well :-/).

The areas of this plan involve education of prescribers and users, monitoring programs, making it easy to dispose of controlled dangerous substances (CDS for short), and enhancing enforcement. The plan establishes thirteen goals for the next five years, and also creates a coordinating body, the Federal Council on Prescription Drug Abuse, to oversee and coordinate it all.

If any of our readers have comments on specific items (I’ve numbered them for ease of reference), including unintended (or even intended) consequences, please chime in.

  1. EDUCATION
    1. require training on responsible opiate prescribing
    2. require Pharma to develop education materials for providers and patients
    3. require professional schools and organizations to include instruction on balancing use of opiates for pain while reducing abuse
    4. require state licensing boards to include relevant ongoing education in their licensure requirements
    5. help ACEP develop guidelines for opiate prescribing in the Emergency Department [this should be a big help]
    6. increased use of written patient-provider agreements
    7. facilitate public education campaigns, especially targeting parents
    8. encourage research on low-abuse potential treatments, epidemiology of substance abuse, and abuse-deterrent formulations Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Addicted To Indoor Tanning?

According to the Archives of Dermatology, there are people who are addicted to indoor tanning. That journal reported on a study of 421 university students in the northeastern United States. Using self-reported questionnaires, they screened for alcoholism and substance use as well as anxiety and depression. They also had a questionnaire about addiction to indoor tanning.

If you’re scratching your head (as I was), there’s a medically-accepted criteria known as CAGE (cut down, annoyed, guilty, eye-opener) that correlates with addiction, so they used this for “addiction” to indoor tanning also. They found that more of the kids who met the criteria for addiction to indoor tanning also had greater anxiety, greater use of alcohol, marijuana and other substances. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

When Hospitals And Patients Are Smoke-Free

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

“This is a smoke-free institution. Thank you for your compliance.”

Nurses and doctors and other members of the healthcare team strive every day to provide quality patient care. We focus on patients by understanding their needs. We listen, assess and evaluate. We work together as a team focusing not only on the patient, but family members as well. We formulate individual care plans addressing each and every need.

Providing quality patient care is the single most important goal for any hospital, and it’s important to note that patients need to understand that there are policies within the hospital. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Health in 30*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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