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Methadone tied to one-third of prescription painkiller deaths
July 3rd, 2012
02:44 PM ET

Methadone tied to one-third of prescription painkiller deaths

If you are not grappling with cancer-related pain, you probably should not be taking prescription methadone

That is the message spiraling out of startling statistics suggesting using methadone inappropriately is linked to one-third of prescription painkiller overdose deaths.

Methadone accounted for a mere 2% of prescriptions in 2009, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that spans 10 years and 13 states, but was responsible for 30% of prescription painkiller deaths. 

"Methadone is riskier than other opiates for treating non-cancer pain," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, who added that there is limited scientific evidence it works for chronic non-cancer pain. "It should only be used for pain when other drugs haven't been effective."
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Weird science: Kitty litter increases risk of suicide?
July 2nd, 2012
04:47 PM ET

Weird science: Kitty litter increases risk of suicide?

A small subset of suicide attempts may be linked to an infection that starts in the litter box.  A new study suggests an association between Toxoplasma gondii and suicide attempts among women.

Interesting finding, to be sure, but how does one even begin to test a theory like this? Why in the world would anyone posit that kitty litter could be related to suicide attempts?

As it turns out, about one-third of the population is walking around right now with latent toxoplasma infection.  Most people will never know they have it - and most will not attempt suicide as a result of it. But the presence of T. gondii among women who attempted suicide raises interesting questions.

Those questions led senior study author, Dr. Teodor Postolache, to find out more. Postolache said he was at first puzzled by studies suggesting low-grade activity in the immune systems of suicide victims.

FULL POST


Finally, a treatment for that buzzing in your ears
May 24th, 2012
06:31 PM ET

Finally, a treatment for that buzzing in your ears

Imagine the incessant, grating sound of buzzing in your ears - or constant beeping, whistling, dripping, or clicking.  Imagine the chatter of crickets or birds resonating in your head all day long.

Then realize that there are no actual birds or crickets. No dripping faucet. No clicking or whistling happening in the vicinity.

That is a small glimpse of life with tinnitus:  The perception of sound, that doesn't exist, manufactured by the brain.  

"I hear tree frogs and crickets and bugs, and really loud noise on top of that," said Ginny Morrell, 60, who has suffered with tinnitus for two years. "It started one day and never went away. It never wavers, 24 hours a day."
FULL POST


Study: 9/11 WTC dust sickened residents years later
A study blames long-term sickness on 9/11 dust from the World Trade Center. These shoes were found nearby days after 9/11.
May 22nd, 2012
11:30 AM ET

Study: 9/11 WTC dust sickened residents years later

Several years after dust from the World Trade Center twin towers found its way into thousands of homes and nearly every crevice in lower Manhattan, area residents still suffered health problems, according to a new study.

People living in homes damaged after 2001's Trade Center attacks were more likely to report respiratory illness or disease years later, when compared with people whose homes were not damaged, according to a recent analysis of World Trade Center Health Registry data.

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Questions linger about long-term impact of hits to the head
May 16th, 2012
04:01 PM ET

Questions linger about long-term impact of hits to the head

During a recent debate addressing whether the United States should ban college football, an argument against the sport was summed up this way: Schools should not be in the business of encouraging young men to hit themselves over the head.

The reasoning behind that argument (by New Yorker magazine staff writer Malcolm Gladwell): Concussions are not what afflicts football, rather it is the cumulative effects of punishing, comparatively subtle, subconcussive hits.

"There isn't a helmet in the world that can be designed to take the sting out of those hits," said Gladwell, at the Intelligence Squared Debate hosted by Slate Magazine in New York last week. "What's the effect of all that neurological trauma? We know it's a condition called CTE."
FULL POST


Study: Common pesticide affects developing brain
April 30th, 2012
06:38 PM ET

Study: Common pesticide affects developing brain

Chlorpyrifos, a common pesticide, may be subtly influencing brain development in children, according to a new study.  The brain abnormalities, found among a very small population of school-aged children, may have occurred while they developed in utero.

What is troubling, according to scientists, is that relatively low levels of chlorpyrifos appear to have caused the cascade of brain changes.

"It's out there and we do not know what the longer term impact is of lower levels," said Virginia Rauh, professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and the study's lead author.  "But it does seem to be associated with cognitive damage and structural changes in brain."

FULL POST


April 30th, 2012
04:16 PM ET

'One baby per hour' born already in withdrawal

The cry of a baby withdrawing from prescription opiates is shrill, as if the child is in terrible pain.

"It's a very high-pitched, uncomfortable cry," said Dr. Aimee Bohn, a pediatrician with Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation in Whitesburg, Kentucky.  "It's like the kid has been pinched."

That characteristic cry is increasingly ringing through the hallways of hospitals nationwide, according to new research.
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April 30th, 2012
09:16 AM ET

New ED drug may work in 15 minutes

Look out Viagra - there's a new erectile dysfunction drug in town.

It's called Stendra (aka Avanafil) and it's newly approved by the Food and Drug Administration, making it the first ED drug to come out in almost 10 years.

Although Stendra has not been tested against what is known as the "Little Blue Pill," drug makers say that - for some men - it may work faster.

"If things are heated up, theoretically you can get improved function earlier, within 15 minutes, with this drug," said Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego, and co-author of a recent study about Stendra in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

"You can argue this is the first potential on-demand drug."
FULL POST


NIH: OK to publish controversial bird flu studies
April 23rd, 2012
01:13 PM ET

NIH: OK to publish controversial bird flu studies

Two studies on the deadly H5N1 avian flu virus have been steeped in controversy because some experts view them as a threat to biosecurity. Now, the U.S. government is saying they should be published.

The papers suggest ways that manipulation of the virus could heighten its virulence and ability to be transmitted. 

"This line of research is critically important because it will help public health officials understand, detect, and defend against the emergence of H5N1 virus as a human threat, a development that could pose a pandemic scenario," according to a statement by Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health
FULL POST


Scientists making strides to define crippling brain disease
April 18th, 2012
04:15 PM ET

Scientists making strides to define crippling brain disease

Years ago, a mysterious disease process – characterized by viscous tangles lodged in parts of the brain responsible for decision-making and mood – was an undefined phenomenon occurring among professional football players, and others exposed to repetitive brain trauma. 

What scientists could piece together: Something in the brain was causing profound memory problems, and self-destructive, even suicidal, behavior among them.  Since then, posthumous brain studies have shed light on that something - Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE - but little is known about when or how CTE begins.

However, data from the first year of a longitudinal study, called the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study, released Wednesday, suggests a possible starting point for problems with cognition and memory - both hallmarks of CTE. FULL POST


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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