Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
As a growing number of states are legalizing marijuana or considering legislation to do so, pot’s public profile is on the rise–and so is its presence on Twitter and other social media sites. A new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research has found that a number of those tweets are reaching young people each day, with hundreds of thousands of American youth getting pro-pot messages through their Twitter feeds multiple times a day.
The study, which was conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, followed a Twitter account, Weed Tweets@stillblazintho, which has 1 million followers. Analyzing data over an 8-month period, during which time the group posted an average of 11 tweets a day, the study reported that 73 percent of the group’s followers were under age 19.
ScienceDaily has more:
“These are risky ages when young people often begin experimentation with drugs,” explained [principal investigator Patricia A.] Cavazos-Rehg, an assistant professor of psychiatry. “It’s an age when people are impressionable and when substance-use behaviors can transition into addiction. In other words, it’s a very risky time of life for people to be receiving messages like these.”
Cavazos-Rehg said it isn’t possible from this study to “connect the dots” between positive marijuana tweets and actual drug use, but she cites previous research linking substance use to messages from television and billboards. She suggested this also may apply to social media.
“Studies looking at media messages on traditional outlets like television, radio, billboards and magazines have shown that media messages can influence substance use and attitudes about substance use,” she said. “It’s likely a young person’s attitudes and behaviors may be influenced when he or she is receiving daily, ongoing messages of this sort.”
The researchers also learned that the Twitter account they tracked reached a high number of African-Americans and Hispanics compared with Caucasians. Almost 43 percent were African-American, and nearly 12 percent were Hispanic. In fact, among Hispanics, Weed Tweets ranked in the top 30 percent of all Twitter accounts followed.
“It was surprising to see that members of these minority groups were so much more likely than Caucasians to be receiving these messages,” Cavazos-Rehg said, adding that there is particular concern about African-Americans because their rates of marijuana abuse and dependence are about twice as high as the rate in Caucasians and Hispanics.
The findings point to the need for a discussion about the pro-drug messages young people receive, Cavazos-Rehg said.
Image: Tween holding a tablet, via Shutterstock
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Child Health, Parenting News, Safety, Trends
Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
A 7-year-old Memphis boy who is suffering from heart and kidney failure has been denied an experimental drug that could very well help improve his condition. The drug company, in denying the drug to Josh Hardy, says its efforts to get the drug to market–with full FDA approval–will be severely impeded if the medication is given to patients at this stage. More from CNN:
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Here’s the way it works: According to the Food and Drug Administration, if someone has a serious or immediately life-threatening disease and has tried and failed other available treatments, they can ask a drug company for an experimental drug, one that they’re still studying and has not yet been approved by the FDA.
Companies often say yes: The FDA approved 974 compassionate use arrangements in fiscal year 2013.
But pharmaceutical companies often say no, as they did to Josh Hardy.
“Our son will die without this drug,” said Todd Hardy, Josh’s father. “We’re begging them to give it to us.”
So now, like many families, the Hardys have turned to the media, Facebook, and change.org to pressure the drug company to change its mind.
Countless members of “Josh’s army” have responded with angry tweets to @chimerix, telling them to “open their hearts,” asking the executives how they can sleep at night.
“Everyone is watching,” one tweeter warned the company. Others have tweeted out the e-mail addresses of the company’s board members. Chimerix executives say they’ve received physical threats.
Moch, the company president, has read these tweets and said he is heartbroken, but the issue is complex and unsuitable for a 144-long character debate.
At its very simplest, this is it: Chimerix is going full speed ahead to get the drug on the market hopefully by the end of 2016, and if they spend time and money on compassionate use cases, it would greatly hinder their effort to get the drug, brincidofovir, on the market and available to everyone.
The company would have to dish out $50,000 per compassionate-use patient, since insurance doesn’t usually pay for experimental drugs, Moch said. And perhaps even more important than the money, it would divert manpower in this 50-person company, since they’d have to handle the requests and then get the patient’s records and follow up with them, as required by the FDA.
Friday, February 28th, 2014
Low birth weight babies, whose organs are often underdeveloped, may face lifelong difficulties in metabolizing medications, which can complicate the treatment of illnesses they might encounter in the future. A new study from researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and Oregon State University is the first to implicate low birth weight as a permanent factor in drug response.
When more fully understood, low birth weight may be added to the list of factors already being considered in medication dosages, such as age, weight, gender and ethnicity. Some of that is already being done in infants. But right now it’s not one of the factors considered in adults, scientists say, and more work needs to be done before such consideration is warranted.
“Low birth weight affects the development of organs, as the fetus tries to finish development of the brain and, in a sense, sacrifice as necessary the ordinary development of organs such as the kidney,” said Ganesh Cherala, an assistant professor in the OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy, in a statement. “But the kidney is one of the primary filtering agents in the body, and is directly involved in drug elimination.”
The kidneys of low birth weight individuals have a significantly impaired ability to filter and excrete foreign compounds, Cherala said. Since the biologic impact of a medication is affected by its absorption, metabolism and excretion, low birth weight individuals might be less able to excrete drugs.
However, the biologic processes are not that simple, Cherala said. Because of liver metabolism and other issues, in many cases low birth weight individuals end up having less response to a drug, instead of more.
“A pain killer, for instance, might end up being metabolized in the liver instead of making its way to the brain where it is supposed to function,” Cherala said. “You might need more of that same drug in a low birth weight individual to have the same effect.”
The complexities of these processes need additional study before recommendations could be made to alter drug dosages based on low birth weight status, Cherala said. But this issue could be important and should be further explored, he said.
Image: Prescription medication, via Shutterstock
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Friday, January 24th, 2014
Exposure to marijuana may have effects that last for a generation, even if children are never directly exposed to the drug themselves, according to a new study that was conducted using laboratory rats. The study, which was published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, found that adolescent rats who were exposed to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana smoke, affected the behavior of their offspring, who were not exposed to THC. Compulsive and addictive behaviors were found to be more common among the progeny. More from ScienceDaily:
“Our study emphasizes that cannabis [marijuana] affects not just those exposed, but has adverse affects on future generations,” said Yasmin Hurd, PhD, the study’s senior author, and professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Finding increased vulnerability to drug addiction and compulsive behavior in generations not directly exposed is an important consideration for legislators considering legalizing marijuana.”
In the study, Dr. Hurd and colleagues gave adolescent male rats 1.5 mg/kg of THC, similar to about one joint in human use. None of the rats had been exposed to THC before, but their parents were exposed to THC as teens and then mated later in life. THC-exposed offspring worked harder to self-administer heroin by pressing a lever multiple times to get a heroin infusion.
Although marijuana use and safety tends to be discussed in terms of its impact to the individual during the lifetime, few studies have addressed adverse effects in future generations. “What this opens up are many questions regarding the epigenetic mechanisms that mediate cross-generational brain effects,” said Dr. Hurd.
Image: Marijuana joint, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, December 19th, 2013
Sixty percent of U.S. high school seniors believe that smoking marijuana poses no health risks, according to newly released survey data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. CNN.com has more:
More than a third of the seniors surveyed reported smoking marijuana in the past 12 months.
Each year, the Monitoring the Future survey asks eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders about their drug and alcohol use and their attitudes toward illegal substances. For 2013, more than 41,000 students from 389 U.S. public and private schools participated.
Only 2.4% of high school seniors reported using marijuana daily in 1993; this year that percentage nearly tripled – to 6.5 %. And it’s not just the older students – more than 12% of the eighth-graders surveyed said they had used marijuana.
“It is important to remember that over the past two decades, levels of THC – the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – have gone up a great deal,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in a statement. “Daily use today can have stronger effects on a developing teen brain than it did 10 or 20 years ago. … The children whose experimentation leads to regular use are setting themselves up for declines in IQ and diminished ability for success in life.”
Teens also continue to abuse prescription medications such as Adderall, which is commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Vicodin. But while alcohol use is still high – close to 40% of seniors reported drinking in the past month – it’s been on a steady decline since its peak in 1997.
Image: Marijuana, via Shutterstock
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