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pain game

5/08/12 4:39pm

ER "Toothache" Pain 'Scripts Surge


Doctors are caught between rock and a
hard place. Photo via

Dental patients in emergency rooms are fairly common, and with a new report from the National Institutes of Health showing that painkiller prescriptions for dental patients increased 26% in ER visits between 1997-2007, doctors now face a huge challenge: determining which dental patients complain of tooth pain as a ruse to get narcotics. According to a new analysis of the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, painkillers were prescribed in three out of four visits to the emergency department for dental complaints during the survey period. “The overuse of narcotics is a huge problem, and when a patient presents, especially for dental pain, it’s difficult to make an objective assessment,” says Dr. Gail D'Onofrio, chairwoman of the emergency medicine department at Yale School of Medicine. “It puts the physician in a difficult situation to assess whether or not someone truly needs pain medications. We err on the side of treating pain, and it is a huge potential for abuse.” Doctors also say time pressures and heavy patient loads prevent them from using state drug monitoring programs to see whether a patient has recently received painkillers. But some states are looking into ways to crack down on this problem. Ohio Governor John Kasich announced guidelines on Monday to limit the number of pills ER doctors can prescribe—including no longer prescribing painkillers to patients seeking treatment for chronic pain, and limiting prescriptions to a three-day window.

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By McCarton Ackerman

monkey business

5/08/12 3:45pm

Manic Marmoset Leads Cops to Owner's Stash


Too much monkey business. Photo via

A North Carolina man came home to find a surprise waiting for him: his tiny pet monkey had led the cops to his stash of drugs. His monkey—a squirrel-sized marmoset named Couscous—raised a ruckus after it escaped the house and bit three people in the neighborhood. Officers tracked the pesky primate back to the residence of its owner, 40-year-old Charles Winecoff; it was while cornering the animal that they discovered their haul: three pounds of marijuana, mushrooms, hashish, ecstasy and lots of paraphernalia. Winecoff has been charged with multiple drug-related charges, and his drugs, paraphernalia and monkey have been seized. Unfortunately, things look set to go even worse for Couscous: officials decided to "euthanize" the illegally-owned marmoset—a decision made because of the possibility of rabies and the lack of an effective vaccine, rather than to placate the three bitten individuals.

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By Bryan Le

social media addiction

5/08/12 2:30pm

Are You Addicted to Facebook?


Status: addicted Photo via

Think you're a Facebook addict? Researchers from the University of Bergen have developed a method to determine whether your online behavior is normal or not. The study, headed by psychology professor Cecilie Schou Andreassen, examined the online habits of 227 female and 196 male students and found the indicators of Facebook addiction to be very similar to those of drug and alcohol abuse. They also found that the women were more at risk of developing a Facebook addiction than men. The Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale test—similar to the Bergen Work Addiction Scale, developed by the same group last month—asks participants to answer "very rarely, rarely, sometimes, often, or very often" to six different statements. The scale draws on six core elements of addiction: salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict and relapse. 

How often do these statements apply to you?

  • You spend a lot of time thinking about Facebook or plan use of Facebook.
  • You feel an urge to use Facebook more and more.
  • You use Facebook in order to forget about personal problems.
  • You have tried to cut down on the use of Facebook without success.
  • You become restless or troubled if you are prohibited from using Facebook.
  • You use Facebook so much that it has had a negative impact on your job/studies.

If you answered "often" or "very often" on four or more of these questions, you may have a Facebook addiction, according to the researchers. And if you're dicing with a cocktail of social media, God help you.

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By Chrisanne Grise

questionable parenting

5/08/12 1:15pm

Parents Cuffed for Allowing Teen Drinking Party


Breezy Point, Queens, where "anything goes."
Photo via

When a student of New York's prestigious Poly Prep Country Day School threw a raucous party at his home in Breezy Point, Queens, on Saturday, it was his parents who ended up getting hauled away in handcuffs. Cops arrived at the scene to find "numerous minors" drinking with adults; two teens were hospitalized for alcohol abuse, and Anthony and Claire E. Reyes—aged 56 and 46—were arrested and charged with 10 counts each of endangering a child under 17. The arrests have sent shockwaves through the tight-knit, affluent communities of Rockaway Peninsula, where letting teens drink under supervision is fairly common. “The way [parents] operate is, ‘I’d rather they drink in front of me,’” says Mike Schramm, editor of The Rockaway Point News. “It’s against the law, of course, but I have a 7-year-old daughter and I don’t know if when she’s 16, 17, I’d want her drinking out in the dark on the beach.” Some Breezy Point residents, preferring to remain anonymous, call this a “stupid mentality” that is “teaching kids the wrong lessons," and leaving kids' safety in the hands of the community's private security forces. Many parents in New York's private school community have also expressed support for the Reyes' arrests, hoping that they serve as a warning to parents who let their kids drink at home. But other local residents are surprised: one neighbor said the party "sounded like innocent fun," while another adds,"It was just a party. They’re wonderful people. The kids go to Poly Prep, a beautiful school.”

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By May Wilkerson

baby pills

5/08/12 12:18pm

South Korea Seizes Chinese "Dead-Baby" Pills


The pills are believed to contain a
grotesque ingredient. Photo via

The Korea Customs Service reports seizing thousands of smuggled drug capsules, so-called "stamina boosters," that are believed to contain powdered flesh from dead babies. The capsules are thought to have been made in northeastern China from babies whose bodies were chopped up and dried on stoves before being turned into powder, customs officials say. Consumers believe the unbelievable ingredient can cure disease, but the capsules also contain bacteria and other harmful ingredients. The detained smugglers told customs officials that they didn't know the ingredients or manufacturing process of the pills—and no one has yet been punished. Customs officials also refuse to say where the dead babies came from or who made the capsules, citing possible diplomatic friction with Beijing. Both Chinese officials and South Korean customs have been investigating the production of drugs made from dead fetuses or newborns since last year, and 17,450 suspected capsules from 35 different smuggling attempts have been discovered since August. But Chinese University of Medicine professor Zhu Qingwen has an alternative theory on what the pills actually contain: "The ‘flesh of dead babies’ that South Korea claims to have found is very likely to be placenta, which is human tissue as well," he says. Placenta has long been used as traditional medicine, believed to promote male "vitality."

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By McCarton Ackerman

Goes down easy

5/08/12 10:47am

Teens Have Easy Time Buying Booze Online


No need to beg a 21-year-old anymore.
Photo via

Underage drinkers have an easy time purchasing alcohol online, according to a new study published by the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recruited eight young adults—aged 18-20—to participate in a study to test whether they could buy booze online without complications. For purposes of the study, the participants were told to lie about their age when filling out the online order forms, but to admit they were not 21 if they were asked by the delivery person. Around 100 orders were placed online through different websites and deliveries were made by UPS or FedEx. By law, the US Postal Service will not accept shipments of alcohol. The results show that only 28% of orders were denied after the participant's age was revealed, and 45 of the 100 orders were successfully made and received.

“With just a few clicks on their computer or smartphone, kids can order alcohol delivered to their home,” says lead author of the study Rebecca Williams, Ph.D., research associate at UNC’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. “We were amazed at how easy it was for minors to buy alcohol online. Using their real ID and a prepaid Visa card, they could place an order for alcohol in just a few minutes and often have it delivered to their door in a matter of days without anyone ever trying to verify their age.” The researchers partly blame the delivery service providers who failed to check ID’s with 36% of the alcohol purchases being left at the door. “Some packages were left at the door, or handed to recipients after checking an underage identification or simply asking if the person receiving the package was 21. UPS procedures are put in place to reduce the risk that any minors would have access to illegal alcohol,” she says.  “If UPS is involved in deliveries containing alcohol, the delivery person would need to secure an adult signature.”

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By Valerie Tejeda


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