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eating disorders

8/20/14 3:30pm

'Girls' Star Zosia Mamet Reveals Eating Disorder

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Zosia Mamet, actress and daughter of famed playwright David Mamet who plays the uptight Shoshanna Shapiro on HBO's Girls, recently wrote a column in Glamour magazine detailing her life-long battle with eating disorders.

Mamet described how she first developed issues with weight when she was told that she was fat at eight years old. That manifested into "a monster in my brain" that compelled her to "abuse my body" and "stand in front of the refrigerator late at night staring into that white fluorescent light, debilitated by the war raging inside me."

"I was only 17, living in misery, waiting to die," she wrote.

Mamet went on to reveal that it was her father who first compelled her to receive treatment by telling her that she wasn't "allowed to die." She realized for the first time that others around her were also being affected by her disease and that led to her receiving treatment.

"[D]uring treatment I discovered that my disorder has never really been about weight or food—that's just the way the monster manifests itself," Mamet wrote. "Really these diseases are about control: control of your life and of your body."

The control issues she faced were in part an extension of our culture, which constantly projects the idea that "skinny" is healthy and ideal. Mamet went on to urge those suffering from eating disorders to know that they aren't alone and to talk to the people they love.

"Today I'm at a healthy weight, though I realize that my obsession will always be with me in some way," Mamet wrote at the end of her piece. "For years the voice inside me has gotten louder or quieter at times. It may never disappear completely, but hopefully one day it'll be so quiet, it'll only be a whisper and I'll wonder, Was that just the wind?"

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By Shawn Dwyer

not so harmless

8/20/14 1:00pm

E-Cigarettes Are Not As Harmless As We've Been Told

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There is growing evidence that e-cigarettes are not as safe as manufacturers claim. The billion-dollar industry has exploded in recent years, drawing customers with the promise of safe nicotine consumption without the harmful, carcinogenic byproducts of regular cigarettes.

Aggressive marketing by e-cigarette manufacturers tout the health benefits of vaping, which involves the atomization of a nicotinated propylene glycol solution or e-liquid, over smoking. But several recent studies raise concerns about the actual safety of the devices.

Dr. Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, and his research team examined emerging data on what e-cigarette smokers are inhaling. The researchers found that e-cigarettes produce greater risk than scientists had thought, delivering high levels of nano particles which can trigger inflammation and have been linked to asthma, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.

A study published in the journal Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology showed that e-cigarette performance was virtually identical to that of regular cigarettes, in terms of exhaled nitric oxide rates. The presence of chemicals such as acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, toluene, and heavy metals like cadmium, nickel, and lead in both first and second-hand vapor was found in multiple studies, as well.

Solvents, which are used to dissolve the nicotine and flavorings in e-cigarette vapor, are potent lung irritants and upon heating can be converted to carcinogenic compounds known as carbonyls. A recent meta-study by Dr. Priscilla Callahan-Lyon of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products found that most e-cigarette vapor contained at least trace amounts of the solvents.

Not only is the evidence mounting against the health and safety of e-cigarettes themselves, but for many people, the devices are not actually conducive to smoke cessation either.

“The e-cigarettes are rapidly penetrating the market, especially with kids. They’re being heavily promoted largely by the cigarette companies that have purchased e-cigarette companies as a way to quit smoking, a way that’s safe and doesn’t pollute the air,” Glantz told Gizmodo. “What the evidence to date shows is that while a puff on an e-cigarette isn’t as dangerous as a puff on a regular cigarette, the main effect they seem to be having is to keep people smoking cigarettes.”

For many smokers, e-cigarettes have opened the door to the “dual use effect,” which means that instead of quitting cigarettes, smokers are simply supplementing their current smoking habit, using e-cigarettes for indoor use or wherever regular cigarettes are prohibited.

“Certainly, as the cigarette companies take over the e-cigarette market, there’s no incentive for them to promote e-cigarettes as an alternative to regular cigarettes because the tobacco companies make a lot more money off of cigarettes,” Glantz said.

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By Victoria Kim

musicians on drugs

8/20/14 10:30am

Documentary Examines Addiction Among Classical Musicians

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A new U.K. documentary is taking a closer look at the surprising trend of drug addiction among classical musicians.

The documentary, Addicts Symphony, brought together several classical musicians who are former addicts and desperate to reclaim their careers. After sharing their life story, the documentary concludes with them performing as an ensemble with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Addicts Symphony primarily features Rachel Lander, a cellist who suffered from alcohol and prescription pill addiction. While she doesn’t place blame on anyone but herself, she also reveals that the long hours and somewhat bizarre lifestyle of a classical musician can exacerbate an addiction problem.

"Many players use alcohol and beta-blockers to control their performance anxiety,” she explained. “After the 'high' of a performance, musicians can struggle to 'come down' and therefore drink to relax—which becomes habitual."

Lander struggled with performance anxiety and panic attacks before performances as a teenager, which was the catalyst for her taking up drinking. "When I drank, these attacks stopped. I also took Valium and beta-blockers…so you could block the adrenal gland and still hang on to your mental capacity,” she said. “The valium was great…because I didn’t really have to be in the room.”

Composer James McConnel led the performance and said he was inspired to do so after the death of his 18-year-old son, Freddy, who passed away in 2011 from a heroin overdose. Freddy was a friend of the late Peaches Geldof and wrote in his diary that he planned to inject heroin for the first time during a visit with her.

"[It’s] one of those rare programs which is not only entertaining and informative, but which has done some real, long-term good,” he said. "For me, watching a group of people brave enough to address their addictions and fear—through music—was both humbling and inspirational."

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By McCarton Ackerman

prescription drugs kill

8/20/14 8:30am

Rob Schneider Blames Big Pharma For Death of Robin Williams

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Actor Rob Schneider, best known for his role in bro-flicks like Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and The Hot Chick, has blamed prescription drug companies for the death of Robin Williams.

Schneider first met Williams on the set of Saturday Night Live and the pair had maintained a friendship for 20 years. He took to Twitter last week and commented on the reported suicide of the beloved actor, blaming prescription drugs that Williams was taking for the early stages of Parkinson’s with contributing to his already existing depression and anxiety.

"Now that we can talk about it. #RobinWilliams was on a drug treating the symptoms of Parkinson's. One of the SIDE-EFFECTS IS SUICIDE!" he wrote. "The Evil pharmaceutical industry ADMITS TO OVER 100,000 people in the USA DIE A YEAR FROM "PRESCRIPTION" DRUGS!! #RobinWilliams."

The late actor had struggled with alcoholism and cocaine addiction since the ‘80s. He maintained sobriety for about 20 years before  a “very gradual” relapse. After getting clean once again, Williams had returned to the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center last month in Minnesota to “fine-tune” his sobriety.

“You really think you can [do it on your own], then you realize, I need help, and that's the word,” he said in 2006. “It's hard admitting it, then once you've done that, it's real easy."

Rumors of drug use surfaced shortly after his death on Aug. 11, but his wife Susan Schneider released a statement last week to put those reports to rest.

“Robin’s sobriety was intact. He was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly,” she wrote. "It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

8/20/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Aug. 20, 2014

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Ryan Malone. Photo via

By Shawn Dwyer

tobacco cure

8/19/14 7:30pm

Tobacco Plants Are Key in Containing Ebola Outbreak

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The Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has claimed more than 1,200 lives, the World Health Organization reported Tuesday. As authorities hasten to contain the deadly virus, which kills at least half of those infected, a new plant-based experimental treatment is on their radar after it has helped five infected people—two Americans and three Africans—survive.

The drug ZMapp was administered to two Americans infected with Ebola in West Africa, Ken Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who are currently in an isolation unit at Emory University Hospital. On Friday, their friends and family reported that the two are doing “very well” and are getting stronger every day.

ZMapp was also used to treat three African doctors, who are showing “remarkable signs of improvement” according to Liberia’s information minister, Lewis Brown.

The plant-based approach, which is also known as pharming, produces complex and valuable proteins for medicines. The genetic blueprints for a particular protein is “infiltrated” into a plant, which then produces the proteins to be harvested from plant tissues.

Tobacco plants are preferred by scientists for this method because they grow quickly and their biology is familiar, according to Ben Locwin, a pharmaceutical biotech consultant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. But proteins can also be produced in other plants such as safflower and potato.

“It’s definitely not something you smoke,” Jean-Luc Martre, spokesman for Medicago, notes. The tobacco plant used for this method is just a relative of the plant used to make cigarettes.

Medicago is a Canadian company that is testing flu vaccines made with tobacco plants. It is awaiting the approval of federal authorities before it can utilize its new production facility in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

The facility, which can handle about 90,000 plants, is expected to be able to make 30 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine a year, or 120 million vaccine doses to fight a major outbreak of pandemic flu.

The benefits of plant-made vaccines include lower cost of production, according to Locwin, who said it has a “tremendous amount of promise.”

The plant-based approach to obtaining complex proteins is more popular than ever, in the context of the Ebola outbreak and the threat of bioterrorism. It is a “fast and cheap” method of producing a lot of vaccine material, explains Daniel Tuse, a consultant and managing director of Intrusept Biomedicine. If a new germ produces a threat, its genetic material can be inserted into large numbers of plants, which will churn out material for vaccines.

You can start making a protein within a matter of days, according to Robert L. Erwin, president of iBio, but tobacco plants must be grown for about a month before they can be infected with the protein’s genetic material, and the proteins are harvested and purified.

The federal government, specifically the Defense Department, is funding research on quickly producing proteins in tobacco plants to produce these vaccines.

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By Victoria Kim

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